Ladies and gentlemen, the next generation of console gaming is upon us.
The seventh generation is reaching the end of its life span. Games like FIFA 14, GTAV, and The Last Of Us have pushed the Microsoft XBox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 to their technical limits. But those corporations are aware of this, as you know, and the respective successors are soon on our shelves. Nintendo’s 8th gen console, the Wii U, was released roughly a year ago with lukewarm underwhelming sales overall, but a change is on the horizon for them to compete.
So what can we can expect from the PlayStation 4 and XBox One? Are they worth the buy? Should you still consider a Wii U? What about the portable systems? People sometimes forget about Valve’s Steam Machines, that are sure to be big contenders.
So here's a breakdown of the big three of gaming and the other platforms you might be interested in plus all of the other options out there.
Microsoft XBox One
Microsoft put a lot on the table with the XBox One. Since its unveiling, the console's been plagued by negative publicity for its initial limitations and policies. After much fan outcry the Xbox One was changed in many ways to fix potential user complaints. The proposed final product still isn’t official since MS can make changes on the fly, still leaving some privacy activists squeamish about the Kinect’s listening powers.
The Xbox One still has a lot of promise, though. Their Xbox Live community still trumps any competition besides Steam. They also have a pair of the best hardcore gaming franchises in their back pocket with Halo and Gears Of War. In addition, the NFL and Verizon deals with Microsoft really extend the usage of the XBox One, giving you more bang for your buck.
Release Date: November 22, 2013
Introductory Price: $499
Backward Capability: No
First-party launch games: Ryse: Son of Rome, Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, Fighter Within, Killer Instinct, Crimson Dragon, Peggle 2, Powerstar Golf, NBA Live 14**
Sony PlayStation 4
The early reception of the PS4 has been widely positive. The impressive hardware places it well above the other two consoles, and the cheaper price announcement really sweetened the deal. However, if you remove the wool, you’ll see that that $100 “discount” is simply the price when you remove the motion sensing peripheral, PlayStation Eye, which is not required to play games.
Critics blamed a lot of the initial failure of the PS3 on the higher sale price and overall ownership cost. So the lower launch price should is a welcome notion for the PS4. Also, the ability to stream legacy PlayStation titles is a huge deal. The PlayStation Network still needs some work and truthfully, the technical advantages of the PS4 might not be seen for some time outside of first-party games.
Release Date: November 15, 2013
Introductory Price: $399
Backward Capability: yes, PS1, PS2, PS3 streamed via Gaikai
First-party launch games: Knack, Killzone: Shadow Fall, DriveClub, Basement Crawl, N++, Resogun, Warframe*, DC Universe Online*, NBA Live 14**
Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo has faced an uphill battle in the Wii U's first year. Its lackluster launch, struggle sales and general public's disinterest in current titles really hurt the brand overall. Things were getting so bad for Nintendo, people questioned their ultimate longevity in the current generation.
Things have started to look better moving forward. They lowered the price of the deluxe Wii U and dropped the regular version. They finally released a Zelda title, with the superb looking Mario title coming in November. You can expect Wii Party U and Mario Kart 8 in 2013. Nintendo also eased up on limiting Mature titles, so you will see Batman: Arkham Origins, Assassin's Creed IV, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Watch_Dogs all on their respective launch days available on the Wii U. Should be interesting to play with the Wii U GamePad.
Current Price: $299
Backward Capability: yes, Wii
Key first-party games: Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Pikmin 3, Lego City Undercover, The Wonderful 101, New Super Luigi U, Game & Wario
Sony PlayStation Vita/Sony PlayStation Vita TV
The Vita was a prime example of hardware's pricy nature. Sony recently released a remodeled version with a lower price point, only in Japan. We can expect the new version in North America in a few months given it's slow sales. The PS Vita TV will be the television port of the OG Vita, allowing gamers to play Vita games on the big screen, as well as streaming capabilities. Japan only for now, as well.
Current Price: $199 (PS Vita), $99 (PS Vita TV)
Like the Wii U, the 3DS had a rocky start. Yet, it has already moved 32 million units globally, even passing the mega successful Wii's lifetime sales in Japan. The price has gone down and we have a bigger one and a non-3D model. 110 3DS games alone have been sold in the two years of it launch, and you can still play the OG DS games. So there is no reason you shouldn’t own a DS already.
Current Price: $199 (3DS XL), 169.99 (3DS), $129.99 (2DS)
The stepchildren of the 8th generation of gaming come from random places. PC gaming juggernaut Valve has their mystical console releasing soon. Earlier this year we got the inexpensive Ouya console, funded from Kickstarter. This encouraged many other Android-based consoles so you can play mobile games on your TV. The portable console SHIELD, made by the fine folks at Nvidia, doubles as a super controller for playing Steam PC games. Lots of options.
The SHIELD has been out for a minute. The price point might be steering folks away, or it could just be that the exposure has been shadowed by the Nintendo and Sony heavyweights. It IS a powerful piece of equipment as a standalone system, and even slicker as you stream games.
Plagued with a bad controller and bugs in the OS, the Ouya ironed out the issues quickly with patches and allowing for PS3/360 controller syncing. Sadly, it’s still dubbed as only being great for playing roms and hacking.
Inexpensive but powerful, the GameStick caught eyes with its compact design. Early reviews also compliment this system as great for running roms.
Valve isn't only challenging the big three consoles with their SteamBox, but also taking the heat to Microsoft Windows with its integrated SteamOS. If all plays out smoothly, the Steam Machines could have a significant market share thanks to their Steam userbase.
There is a $6.99 subscription for the 500+ Android games compatible with the system. Though a stand alone console, the GamePop can also sync with your PC/Mac.
Madcatz M.O.J.O. Micro-Console
Yet another Android-powered system, the bulky accessory maker made a whole system based around their outlandish controllers.
Green Throttle Atlas
Green Throttle Atlas simply connects to your TV via HDMI cable, and plays the Android games right from the controller. It's cumbersome but inexpensive and effective. Also works as a Bluetooth controller for your PC or iOS/Android tablets.