Well, as of recently, next-gen is now current-gen. Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One have now joined Nintendo’s Wii U on store shelves and in people’s homes. All three companies have stepped up their game since last time and all three look to outdo the other. What’s different this time around? In my eyes, quite a bit…and yet, not that much.
- The financial landscape has changed. Thanks to the economy, everything is either slightly cheaper or more expensive as the $10 increase for first-party games has become the norm.
- The mobile game market has EXPLODED, thanks to the technology finally catching up to the consoles, to a point. Now most of the most sophisticated games can be ported to an iOS or Android device with little issues worth noting.
- Kickstarter has become a viable place for indie developers to fund their projects.
- Backwards compatibility is slowly becoming phased out in favor of digital releases of older games. Unfortunately, this means that those who are fond of the more obscure titles not likely to be re-released are out of luck.
- The fighting game genre went from near-obscurity to mainstream once again, thanks to the same series that did it decades earlier: Street Fighter.
- The elitists of the industry have become more and more vocal, as the gaming landscape has become more and more diverse, welcoming and user-friendly. One would think that we’d welcome all these new gamers into our world with open arms…
- Everybody thought the Wii was an absolute joke that would not survive as long as it has. Now…well, everyone is still saying that, and it’s worse with the Wii U.
- The Big N’s mainstays have pushed forward and continue to endear themselves to the memories of all who grew up with them.
- Miis have become a franchise all their own, which Microsoft wasted no time emulating with their Xbox Live Avatars. Heck, the Wii’s motion-focused gameplay has been copied as well, with Sony’s PlayStation Move (itself as successor to the PS2’s EyeToy) and Microsoft’s Kinect (clearly having the coldest reception of the three)
- The 3DS launched poorly. While Nintendo has more than recovered financially, they’re still smarting critically. Bad (or at least, questionable) hardware launches aren’t really forgiven easily.
- The arrogant swagger Sony launched the PlayStation 3 with has faded, somewhat. The PS4 launched with a much more agreeable price point. As if to counter that, they screwed up the Europe launch, apparently. And on top of that, more than a few PS4s are bricked (or to-be-bricked) right out of the damn box.
- After futzing around with the PSP, the PlayStation Vita seems going in a different direction. It’s clear that Sony still wants to take the handheld crown from Nintendo, though, as the Vita looks to be a direct competitor to the Wii U’s GamePad (admit it; pair the Vita with a PS4 and tell me the concept isn’t parallel).
- The PSN outage shall live in infamy (pun intended).
- The Xbox has gone from n00b brand to a major player.
- The Red Ring of Death is something Microsoft will never live down, especially if it follows to the Xbox One.
- The new console has a specter of uncertainty that has been following it since E3. Time will tell if it can escape it.
So, yeah, clearly these are interesting time in which to be a gamer. That is, if you have the money to participate. As for me, I’m thankful to still be learning the ropes of my PS3 I got last year, and I’m in no hurry to trade up. You see, for years I’ve been playing catch up with my peers, usually getting consoles after the release of their successors or otherwise near the end of their lifespans. The main reason being is that I can never afford them at launch. I managed to buck this trend with the 3DS, but that’s about it.
Why do I bring this up? The reason being that because of my unfortunate circumstances, I’m able to view each console generation from an outsider’s perspective, rather than get caught up in all the hype of what’s better. Frankly, I no longer play favorites. The Wii U is not as powerful as the competition, but it doesn’t have to be; it has its audience and it’s going to survive, no matter what’s thrown at it. Sony still has a ways to go in order win back the customers they’ve lost, but their on the right track. Microsoft has gotten ahead of themselves this time and needs to take care that they don’t repeat Sony’s mistakes.
And that’s not factoring in PS gaming, the mobile front, the Ouya and Steam’s…box. :-| To me, there’s a lot to be excited over, but I’ve still got my hands full getting a handle on last generation, so I’m not all that concerned by it all. Whatever happens, happens. So from now on, don’t expect me to hop on any more next-gen hype trains if I can’t even afford the damn ticket.