Insert Title – The Console Wars In 2016


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Welcome to Insert Topic, where once a week I’ll spend some time talking about stuff. Topics will vary from what’s big in nerd culture to my experiences with trying games or movies or anything really that I’d written off as not my kind of thing. This week we’re going to look at what is commonly known as the Console Wars and where we’re at with console gaming in 2016.

Now that 2016 is into full swing, what better time to check in on the current gaming situation most people call the Console Wars. We’re a few years into this console generation, with the Wii U turning four this fall, while the Playstation 4 and XBox One turn three. It doesn’t quite feel like these consoles have been chugging along for that long, which is more than likely due to a lackluster year or two after launch. Early on the debate between which console was better was fairly heated. In my opinion more of a holdover from the previous generation where the three contenders really battled it out. Now the competition between the three competitors just doesn’t feel as heated. I personally own all three consoles, I didn’t purchase them all at launch, but I have them now. I’m not disappointed by any of them, though they definitely have their struggles.

The Wii U, like it’s predecessor the Wii, tends to fall outside the normal comparisons between consoles. The gaming system admittedly doesn’t bolster nearly the same level of power that the other two do, and that shows in it’s games. You won’t be seeing the newest “Call of Duty” or “Fallout 4” on the Wii U, but that doesn’t actually make this console inferior, in a way it makes it more unique and a solid addition to your home entertainment setup. The Wii U, as I mentioned, may not have the biggest and baddest new games you’ll find elsewhere, it does get top tier exclusives that are not only well made and fun, but tug on just the right bits of nostalgia to keep us coming back. Titles like “Mario Kart 8”, “Super Smash Bros for Wii U”, and one of the best games of 2015 “Super Mario Maker”, all call the Wii U home.

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Unfortunately the Wii U does have it’s fair share of flaws, between those must have exclusives there’s not a lot else going on. Nintendo has tried going outside what you’d maybe expect in recent years, by having games like “Bayonetta 2” developed exclusively for them. But not many other big third party titles come to the console let alone get developed for it exclusively. After the initial surge of Wii’s in 2007/2008–when every Gamestop employee myself included, was bombarded with “Do you have any Wiis”–people grew tired of the gimmicks, and the Wii U still utilizes the motion controls and the not always convenient Gamepad. Between that and it’s lack of support for most multi-platform titles, many gamers will skip over this contender in favor of one of the others.

Those others are where the decisions can actually become more difficult for a gamer. If you’re looking to play the newest AAA games as they release, team up with friends, or delve deep into a treasure trove of indie titles then both consoles really offer all of that up. The PS4 came out of the gates at a full sprint, while the XONE had an uphill battle to fight after putting too much focus away from what their fans really wanted. In 2013 when Sony and Microsoft were battling it out on the stages of press conferences and on retail shelves it was a bit easier of a choice. The PS4 at the time was the better deal. It was cheaper, had no implications for crazy DRM preventing used titles or sharing, and kept the full media experience with TV and movies to a minimum. A few years later and there really isn’t much difference in the two consoles. They get the majority of the same titles, they’re comparative with hardware, and the negative features Microsoft lead with have all been removed or reduced. Numbers wise Sony is still in the lead, after falling behind in the previous generation where the Xbox 360 dominated.

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The choice of which console to buy has always come down to the games it offers, and how they’re handled. While hardware is different, it’s almost always comparable and usually not a primary selling point. Exclusive titles are the driving force behind a person choosing between the consoles. The problem here is neither PS4 or XONE has many solid exclusives*. In 2015 there were only a handful worth playing such as “Bloodborne” on PS4 or “Halo 5” on XONE. 2016 sees some interesting titles hitting for both consoles. Sony has potentials hits in new properties like “Horizon: Zero Dawn” along with guaranteed sellers like “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End”. XONE is chugging right along as well with upcoming titles “Quantum Break” and “Gears of War 4”. One thing to note, according to the list of games I’m using (Which can be found at the end of this article), PS4 has 104 exclusives announced or already on sale, while XONE has only 38. These numbers don’t mean the Sony has the better library of course as many of these titles could be less than appealing games to the majority or even more likely small indie games that many of us may never play let alone hear of.

Aside from games, there are a few other factors that potentially effects which console will get used more. They are ease of use, availability and accessibility, for instance how quickly can I jump into a game and start playing, do I need to always have it up on my TV? It’s probably obvious where I’m going with this, but the Wii U and PS4 both offer a great option to play your games away from your TV. If you live with someone else you may not be able to always have your games going, but if you’re playing a Wii U title odds are you can do it just on the Gamepad, one of the few good uses for that device. Alternatively if you’ve got kids they can watch Netflix right on the Gamepad while you use the TV for something else, it’s even got a headphone jack. The PS4 offers a similar ability with Remote Play from the Playstation Vita. While the Vita may not be on everyone’s list to purchase the ability to pick it up and control your PS4, including playing games, is a great feature. I wouldn’t say it’s worth buying a Vita just for that, but Sony’s handheld definitely has enough going for it that picking one up isn’t a bad investment. Sadly, Microsoft doesn’t have any feature like this for the XONE so that console as good as it is, is always a screen stealer.

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Out of the big three consoles on the market there really isn’t a clear winner or loser when it comes to content. Sales are a different things, if you’re looking strictly at units sold then we all know Sony is kicking everyone’s ass. As gamers we have a lot of great hardware and software we can utilize to do something we enjoy. I would say go out and buy all three, but not everyone can afford to pull that off. The best thing to do is think about which console has the most to offer you. I mentioned at the beginning I actually own all three, having just purchased an XONE back in November. For the most part they all get pretty equal play depending on what’s going on. I have games for all three that keep me coming back. Recently I’ve been playing a lot of the Witness, after a few hours bashing my brain against that I need a break. At that point I jump over to my Wii U and play “Super Mario Maker”.

All in all after a rocky start for games I think this generation is off in the right direction. In 2015 alone we saw titles a slew of fantastic titles including “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain”, “Super Mario Maker”, “Rise of the Tomb Raider”, and plenty more that all signify an uptick in great content. Even outside of the big releases hundreds of impressive smaller titles have been released each year. “Life is Strange” or “Gone Home” (which just released on consoles in January) are giving players new experiences outside of running, jumping and shooting. If 2016 continues in the same ways we’re going to be in for another wonderful year in gaming, with the potential of the games on the horizon, and the upcoming releases of Virtual Reality to the consumer market gamers have a bright and interesting future to be excited for.


*I’m only counting games currently listed as exclusive to the console, timed or console exclusives with PC ports aren’t taken into account. Here is the PS4 list and the XONE list I used.

talks a bunch on PodQuest each week. He's also been known to write about stuff from time to time.

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