It’s been over a year since the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One joined the Wii U in kicking off the latest in video game console hardware. Now with a combined sales of over 30 million units, the eighth generation is the fastest selling yet. Not bad considering the rampant skepticism analysts vocalized prior to their release. With Sony proudly displaying sales milestones on a monthly basis, it would appear that now is the best time to jump on the Next Gen bandwagon.
But it’s not. Well, at least not yet. Chalk it up to an affordable entry price and a larger group of players with a disposable income, but these new consoles still aren't up to snuff. Patience is indeed a virtue when it comes to video game consoles, as there is always a price drop and hardware revision lurking in the near future. But there are some factors beyond the traditional complaints of generation’s past. These will mostly be aimed at the Microsoft and Sony machines, so if you’re a Nintendo fan and you've accepted the lack of third party software, go get yourself a Wii U.
4. Last Gen Is Cheap
Ah yes, the least sexy of all arguments. But there’s still plenty of reasons to pick up a Last Gen console. For starters: price. Currently, a refurbished Xbox 360 with a handful of exceptional games will only set you back $100, with the PlayStation 3 sitting at only $30 more. If you've already purchased one of these systems, it only gets better. Some of the greatest games of the previous generation can be purchased for less than one-sixth of the cost of a new game. Did you play Red Dead Redemption or Metal Gear Solid 4? You probably should.
But who wants Last Gen? Well, New Gen does. Remasters have taken new hardware by storm and don’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. Over half of the 10 best reviewed console games of 2014 were actually remasters of last generation games, while all of the remaining new titles were available on older consoles. Given developers' familiarity with these aging systems, the graphics have never looked better. Sure, you could wait for the Mass Effect,Uncharted, or the Gears Of War trilogy to be ported, but for the price of a single game you can experience all of them right now.
Last October, Sony released the PlayStation 4’s long awaited 2.0 firmware update to much fanfare. There was only one problem: it almost broke the system. Users reported that the previously operational “Rest Mode” was now locking up their PS4s. Nearly seven days after the problems first occurred, Sony released a fix. For almost a week, one of, if not, the most common PlayStation 4 features was completely broken. Worse yet, less tech-savvy users simply unplugged their systems, risking software corruption. Five months later, it’s hard not to be slightly nervous when prompted to update.
Things fare a little better on the Xbox side, with the occasional crash or error. But when Microsoft’s flagship franchise Halo joined the Xbox One, things took a turn for the worse. Now over four-and-a-half months later, The Master Chief Collection is still struggling to match it’s pre-release promises. Laggy online matches, slow matchmaking, missing features, crashes, freezes and a plethora of other bugs remain common. Microsoft have offered a mea culpa for early adopters with a free copy of Halo 3: ODST, though that release will remove the game’s signature Firefight mode. Sure, these problems aren't exclusive to The Master Chief Collection. But if Microsoft can’t deliver remastered Halo games on the Xbox One, who can?
Lastly, there’s the problem that few could have expected, the dreaded DDoS attacks. During Christmas of 2014, a group of hackers known as Lizard Squad brought Xbox Live and PlayStation Network down to it’s knees. This resulted in users being unable to log into their accounts, which rendered the systems inoperable for online play, updates, authenticating purchased software or even streaming services such as Netflix for a prolonged period of time. In an effort to combat any further attacks, Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony have begun communicating prevention strategies.
It’s optimistic to believe these wide range interruptions won't happen again. But earlier this month, Shuhei Yoshida (Sony Worldwide Studios President) confirmed that a multitude of attacks occur daily. “Actually, an attack happens every day. Literally every day. Some days are bigger and some days smaller. Some days they devise new means, new ways.” This might account for PlayStation Networks' already shaky stability. Let’s just hope the worst is behind us.
So you've got yourself the funds to pick up a shiny new video game system. That’s exciting! But before dropping a few hundred dollars, ask yourself: Can you name a few games that you absolutely must play? Not just titles that appear on Next Gen, but the experiences you simply can not find anywhere else? If you've got a list of at least five, congratulations, you have a wide range of tastes. For everyone else, it not quite that simple.
Despite dominating the sales charts, the PlayStation 4 has struggled to compile a worthwhile list of exclusives. Software’s Bloodborne is the envy of other platform holders this month, but what about the rest of the year? The intriguing Until Dawn and The Tomorrow Children are expected to hit before 2016. Other than that, a few obscure Japanese role playing games will arrive prior to summer. 2014 was a mild drought. Infamous Second Son was an excellent game. DriveClub was not.
