Sep 24, 2013
To put it bluntly, the Wii U dramatically underachieved in its first year since launch, however it’s hard to imagine Sony and Microsoft having the same issues when their respective next gen consoles launch this November. The Playstation 4 and Xbox One are pushing their consoles, trying to piece together the most powerful consoles available, investing in the latest technologies that can create a behemoth of a machine. The hardware in the Playstation 4 and Xbox One is far superior to that of the Wii U, and alongside more exciting launch titles, it feels as though Sony and Microsoft should have a successful year ahead of them and will happily collect the spoils and unspent money on Wii U consoles.
Unfortunately for Nintendo, even though the Wii U has been out for just over 10 months, it doesn’t feel as though the next generation of console gaming has truly begun.
Purely from a gaming perspective, the raw power of both the Xbox One and PS4 allows developers more scope for a higher level of detail and graphical capability that the Wii U cannot offer. Because of this, more impressive games can be showcased and are more likely to impress an audience. They might not play as well as a Wii U game, however, creating a gorgeous cinematic trailer demonstrating potential next gen graphics will appeal to many potential buyers. Furthermore, the likelihood of running games at a consistent, impressive 60 frames per second will make the game feel even smoother, and look even greater. In general, the hype surrounding the PS4 and Xbox One also seems much greater than that of the Wii U at the same time last year.
Looking back to Nintendo’s E3 2012, the titles announced seemed far more safe, less ambitious, and dare I say it, boring. In comparison, most of the Xbox One and PS4 games announced at E3 2013 had a cinematic trailer before each presentation. It got the crowd riled up, and when the big reveal happened (take a bow, Master Chief), it was met by thunderous applause. None of the Wii U titles had the same build up and anticipation that the next gen Sony and Microsoft titles had. The cinematic trailers for games such as Quantum Break, Halo and Thief all sparked enthusiasm for the titles, without showing much (if any) game-play content. Are we all just suckers for excellent CGI and voice-overs, or is it because we believe that Sony and Microsoft could possible achieve the detail and impressive graphics that these trailers are demonstrating? It doesn’t seem that unreasonable anymore. Obviously playing the game has a different feel from the cinematic trailers, but if the game were to look as good as these trailers, it would be mouth-wateringly beautiful.
Going back several years to Bethesda’s Dishonored trailer, it showed no game-play at all, but the cinematic itself incited excitement. You get a feel for the game’s tone, art-style, genre and rough outlines of the characters and world the player will inhibit. Similarly, in the trailer for Naughty Dogs Watch Dogs, you get an understanding of how the game might play, and also the gaming story world from just a cinematic. It’s hard to think of a Nintendo title that created the same level of excitement by promoting the game from just a cinematic trailer (and in writing that, I fail to think of any cinematic trailer for any recent Nintendo title, not including The Legend of Zelda Wii U tech demo).
What also needs to be taken into consideration is the scope for improvement that the consoles will endeavour to make throughout their life-cycles. In the years since the Xbox 360 and PS3 launched, we saw developers push the hardware as much as possible, making the console work harder to produce games with better graphics as the years went on. Considering how great many of the launch titles look now, it’s exciting to think how much the consoles will progress in the next few years.
In addition to having far superior hardware, the PS4 and Xbox One offer a variety of different things on their consoles that the Wii U doesn’t, the most obvious being a Blu-ray drive. It feels archaic that, even in 2013, Nintendo’s next gen console cannot offer Blu-ray support, and it is even stranger that it doesn’t offer standard DVD support. Many gamers, myself included, like to use consoles to watch films and television shows we have on disc. Gamers will seek to buy the consoles regardless, so it is great to save upwards of £50-100 on a Blu-ray disc player when a gaming console acts as a substitute. Even though you could probably purchase a Wii U and Blu-ray player for less than a PS4 or Xbox One, the fact you need two devices rather than one might be off-putting.
Most importantly, in terms of social gaming, is that both the PS4 and Xbox One are adopting many online features that are popular among PC gamers. Online streaming is undoubtedly a great addition to the features available for next gen, and will be a great way for console eSports to generate a wider audience. Another key point, which is usually taken for granted, is that both consoles retain the ability for multiplayer and social connectivity with friends. Voice communication and party chats in multiplayer games with friends is great fun, but also helps you play better in-game because you can discuss tactics. The Wii U failed to address this, but the Xbox One and PS4 will take the reins from their predecessors and continue to provide excellent multiplayer connectivity.
Television and film applications that were available on the Xbox 360 and PS3, such as Netflix and Hulu Plus are also available on all next gen consoles. However, it feels more natural to watch TV and film on a Playstation or Xbox device rather than on a Nintendo console. Although this is probably a personal gripe, but I haven’t once associated TV and film with Nintendo, but I have with Sony and Microsoft. Maybe the Wii’s lack of DVD, film and television capabilities have a knock-on psychological effect…