We have finally seen all of the next generation home consoles; Nintendo’s WiiU, Sony’s Playstation 4, and Microsoft’s Xbox One. No matter how you want to define “next gen”, three new home systems and two handhelds have come out or been announced from the big home gaming companies; it would be fair to say the next generation is here and they all count. This time there are a lot more similarities between the three home systems but there are also just as many if not more dissimilar things. Everyone will pick their own path to start (or maintain) their gaming fix for the new gen as we hit the holiday season and everyone will have their own list of reasons; I’ve already picked mine. Time to sum up what we know about each new home system and then I’ll discuss how I’ll be spending my gaming time for the next few years and why.
Xbox One: What We Know
The Xbox One was announced just recently on May 21st 2013. Sadly (in my opinion) the main focus of the system and the reveal was about its multi-function capabilities for media streaming. What we do know about it as a game system isn’t really all that good so far.
- 8GB DDR3 Ram
- 8 Core CPU
- 500 GB HDD
- Blu-Ray Drive
- 802.11 Wireless
- HDMI In/Out
- USB 3.0
Not much has been said about is behind the CPU and what is comparable graphically on the GPU, so a lot of things left unanswered. This seems to be the trend this generation, leaving everyone with questions on what makes their gaming systems tick.
- External HDD allowed through the USB 3.0 ports to expand memory (no answer if they must be made by Microsoft)
- All games must be installed onto the HDD
- Used or borrowed games require an activation fee*
- Not backwards compatible
- Indie developers still need a publisher, no direct publishing
- System does not need to be always connected to the internet, but it does require an internet connection
- Must communicate to the servers once every 24 hours
- Essentially uses three operating systems stacked on top of each other to make use of the media switching
- Requires Kinect plugged in to function
- Media galore! TV, Movies, Music, Movies over movies and more
- Freeze game and switch to a TV show instantly
- Smart TV! It learns what you like and makes guides accordingly
Most of this information came from after the reveal event from various news sources and interviews; like I said the reveal was almost all about watching TV and movies on your Xbox One. The media abilities are kind of cool to a point, I can watch a movie and then pause it and almost instantly watch a internet video or switch to a TV show. It also has similar “Smart TV” functions we have seen over the years from other smart boxes, such as learning what you like and showing options accordingly. Kinect is mandatory and from what we saw is how the whole thing is controlled, talking to Kinect (boo).
Everything else is just plain awful, especially the *used game activation fee. A lot has been left unanswered about that, even how easy (or difficult) to rent or loan out games. It seems that it won’t be a discounted fee either, you’ll pay full price for the used game activation. Apparently you can log in with your account that has the game activated to play it on another system (for playing on a friends system) but how it all works is still just not very clear. The need for an internet connection, the lack of growth in the treatment of indie developers and not being backwards compatible; I’m not seeing a lot of redeeming qualities.
Playstation 4: What We Know
The PS4 was revealed on February 20th 2013, sort of. We saw the controller, we heard about what the system should be able to do; but we never saw it and nothing seemed very concrete. At least we got to see some real gameplay and other things related to playing video games (something Microsoft should take note of).
- 8GB DDR5 Ram
- Blu-Ray Drive
- 8 Core AMD X86 CPU
- AMD Radeon GPU
- 802.11 Wireless
- USB 3.0
This is about all we know when it comes to what makes the system tick, it isn’t much. A lot was said about its abilities though, it is a “supercharged PC” according to the conference and will be easy to develop for. Even though we don’t have all the details, it all sounded very expensive which worries me a bit. The lack of actual HDD sizes does as well.
- Instant streaming of your gaming and video capture built into the system
- Lots of connectivity with friends and over social networks: direct integration
- Comes with the PS Eye (no word on requirement)
- PS Vita can interact with the system as a second screen
- Controller fully redesigned and features a touch pad and share button (for video capture/streaming)
- Online has been improved and uses a more social network style profile and name choice
- Not backwards compatible via the system and discs
- Will be backwards compatible via cloud based streaming
- Pushing for better indie development and self publishing
- Media services available much like they were last generation
The biggest and most talked about feature is the new social interaction possibilities. The share button on the controller is a nice touch and to me mirrors the possibilities of MiiVerse on the WiiU but in a less restrictive form (or so it seems for now). The new controller design also looks nice and seems like it will be comfortable to use. The backwards compatibility, or lack there of, is a bummer but the friendly attitude towards indie games makes me feel better. DRM has not been talked about much except that it will be up to the developers, which is bad and good. Sony doesn’t want to make the system always on or have any sort of checks but if the developers do it they aren’t going to stop them. With EA loving the Xbox One and its DRM measures you can bet there will be something similar, at least from them, on the PS4.
