Soooo… The burning question these days people have for me is this:
Are you or should I get? XBox One or PS4?
For now, I say neither. That was my opinion months ago and it will be my stance a year from now. I originally drafted this article when we started to see real demos of the PS4 and XBox One.
I find the launch titles are uninspiring. Call of Duty is old hat and I want to milk Battlefield 3 Premium before upgrading. Racing games and sports? I will pass.
Not enough for you? Let’s go through it point by point.
Ushering In The So-Called New Generation
When the last generation of consoles started up, I predicted that Microsoft would end up on top in sales, providing the most robust online experience, and we would ultimately just see more of the same. It turned out many of us who predicted the same were right. Nintendo is still milking their first-party franchises, Microsoft dominates with sports and shooters, and Sony is desperately holding onto what few exclusive and niche titles they have to offer. Nowadays, there are very few exclusive titles to compel discerning gamers one way or another.
Looking back, it’s been a good run and, for me, another two or three years with this generation is viable but technology pushes onward and consoles are already dated. I get that. When the XBox One reveal came in mid-May 2013 to cap off the next-gen console announcements, I just shook my head. I am still mostly unimpressed, not just by the XBox One but by gaming consoles as a whole. Playing more on PC these days definitely has impacted my feelings here.
Let’s look at this partly from a business perspective but mostly from a passionate gamer’s perspective. While I know consoles will continue to dominate market share along with mobile games, I still feel PC gaming is the overall best experience. It’s not just about technology superiority and upgrade flexibility, PCs are just the better long-term investment. Humble Bundle and Steam sales are a huge factor here. Consoles can’t compete on price.
I won’t turn this into a PC-VS-Console debate; rather, let’s see what pages from the PC playbook the consoles can borrow. Surely, consoles have come a long way but there is plenty of room for growth.
Gaming Console Pricing And Hidden Costs
Consoles will always be behind PCs when it comes to gaming hardware yet what has kept them attractive is price, uniformity, and convenience. Sadly, console prices are deceptive because you pay less up front but after subscription services, downloadable content, repairs/replacements, season passes, accessories, and other junk, the price sky rockets.
What’s worse is that a console run may last 6-8 years tops but a good PC can provide a decade of playing the latest games. When you really look at it, we are spending more on console gaming. In the grand scheme of things, consoles are super expensive!
Consoles do have the advantage when it comes to online play, simply because you have less issues with long matchmaking or abandonware. The latter can be attributed to the dirt cheap pricing of PC games and the lack of centralized communities or dedicated servers.
Here, I would suggest subsidized hardware. The big three can afford to “lose” money on each console sale because the money is made back in so many other places. On the flip side, the $60-70 price point for games could stand to be lowered, especially since developers are releasing incomplete games to force DLC purchases. The Wii U already does this and Nintendo claims that they make their money back with a single attachment or software purchase.
On the PC, there are always amazing deals, especially on services like Steam, where you can get games for free or as low as $1. Even better, you can share copies with friends. For large households, consoles get even more expensive when you have to buy two or more copies of a game to play together.
These prices need to budge more if consoles are truly trying to compete for the PC gamers market. Whatever way it happens, price needs to give and we gamers need more value for our dollar on consoles.
Downloadable Content (DLC) Regulations
DLCs are particularly suspect in my book. I feel a DLC should enhance the experience or add some back stories. Adding characters or continuing a story that should have been included upon release makes us all sad pandas. It is even more frustrating when content is already on the disc but we have to pay to unlock it. Really, now?
An alternative to DLCs is having more in-game updates. Defiance has kept fresh doing just that so clearly there are ways around platform restrictions. I hear from developers that the DLC onslaught is more about avoiding crazy platform licensing and maintenance fees than it is corporate greed.
I believe early adopters should be rewarded more. If you are paying full price, there should be more perks. Battlefield 3 did this a bit by making Back To Karkand free for preorders. How about discounted premium/season pass inclusions? Publishers fail to see that, on consoles, gamers tend to impulse buy just to keep up with friends and join in. As such, they should push to entice early adopters to but in because they will usher in their friends.
There is a strong push to make used games less appealing. We see more and more games require online passes (Ubisoft and EA come to mind). Perhaps if we got what we were paying for, less of us would be so frugal. Alas, we know that just buying a game won’t ensure a full experience. More hidden costs to scare consumers away.
There needs to be a balance. I love the idea of keeping games fresh but paying for content you will likely barely use or enjoy sucks. PCs make gaming so much more accessible because user-generated content is steady and most, if not all, updates are free. Gaming consoles should follow suit.
