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The Next Gen Console Wars: The Ultimate Question Answered

For those that listen to my podcast Passenger Seat Radio, this is old information.  But since I’m getting inundated with the same question pretty much daily, I figure it is time to write an article on the subject.

“Xbox One or PS4?”

I’ve been accused of fanboyism with regards to Nintendo.  Those that know me?  They know I loathed Nintendo until the GBA SP.  While you will hear me talk positively about Wii U and Nintendo in this article, I’ve made it public record that I’m no insane fanboy.

First, let me alter the question and make it correct;

“Xbox One, PS4 or Wii U?”

Let’s look at three areas; Hardware, Software and Fun Factor.


If you are a pixel counter, bump map lover and judge a game by the lighting sources – by all means; buy a PS4.  Currently, Sony and third parties have assured EVERYONE that their console and games are 1080p and feature a full arsenal graphical effects designed to make games look as good as possible (hey, don’t worry about framerate issues – they will get that figured out later).

What about Xbox One?  720p games upsampled to 900p.  Wii U games vacillate between 720p and 1080p.  By the numbers alone, the PS4 should be the answer with the Wii U in second place.

However …

Remember me?
Remember me?

Right now, the ONLY hardware with any sort of measurable track record is the Wii U.  It’s a known entity.  Nintendo rarely has issue with hardware (unlike the Red Ring of Death and solder flow issues of the PS3 early units).  What’s more, the Wii U has had a full year to mature in manufacturing, driving down costs and improving reliability.

We have zero indications how these other two next gen boxes will actually perform in the wild.  Neither Sony nor Microsoft have solid reputations with new hardware.  In fact, at the time of writing, there were already reports of hardware failures on the PS4; and the units aren’t even in the hands of the masses yet.

$500 is a lot to part with for a console without a proven reliability track record.  I had a RROD Xbox 360.  I had a failed PS3 (which turned out to be a blessing since I got a backward compatible one back from service).  Oddly enough, the Gamecube, the Wii nor the Wii U has experienced hardware failures (although to be fair, there was an issue with GPUs with some Wiis – later it was decided it was user abuse that tended to cause it).

Hinge-gate” might be the worst thing to happen to Nintendo hardware in the last 10 years.


With neither the Xbox One nor PS4 offering backward compatibility, you are rather limited to what software you get to run on these consoles.

$50 - Hope the new levels rock!
$50 – Hope the new levels rock!

Launch day promises 23 titles for Xbox One and 23 titles for PS4 (source).  Take a look at the “compelling” titles (many of which are already out on other platforms).  Angry Birds Star Wars is a launch title on both consoles.  Lego Marvel Superheroes is a launch title.  If you count dancing games (and who wouldn’t) there are over 10 sports games being released at launch.

Any of these you just HAVE to have … day one?  Oh sure, you have a couple of AAA games (as always) but are you willing to put out $500 to play Battlefield 4 on Xbox One?

However …

The Wii U currently has about 185 titles available (including retail and eShop SKUs – and yes there are plenty of stinkers in there) and thanks to backward compatibility with Wii, there are hundreds of titles available at cut rate prices (most under $10 – and B2G1 deals all the time at Gamestop).  We’ve even covered some of the great Wii games right here (see this article and this and this).  If you thought Wii didn’t have any compelling software, click those links.  If you’re REALLY about game play, Mr. Sessler, you have a ton of great games to play on the Wii – so why not do it on the Wii U?

What sucks is that there is a ton of quality software for both PS3 and Xbox 360 kicking around out there – dirt cheap too (have you played Red Dead Redemption?  Only $20 on Xbox 360) – and while it is COMPLETELY true that the day you buy a new console, your old one doesn’t stop working; it is worth noting that this isn’t always a solution.  Many people have to steal from Peter to pay Paul (i.e. trade in their consoles) to afford the shiny new hardware.  Some people move their old consoles to another room when the new kid moves in.  Some people are simply too snooty to play on older hardware when there is something better in the house.

At least with backward compatibility there are usually improvements to the older games on the newer machines.

Your PS3 and Xbox 360 will continue to get some new games for another year or so – oddly enough, they will probably be Wii U or PC ports by then.

If you’re looking for a library of games, right now, the Wii U takes the crown for “next gen”.  It’s just the numbers.

Fun Factor

Fun Factor is a pretty open ended area.  We are talking about game consoles right?  They should be fun.  Technology should never get in the way.

Watching the videos promoting Xbox One’s voice control makes me cringe.  You know that those commercials are shot in perfect acoustic environments (and probably shot multiple times).  Or, like the Apple Siri commercials – could all just be completely staged and fabricated.  Anyone remember screaming “brue” at their Nintendo DSes?  I do.