The PlayStation 4’s first party fall lineup remains a mystery now that Uncharted 4 has slipped into the second quarter of next year. Sony recently announced that a remastered version of God Of War will arrive this July on the PlayStation 4 for a budget price of $40. Not bad, but the PlayStation 3 version can be widely purchased for less that $3. If you’re eager to revisit yet another title, the original Ratchet and Clank will be available at some point this year. Though you can pick up the PS3’s remastered version of the trilogy for less than $20.
Microsoft’s 2014 exclusives were more numerous and better received than Sony’s, but 2015 has left many wondering what’s next. Halo fans will hopefully have a smoother experience when Halo 5: Guardians hits this November. Microsoft has also obtained Rise Of The Tomb Raider, the indie darling Superhot, and the MMO Neverwinter as timed exclusives, though the duration of these deals have yet to be revealed. Forza Motorsport 6, a new Gears Of War, Phantom Dust, Scalebound, Crackdown, and Quantum Break have all been officially announced as Xbox One exclusives, though none of these games have release dates.
This June’s E3 could shed some light on future releases, but keep in mind we’re talking about right now. Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will not play your last generation games. Unless there are a handful of titles you simply can’t wait to play, you’re better off holding out.
When the PlayStation 3, Wii and Xbox 360 were launched in the mid 2000s, Valve’s Steam service was still in it’s infancy. Many vocal users detested the practice of DRM and it’s spotty ability to connect to a server or verify a game. At the time it was considered a needless add-on that was forced upon users who wanted to play any of Valve’s signature titles. For a moment there, it appeared the personal computer would be eclipsed by its console counterparts.
Oh, how times have changed. Steam’s downloadable game service became such a smash success that other publishers such as Electronic Arts and Ubisoft have duplicated their model. So what happened? Steam made PC games accessible with automatic updates and easy installation, ending patch hosting services like GameSpy. After nearly a 15 year hiatus, HDMI returned the personal computer to the living room with Steam’s Big Picture Mode making the experience even more inviting.
Better yet, numerous sales across the Internet provide brand new titles for a fraction of their brick and mortar price. If 75% off is still a price too steep, there’s always free. DOTA 2and League Of Legends MOBAs have taken video game culture to another level, with theLeague of Legends World Championships pulling in more than 32 million viewers. First-person shooters such as the massive Planetside 2 and the more traditional Team Fortress 2are also freely available. Of course there are optional purchases, but players can enjoy hundreds of hours of gameplay without spending a dime.
Besides the occasional third party title, most games are released day and date with consoles, joining the nearly four thousand other titles available. Even the more obscure Japanese titles including Valkyria Chronicles and Fairy Fencer F have made the jump to Steam. Even a lackluster port like Dark Souls was fixed by the passionate modding community. If there’s a game from past, present or future, it more than likely has a PC release.
For the more historically minded, GOG.com has made an industry out of re-releasing decade-old titles, stripping them of their archaic installation processes. Nostalgic players with find an endless stream of emulators enabling them to re-live their favorite console and arcade games. Provided they legally dump the bios and roms themselves, of course. There’s no need to worry about backwards compatibility. It’s already here and it’s never going away.
If you’re a performance snob, there’s no alternative. If you’re looking for Next Gen, 1080p and 60 frames a second have been a PC standard for years. If 4K is a must, a wide range of options are growing by the month. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One provide plenty of visual goodies, but for PC users, they were outdated even before they launched. If you really can’t bare the thought of playing Call Of Duty with a mouse and keyboard, don’t worry, controllers support is available either through the game itself or with simple key mapping. Simply put, the PC is unmatched in power and versatility thanks to its ever-expanding catalog of graphics cards and processors.
For less than $500 dollars, you (yes, you) can build a PC more powerful than either the Xbox One or PlayStation 4. An endless supply of websites and Internet forms are designed solely for helping new users build their own rigs. If that’s too much work, you can always buy a PC for just a bit more. Valve has licensed the Steam Machine property to a growing list of hardware manufacturers, ensuring even the most unfamiliar user can join the PC ecosystem. There’s never been a better time to buy a PC whether it’s for your office or living room.
“But I already bought a Next Gen system!” Don’t worry. All consoles start off slow. There’s no doubt that the Xbox One and PS4 will grow into respectable consoles. But if you haven’t, hopefully these arguments will influence your decision. Next Gen’s time will come, it’s just not now. But what do you think? Let us know in the comments below if I spoke...too soon.