Hardware Advancements, Modular Parts, And Upgrades
I mentioned proprietary crap earlier and I will give Sony some props for making their consoles easier to self-service and upgrade. If gaming consoles are looking to replace PCs as multimedia powerhouses, this needs to be a thing across the board. This is the only way consoles will be able to keep up and stay relevant.
Mind you, I can care less if I can see a few extra chest hairs on a character model. It comes down to gameplay. As long as games are fun and slowdown is minimized, if not completely absent, I am good to go.
The real issue here is not with GPUs, RAM, or overall processing power. With such a strong push for digital content, cloud and native storage needs to be expandable and cost effective. Microsoft has been particularly bad on this end. Hard drives should not cost more than $100 unless we are talking about 1TB or more.
The bigger issue with proprietary hardware is the whole business with accessories. Microsoft is surely pushing their tablets and SmartGlass.. Nintendo churns out accessories like mad.. And Sony is, well, Sony.
For those that care, Sony has slightly better specs and higher resolution this generation. *shrug*
Some also point out that, for all their differences, PS4 and XBox One are strikingly similar…
Code Of Conduct (Yeah Right)
The code of conduct crap is by far the worst part about console gaming. I have seen people have their consoles banned permanently for minor infractions and bogus reports. This is where the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of gaming consoles is doubled and tripled.
Microsoft also loses here. Their overseas outsourced customer service is useless. They are limited in what they can do and the language barrier is terribad.
Sony does not police their online community quite as hard but the bad side to that is that there are more cheaters and hackers running about unchecked. Sony also has better customer service. Nintendo does not matter since they are still way behind with online, even with Miiverse or whatever it is.
On the PC, you never have to worry about being banned and having a glorified paperweight. Permabans may happen on a publisher or server basis but they are rare.. and you can usually bargain and plead to regain good status.
More Game Offering Variety
As I listen to my friends at The B-Team Podcast and countless other gaming news sources, I am reminded how little variety there is in gaming console software titles. From now through February 2014, the amount of significant releases can easily be counted on two hands. In fact, I think the major next-gen consoles have under 25 games releasing now or soonish… And no backwards compatibility.. Fail.
What is more obscene is how the PS4 won’t hit the Japanese market until 2014. I am sure this will impact the variety of games released across all platforms. Again, Steam and Humble Bundle beat the pants off any consooe marketplaces.
Let’s not forget the whole SteamOS business. I hope Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft see the urgency soon. Their reign in the living room is dying off…
Speaking of which, the epic Steam Winter sale after Thanksgiving will surely please.. Ready your wallets! I see 100 quality games coming for the price of 3 generic console games. LOL
But You Can Watch TV!
This next gen seems to be very media focused. I barely watch TV and movies so this is not a hook for me. Ironically, the PS4 will not support CD and MP4 playback. This leads me to believe this next generation of gaming consoles is more proprietary and self-serving than ever.
The XBox One reveal in particular focused too much on television and Internet browsing. With 8 core processors on the XBox One, you can multitask and switch tasks seamlessly. This is awesome for gamers with crappy PCs or no computer at all. For the rest of us, this is not at all what we look for in a gaming console.
What little was revealed about games from all the new platforms just screamed to me, “Here is more of the same.. With a slight face lift!” Microsoft really pandered by focusing on sports and Call od Duty, too. Meh.
What about the gameplay enhancements? Is it easier for indie and small developers to produce and port quality content? Will lag and sync issues be resolved finally? Will we see less load times and “object drops”?
I don’t know about you, but I rather pay less for a gaming-only console if it means I can get a better experience without extra bells and whistles I don’t need. The XBox One TV tuner and DVR is nice but what about all my okd 360 games and DLCs? Will they have a home? So many questions have been left unanswered.
Rumor has it, though, that Microsoft plans to release a streamlined XBox One “priced to go” once the PS4 picks up steam. I sure hope so! For now, without backwards compatability and features I really care about, I will stick to the old gen and my PC!
Time To Revisit The Last Gen
I know I am not the only one that feels it is the best to milk our old systems and get the most out of them. I have stacks upon stacks of games that need some lovin. As it is, my XBox 360 has been really neglected so the urgency for me and thousands of other gamers really isn’t there. For now, it’s time for more PC fun.
If you are still on the fence, I say wait. Being an early adopter with gaming consoles comes at a high price. I don’t think it is worth being the cool kid.
Anyway… Let’s game together!