WiiU: We Know Everything, Sorta
The WiiU was released on Nobember 18th 2012 and was the first home system out for the newest generation. Nintendo decided to try to piggy back the success of the DS and 3DS by including a tablet controller with the WiiU called the Gamepad; it has been met with mixed feelings. Unlike the Wii it is an HD system and though it does use more up to date specs it does fall behind the competition again in some aspects banking more on innovative play options and 1st party titles than being a power house of a system.
- IBM PowerPC 750-based tri-core processor
- 2 GB RAM
- Custom 40nm AMD GPU 550mhz
- Proprietary Blu-Ray Disc Drive
- 8 / 32 GB internal flash memory
- USB 2.0 ports
- SD memory card slot (supports SDHC cards)
- ARM based Processor just for OS
- Dedicated 120 MHz audio processor
- 512 MB separate on-board flash storage for the OS only
As you can see the RAM and the CPU are lower than the Xbox One and PS4 by a good margin but Nintendo also included extra bits to power the OS and anything else leaving it all for video gaming. This closes the gap a little bit but they are not the same. As an early adopter this is a bit of a bummer to know that there is such a margin again but the system does run some good looking games, so only time will tell how it will hold out.
- Dedicated social network called MiiVerse
- WiiU Gamepad allows for added gameplay features using the touch screen
- Games can be programmed to be played entirely on the Gamepad allowing for multitasking
- Tvii app allows for smart TV like features including an organized guide
- Direct streaming to the gamepad from Hulu, Amazon Video, and Netflix
- TVii app can control content from your Tivo
- Gamepad can be used as a universal remote
- Uses a Nintendo Network ID instead of Friend Codes
- Games digital or physical are not tied to your account
- Network IDs are at this time tied to the console you register them on
- While not available at launch Virtual Console has returned
- Virtual Console games on the WiiU can be played off screen
- Backwards compatibility with the Wii via a separate menu
- Can be expanded with external drives plugged into the USB 2.0 ports
- Can not play Blu-ray movies
The WiiU offers some fun features with the Gamepad and MiiVerse. Sharing photos of your gameplay on a Nintendo social network is cool (just pause the game and post direct to MiiVerse) and you can also post achievements, drawings and just discuss the games. The TV and media options are nice but not all that robust right now and like the Xbox One and PS4 are just not that interesting at the end of the day. The specs are still not all that clear and a lot of stuff such as Tvii, Virtual Console, and the eShop are still in their “formative years”; leaving a lot still in the air. It is a fun system with some promise but was likely rushed.
All Together Now
When it comes down to it what we have right now is a WiiU that isn’t fully fleshed out (and a sparse library), a PS4 that acts like a PC but has promise, and a Xbox One that focuses on TV and has a ugly DRM feature. I made my choice early being excited for the WiiU and grabbing it on launch day but I’m not knocking the PS4 and the experiences it can bring; the Xbox One is a big no so far. Nintendo needs to step up what it can bring to the table this gen if it is intending to stay relevant. With 3rd parties jumping ship (which is sad considering how on board they were before launch), lack of power and a small library; we could see a Dreamcast situation again. The sad part to me is the fact that the WiiU seems like the most fun and “gamecentric” console we have this time around; using the WiiU Gamepad to try and add a new layer to gameplay, adding a social environment for gamers only and making it a convenient living room entertainment device. The Playstation 4 seems like a really nice system but I also feel like it will make the mistake of the Playstation 3 and have a high price tag, if the hardware specs and features are anything to base a number on. Besides that, it really is just trying to be more like a PC; this is nice for cross platform developers (and gamers), but as a PC gamer it doesn’t make me want to jump on board right away as I have two devices that do what the PS4 does, it just doesn’t play Playstation titles. Some PS4 launch titles will be PS3 titles too, so I won’t be missing everything exclusive for a good year anyway.
So far I’m pretty happy with my decision to get the WiiU early, even with the problems so far. It will be the only system I can play upcoming Sonic, Mario, and Zelda games as well as other awesome Nintendo exclusives; add my 3DS to that and I have some good exclusive content to choose from. For everything else, I have my PC and it is ready to go for a number of years sporting the same (8gb of RAM) or better specs than Microsoft’s or Sony’s systems. I may eventually (or will likely) pick up a PS4 when the price drops or the library is nice and built up but for now I feel like I am set for the next generation. I will be avoiding the Xbox One entirely if their DRM measure and anti-used game policies don’t change, and they won’t. I support small business and I support my ability to be in a competitive market; with how the Xbox One is, those are ruined.