A look at the first two years of the latest console wars
By Alex Stanton, Staff Writer
If there’s one single thing that non-gamers don’t understand about gamers, it’s the irrational loyalty to the console of your choice. As has been the case for the past 20-some years, you can’t go on an Internet message board about one console without owners of another coming in and attempting to convince others about how they’re entirely closeted about their buyers’ remorse. Console gaming has always been so fiercely competitive that even the fans feel they have to fight for either Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft—the three main console creators—in what has been dubbed “the console wars.”
An opinion of mine that most hardcore gamers disagree with is that each home console—Microsoft’s Xbox One, Sony’s Playstation 4, and Nintendo’s Wii U—has myriad qualities that make it worth owning. The same goes for the two dominant handheld gaming systems, Sony’s Playstation Vita and Nintendo’s 3DS.
Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft have completely dominated the gaming system market since the beginning of the sixth generation of gaming consoles back in late 2001. Although it’s still unarguably the status quo of the industry, consoles are facing rather stiff competition from the advent of casual, pick-up-and-play mobile gaming. Because of the massive audience of smartphone users, as well as the low cost required to make a game for a tablet/phone, some industry analysts see a legitimate possibility in the often whispered theory that the eighth generation of consoles may be the last.
Nonetheless, there have been hardcore console gamers since the heyday of the original NES. The fact is that the releases of new game consoles and games from most popular franchises are events that financially reach and surpass the earnings of your average summer blockbuster film. As the gamer demographic expands to include those outside of the young male demographic, it seems to show that console gaming is here to stay.
Two years after the release of the three home consoles, here is a look at the past, present, and future of the eighth generation of gaming consoles:
Although Microsoft’s Xbox One (MSRP C$399.99) has just about every third-party game that the Playstation 4 has, Microsoft has still failed to match the quantity of high-quality exclusives of both of its competitors. Some of the console’s notable exclusives are Forza Motorsport 6, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, and Gears of War: Ultimate Edition. But even then, some of the exclusives are nothing but overhauled remakes of last generation games.
I can’t say I’m a fan of the attitude Microsoft has towards their gaming console: it’s not intended to be a gaming console at all, but the centre of your multimedia experience in the living room. In that sense, it succeeds with flying colours, with many ways to store and play your media. But as a gaming console, Microsoft has a bit of work to do.
In terms of the raw power of the consoles, Sony’s PS4 (MSRP C$449.99) and the Xbox One are similar to the point of being indistinguishable, right down to the same Blu-Ray-only disc platform. With that in mind, one of the only things that separates these two powerhouse consoles are, of course, the games. In this realm, the PS4 takes the cake, if only barely. Some of the consoles notable exclusives are The Last of Us Remastered, Bloodborne, and Infamous: Second Son.
As is the case with the Xbox One, many of the releases are graphically upgraded rehashes of PS3 classics. The Last of Us, the most critically acclaimed PS4 exclusive according to review aggregate site Metacritic, is indeed a remake of another past generation game. The PS4 does everything the Xbox One does in terms of multimedia capabilities, and the fact is the first-party franchises of Sony outnumber and outperform those owned by Microsoft, in both quality and quantity.
Nintendo’s Wii console swept the PS3 and Xbox 360 in terms of sales, but the follow-up, the Wii U (MSRP C$329.99) is the obvious black sheep among this cycle of home consoles. First and certainly foremost, the Wii U not only pales in comparison to the competition in terms of pure power and graphical capability, but it’s also only marginally more advanced than its predecessor. This would be inexcusable if not for two things.
One reason is that the Wii U controller and the controller’s second screen open up a world of gameplay possibilities, such as in-game maps and inventory, which in the past would require hitting the pause button to access. The second, and most important, reason is that Nintendo has always, by far, had the most consistently critically acclaimed first-party games and exclusives. Fortunately, the Wii U is not an exception to this rule. Some of the console’s notable exclusives are Mario Kart 8, Pikmin 3, and Bayonetta 2.
In the future, we can expect continuations of the many franchises created by game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, including Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid. What the Wii U lacks in multimedia capability and pure horsepower, it makes up for in the sheer quality of its library.
We’re two years into a cycle of consoles that is, according to the hardware manufacturers themselves, expected to last nearly 10 years. At this point, all of the consoles (home and handheld) have been out long enough to evaluate their respective success so far. With three hardware giants and five systems to play on, this generation is slowly but surely blossoming into one that is more than just a sleeker, graphically improved version of the seventh generation.