It’s been barely over three months since Nintendo launched the Wii U, and yet many already seem eager to write the console’s epitaph. The growing consensus seems to be that Nintendo’s bungled the Wii U launch and the system will swept into history’s dustbin as soon as the Playstation 4 and Xbox 720 hit.
Not likely. I’m not sure which console will stand tall at the end of this generation, but I do think the next machines from Microsoft and Sony are going to suffer through launches every bit as rough as the Wii U’s. In fact, I think the debut of the PS4 and next Xbox will mirror the Wii U’s launch in a number of ways…
Slow Initial Sales
Don’t expect any of the new consoles to burst out of the box with huge sales initially. Rumor is the PS4 and next Xbox will cost around $400, which isn’t as bad as the PS3’s initial price of $600, but is still well above the $200 – $250 sweet spot most consumers wait for before buying a new gaming machine. The Wii U’s $350 price tag is already proving a hard pill to swallow in the current economic climate — the other next gen systems are going to have it even worse.
Besides the price thing, ask your average moderately serious gamer what they think about the latest Xbox 360 and PS3 games, and most will tell you they think they look great. In fact, many of those not-casual, but not-exactly-hardcore gamers that make up the majority of the gaming population probably only bought their Xbox 360 or PS3 two or three years ago when the price dropped to a palatable level. To a large chunk of gamers, the Xbox 360 and PS3 are still fairly new purchases they’re still totally satisfied with.
Also, the PS4 and next Xbox will be launching around the same time likely, and will end up eating each other’s lunch. Also also, there’s the whole competition from tablets and phones thing the last round of consoles didn’t have to worry about when they launched.
Much like the Wii U the PS4 and next Xbox will probably move an impressive amount of units on day one, then sales will drop off a cliff.
Just…give…me a…launch date Nintendo.
Exclusive Software Droughts
After a solid launch, Wii U owners have been left waiting for months with no new exclusive games. The waits will be just as bad, if not worse, on the PS4 and next Xbox.
At it’s recent Playstation 4 unveiling Sony showed off a grand total of five Playstation 4 exclusives that were, you know, actual games and not old man face tech demos or whatever. If you think those five games are all going to be playable at launch you’re crazy, and if they are, you won’t be getting any more exclusives for a year afterwards.
Microsoft will likely have even fewer exclusives to announce, because come on, what exclusives do they have left? They’ll announce Halo, Fable, and something from Rare nobody cares about.
Rayman Legends is being ported to older systems — just like every 3rd party game for the PS4 and next Xbox will.
Crappy Treatment From 3rd Parties
Wii U owners were up in arms last month when Ubisoft announced that it was delaying the once-exclusive Rayman Legends so it could port the game to the Xbox 360 and PS3. People planning to buy Microsoft and Sony’s “next gen” systems better get used to this, because it’s going to be the situation with every single 3rd party game for at least a year after launch.
Every major 3rd party game for the PS4 and next Xbox will also have a PS3 and/or Xbox 360 version. The “next gen” versions will have only marginally better graphics and tacked on “social features” to set them apart. 3rd parties are going to play it conservative and do next to nothing to push next gen consoles unless the console owner is footing the bill (like Nintendo is with Platinum Games and Bayonetta 2).
Slow, Buggy Operating Systems
Sony (and Microsoft as well, if rumors are true) have backed away from plans to block used games, and won’t require their systems to always be online, but make no mistake, the operating systems for the PS4 and next Xbox are going to be more complex than ever, and that’s going to lead to problems.
Just saying, this may not be maxing out the PS4’s capabilities.
Don’t Expect Developers To “Figure Out” These Systems Any Time Soon
It always takes a while before developers learn how to take full advantage of new consoles, and this upcoming generation that process will be slower than ever. It’ll be years before the Wii U GamePad or the extra power of the PS4 is used to its full potential.
Half the video game industry has just barely figured out how to make money on the current generation of consoles. The other half is more interested in pursuing 99-cent phone games. There isn’t going to be much resolve to really push innovation on these new consoles. You’re going to be waiting a while for truly groundbreaking games.
So take it easy on the Wii U. Its launch may have been troubled, but it’s also probably a harbinger of things to come.