Wii U, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 4 are going to be our go-to consoles for the next five years, at the very least. We know we’re going to be able to experience some true gems this generation, as is always the case, and yet ever since that Xbox One reveal I find myself less and less excited about the next-gen. So what the heck is going on?
For the most part I think it has a lot to do with the fact that gaming is slowly but surely morphing into just another form of entertainment, and there’s nothing wrong with that per say. What I dislike is that console gaming isn’t really about gaming anymore. More and more consoles are becoming our one-stop shop for all things movies, music, and gaming. I kind of feel like gaming is taking a backseat to all these other features. While it’s certainly true we don’t know enough about the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 to really make such bold accusations, I’m simply referring to how I feel at the moment.
It’s funny but going into this new generation I felt as though the Wii U was going to be the console I used the least, but now I’m now I’m not so sure about that anymore. It will be the one true gaming console, even though it has access to multimedia features like Netflix, Hulu, etc. I must admit that I really love the Virtual Console on that platform, mainly because it allows me to use the GamePad instead of the TV. That may not be a deal for some, but for someone in my position where my significant other is frequently using the TV to watch you know, TV shows, it’s a very big deal. I also know that moving forward I’ll have access to tons of classic first party titles, and that Nintendo’s focus will always be on gaming before anything else.
When Microsoft announced the Xbox One they made one huge mistake, they revealed the console around multimedia features instead of games. Sure we know tons of games will be announced at E3, but first impressions are important. When Sony revealed the PS4 all they did was talk about the tech specs, and then switched gears to talk about games, games, and more games. That was the right way of doing it, and for right now all we know is the PS4 will be a gaming console first and foremost, which is bloody fantastic. I’m sure Sony will have tons of multimedia functions because their PS3 did, and the PS4 will follow suit for sure. However, since the Xbox One’s reveal, I find myself not caring about what’s coming at E3 because it’s clear MS wants their platform a set top box instead of a dedicated game console, and that’s a big issue to me.
Why do I say that, because I used to use my Xbox for all third party titles I played this generation. That changed last year when I built a gaming-worthy rig. Since that time I’ve been using Steam for all my third party titles, and it’s really changed the way I see these new consoles. In some cases it third party releases feel as though I’m playing them on a next-gen platform. Tomb Raider, Borderlands 2, Metro: Last Light, and BioShock Infinite are perfect examples. Some of these games support PhysX, which isn’t even available on consoles. What does PhysX do, check it out.
How are the games better to play? Simple, you have so many different options available. You can play them in Big Picture mode, which allows you to connect them to your HDTV. You can play them on your monitor, you can use a wide variety of input options, each specifically tweaked for maximum control. Mods are equally impressive. In many cases the fan-made stuff surpasses what the original developers created. Skyrim is a good example where user-generated contend keeps the game going long after you’ve completed the storyline.
With the Xbox One reveal now behind us and Microsoft’s intentions clear, I’m less excited about E3 because no matter what Microsoft does, their console will never be able to match what Steam’s currently doing, and thus far Microsoft’s first party exclusives just aren’t strong enough to keep me interested long-term. What’s worse is the more the Microsoft and Sony highlight their multimedia features, the less interested I will become. I’m here to game. If I wanted other features, I’d look for other devices to do those things. Heck, a PC sort of has a couple of multimedia features too, wouldn’t you say?
After E3 I might sing a completely different tune, because we’ll have a much better idea where the PS4 and especially the Xbox One stand. Right now I know I’ll be gaming on the PS4 for the first party stuff. I love many of the franchises Sony created this generation like Uncharted, and inFamous, and also enjoy their core series like God of War, Gran Turismo, Ratchet & Clank, etc. Microsoft has a couple of first party titles that interest me like Halo and Forza, but I was mainly there for Xbox Live and the third party games. Now that’s no longer the case because of just how excellent Steam is and how much more better the third party games are on the PC. If console gaming loses too much focus, I’ll stick with franchises I like and then it’ll be Steam for everything else. At least I know gaming is Valve’s primary target audience.