This year’s video games conference E3 heralded the beginnings of the return of the console wars; this time the eighth generation. Three huge companies duke it out to try and win over hundreds of thousands of potential customers and persuade them away from their rivals. For seven years now we have been comfortable with the Nintendo Wii, the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. But no longer. With the Wii U already on shelves, the Xbox One announced for the 2013 holiday period and the PS4 announced for a similar time, the gauntlet has been thrown down and the battle begins.
Nintendo’s Wii U
The first console that should be noted is probably the first released. Nintendo’s Wii U is an upgrade from the Wii in almost every way; it’s more powerful, has less motion controls and a sweet looking controller (with a screen in it). It’s even backwards compatible so now you have literally no reason to own a Wii! The online is free if somewhat unsatisfactory but Nintendo somewhat make up for this by providing many of their old gems (such as old Metroid, Zelda and Mario games) to download and play (for a fee). One pressing issue with Nintendo, as ever, is their lack of third party support. With a new Mario game and a new Super Smash Bros. game announced at E3, it’s clear that Nintendo are looking to carry their console on the back of their first party games, a tactic that has served them well enough in the past.
Microsoft’s Xbox One
Microsoft chose to announce their new console a few weeks before E3 and worried the entire gaming community by failing to mention games in the slightest and by being worryingly vague about their Digital Rights Management policies and other issues. At E3 the truth was brought to light, to the horror of all involved. What was revealed was that the Xbox One (or the Xbone, as it was lovingly called mere minutes after its announcement) would be unable to play games, or do anything, unless it was connected to the internet once every 24 hours. Even worse, the Xbone’s built in Kinect can never be turned off. Apparently the microphone will remain on even if the console is off, listening to everything said within its range, supposedly to listen for voice commands. This is especially disconcerting when combined with the recent news of the U.S. government’s data-mining. On top of all this, if you want to buy a used game it must be done at ‘participating retailers’, suggesting that Microsoft will be awarding a monopoly to a retailer. Also, if you want to lend a game to a friend they had better have been on your Xbox Live friend’s list for 30 days. If they haven’t? Well tough. With this series of confusingly restricting and intrusive policy announcements, Microsoft seems to have alienated a large portion of their potential market. After all, would you want to buy one?
Sony’s PlayStation 4
The final console to be announced was the PlayStation 4. Being fully unveiled for the first time at E3, the console looked sleek and looked to have improved on many aspects of its predecessor. With a newly designed controller and a new angled body the console look good, but it was Sony’s policies on DRM and used games that would draw huge cheers and applause from the E3 audience. The PS4 does not have to be connected to the internet at any point to play games. There are also no restrictions on used games, a policy Sony also announced in this hilariously smug advert. However, the PS4 does have slightly less exclusive games than the Xbox One and they did announce that online multiplayer would now require a subscription to PlayStationPlus, although this service does have more benefits and is cheaper than Xbox Live. On top of all this, it should be mentioned that the PlayStation 4 is going to be £80 cheaper than the Xbox One (£349 to £429). It comes as no surprise really that, with this series of announcements, many claimed Sony to have ‘won’ E3.
Thus begins the Eighth Great Console War. Seriously though, when it comes to deciding the console for you they should all be considered. I recommend you look at the exclusives for each console and see which ones interest you the most and let this decide your purchase. In the interests of staying impartial, I’ll say that all the consoles have their pros and cons. All this being said, my own personal opinion is that Microsoft is dead in the water and the Xbox is doomed. I for one welcome our new Sony overlords.