After the May 21st reveal all cards are now on the table. For the most part we know what Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are going to offer. If you love video games or have a spouse or children that love them chances are you are going to need to lay down a chunk of change in the next year. We don’t know how much yet, but these console releases make for expensive holidays.
Here are the contenders:
Nintendo Wii U
Everyone knows the Wii. No one seems to know the Wii U. I don’t really understand if this is strategic on their part. They may be waiting to do heavy marketing until they have a worthwhile game library in place. The console was released late last year for $350. (deluxe version) It is our now, you can touch it, but there are not a lot of games. Possibly enough games to keep you occupied till the holiday, but that is a matter of taste. I expect that a lot more games will be announced at E3.
The media has been beating up the console lately. Personally I think it is an excellent piece of hardware, it won’t compete graphically with the new Xbox or Playstation, but it was never intended to. You will get to play Nintendo titles (including your old Wii games) on your high def television, they will look good and you can use that mini TV looking controller as a second screen for games or Netflix. That translates into you watching one thing on your main TV and someone else playing a game on the Wii U controller at the same time.
Sony Playstation 4
Sorry folks, no pictures of the console yet. Sony has just released a bunch of close ups and some blurry cam shots. We know that the controller is redesigned, that you will be able to reuse your old Playstation Move controllers and that the games are going to be very pretty due to the graphical improvements over the PS3. No word yet on cost, but expect it to be expensive for early adopters. My expectation is that it will be in the $500 range, but if they are smart they will shoot for $400 gaining player adoption in the short term while figuring out how to make their manufacturing process cheaper.
When Sony originally had their press conference it was considered lackluster, but with the sparse pickings from Nintendo’s game lineup and XBox oddly making the decision not to focus on games Sony has lately been the leader in fanboy circles. Sony loves gamers and they are willing to return the affection.
Microsoft Xbox One
In the minds of the gamer community the Xbox 360 was the clear winner of the last console generation. This wasn’t so much the case with the international community where Nintendo and Sony still claim the hearts of Asian gamers, but Microsoft doesn’t seem to care as they appear to have all but abandoned Japan in their marketing efforts. The House that Gates built seems to have stumbled at their recent press conference with the focus on home entertainment and making gamers feel like they were second class citizens. Very little games were show, only a handful were announced and things like a lack of backward compatibility and rumors that they are going to squash the used games market leaving a sour taste in peoples mouths.
To be honest, I am not so down on the presentation. I think that if Microsoft had announced well ahead of time that this was home entertainment focused that they would not have had the backlash they experienced. Seems like an odd move for a company that is so PR focused. Regardless the misjudgment cost them in the short term. Personally I am waiting for E3 and a solid gaming lineup before I make any decisions. I dig the retro styling of the console (Yes, it looks like a late eighties VCR) and the controller improvements seem decent, I expect the new bundled Kinect will have some wow moments with families in the living room and the home entertainment experience could be interesting if it works out like they demonstrated. No word on cost yet, I expect they were waiting to see audience reaction from the presentation. We should know everything at E3.
People need to stop arguing about which console is the best. At this point it is moot, they are all excellent pieces of hardware and are falling into niches that should give you a good idea of what you will enjoy most. For the consumer this is about entertainment, having fun and should not be a brand war. This may be the last generation where we get these big console releases every five years. The big three are getting solid competition from mobile and upstart mini consoles from Valve and Ouya. It is going to be hard to make a bad choice here, but if you are still stuck feel free to ask me on Facebook and I will let you know what I think.