No Xbox One without one of these ...
No Xbox One without one of these …

Speaking of fun factor, does anyone remember when Microsoft and Sony both made fun of motion controlled gaming?  Calling it a gimmick?  Of course, they both IMMEDIATELY put out solutions of their own (Kinect and PS Move) – and Xbox One still has that solution.  What’s more?  They decided you MUST have it; you cannot buy an Xbox One without it.  Shrewd – since developers won’t use “tack on” devices religiously when making games, but if every single Xbox One has one?  That’s a different story.  Naturally, if you look at gaming as a relaxing period where you sit on the couch and veg – the concept that motion is going to revolutionize gaming sounds like hell on earth to you.

What about the PS4?  Where is the fun factor there?  The good news to “console purists” is that Sony isn’t focusing on motion controls or NFL events or TV; Sony doesn’t want to control your living room – just the gaming factor of it.  But what is different than your PS3?  I mean, what can’t you wait for with the PS4 that you can’t do with the PS3?  It is really an incremental update – bringing nothing really new – but more of the same.  Just less of it but with a graphical boost.  Again, if pixel counting is your thing and games that don’t LOOK great can’t BE great – the PS4 might make sense.  Hey, for some people – more of the same is just what the doctor ordered.

Asymmetric Gameplay
Asymmetric Gameplay

What about the Wii U?  Where is the killer new fun factor there?  Personally?  The game pad.  This “second screen” logic is often wasted by Nintendo (in fact, it took Ubisoft to create the first amazing asymmetric game – Rayman Legends) but frankly, it really is a whole new way to do things.  So much so, I wrote an article about it; giving developers dozens of free ideas to use in creating compelling software for Wii U.

What most people don’t understand is the synchronicity between the TV and game pad being lag free opens up serious new doors that any sort of wi-fi or bluetooth “second screen” solutions cannot offer.  It isn’t JUST about being able to play “off-screen” but being able to do things TOGETHER on both screens.  The best example for the lay person would be to check out NintendoLand.  As a bonus, Nintendo just offered up the ability to play Wii games on the game pad – and damn if even low-resolution Wii games don’t look friggin’ good on it.

Fresh, new and fun this generation?  Right now, I gotta hand it to Wii U.

So what’s the answer?

Some of you wouldn’t buy a Wii U no matter what (shame, you’re missing out on some quality).  But, what if it is down to PS4 and Xbox One ….?  What do I recommend?

Neither.  Wait.

I know, the term “wait” doesn’t exist for early adopters but I’m begging of you.  Just wait.

How long?  Until E3 2014.  That’s just about 7 months from now.

Why?  One of my fellow G+’ers enumerated it pretty well: (slightly modified for the article)

  • It gives the console manufacturers a chance to iron out the hardware/software glitches (bad things are already happening)
  • You get to see what games will be out next holiday for each system – and what will be coming by Holiday 2015
  • Any launch titles you wanted will have dropped in price by then (6 month golden rule)
  • These new consoles will be much easier to find (no whoring on eBay or CraigsList)
  • Your current-gen console won’t stop working from now until then – and most games will still be coming out for these platforms
  • All the games that originally SOLD you on these new consoles?  Got pushed back to Q1 or Q2 (or later) 2014 ANYWAY

My recommendation for people really concerned about getting the best library gaming has to offer?

It ain't pretty - but does the job!
It ain’t pretty – but does the job!

Get a backward compatible PS3.  

Then you have TENS OF THOUSANDS of games from PS1, PS2 and PS3 to play (PS2 has some amazing games).  They are hard to get ahold of these days, but with any new generation it is out with the old – in with the new.  Right now, eBay has these units for $150 or so – and that makes it the best overall deal in town; even better than a Wii U.  I know it is big, heavy and ugly – but the George Foreman Grill console really is the best bang for your buck until the dust settles at least.

In the mean time, consider grabbing a cheap Wii U – there are fantastic bundles coming out (you know you’re going to pony up to play Mario, Zelda or Pikmin ANYWAY – so stop delaying; you know Nintendo has you by the balls) for the holidays and you can give yourself another 6 months to save up for the big $500 purchase come May 2014.

Hey, if the thought of beta testing a $400-$500 console doesn’t freak you out – consider all sides of the equation before you stand in line at midnight.  Consider the history of hardware failures.  Verify the scant launch window.  Wait to see what your stubborn friends say after they have had the unit for a couple of days.

In the end – it is about games and gaming.

About Shane Monroe

Shane R. Monroe has been doing technical and social commentary writing for over 20 years. Google+

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