With Christmas quickly approaching and Black Friday, the most important shopping holiday of the year, this week, what to buy loved ones surely weighs on one's mind among the rest of the stress the holiday season tends to bring. Next week also starts the holiday war between the three major video game companies: Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft, giving parents thinking about buying their child a video game system for the first time a lot to consider.
To start with, there are two new fourth-generation consoles out on the market this holiday season. They are Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One, which will be joining the Nintendo Wii U, which has been out on the market for a year. The Internet is full of hardware capabilities and reviews, which only gamers seem to understand, which lucky for you all, I am. Data such as graphics and processing power will be ignored during the course of this column due to the fact this information is geared toward more hard-core gamers who already know what they like and what they are looking for in a system. This will mainly focus in on what sort of a crowd each company has leaned toward in the past, the price, plus my own personal opinion.
A screenshot of the upcoming Final Fantasy XV for PS4 and Xbox One.
An Xbox One console.
The Wii U, which was launched Nov. 18, 2012.
I'm going to be honest; I only got into the Sony systems a few years ago when I began to play more role-playing games. I bought the PlayStation 2 and Kingdom Hearts I and II, plus a couple of other titles, for a little more than $100. I wanted to buy the PlayStation 3, which was the latest generation out at the time, but the backward compatibility models were so outrageously priced I took one good look at it and went "nope."
That really is my biggest grievance with Sony, and Microsoft too. Their lack of support for backward compatibility makes it difficult to play games already released on the market for the previous system. That and their prices.
Sony has a great lineup, and I really wish I had more first-hand experience to comment about them besides what I have heard and read. The game I'm mostly eyeing for the PlayStation 4 is Kingdom Hearts III, which wasn't included in the release line-up. Other games like: The Last of Us, The Order: 1886, Dragon Age III Inquisition, Final Fantasy XV and XIV look really awesome as well, but like Kingdom Hearts III, were not included in the release lineup. The lineup itself includes: Flower, Resogun, Sound Shapes, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, FIFA 14 and Skylanders SWAP Force to name a few from the list of 22 launch titles.
PlayStation Plus accounts and other non-gaming media can be transferred from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4, while digital game purchases will not be transferred. While this may not be important if this is the first system ever, I consider it an important point to bring up for consideration for future consoles. In regard to games from previous consoles, Sony invested in cloud computing to allow players to instantly try games from the PlayStation Store and to play games from previous PlayStation generations, providing a form of backward compatibility.
Like I mentioned earlier, I really got into the PlayStation recently. With Sony, you can expect some really great games with some triple-A titles. Sony caters to the gaming audience, and focuses on the games rather than the extras the system can do. Sony has a great third-party and indie party base. This means the game library will be expansive, and non Wii U or Xbox One exclusive triple-A titles will be available to play. The company stretches across a lot of genres in its titles, although the games tend to be a bit higher in the ESRB rating system. For concerned parents though, the reason for the rating is given on the back of the box. However, this is a system which I believe is better to invest in later instead of right at the start. It has some great games coming, true, but they are not here yet. And who knows? Maybe Sony will take a page from Nintendo's book and drop the price before these games come out.
The PlayStation 4 recently released to the market on Nov. 15 at $399.99. It sold out quickly, and just like the Wii was a few years back, it's very hard to find in stores. It might be easier to order one online.
The Xbox One was released Friday, a day after this commentary was written. As a result, commentary on the release itself will be missing. However, early demand for the Xbox One rivals the PlayStation 4, so I expect it will be just as hard to find.
Now to start with, I never owned anything by Microsoft which wasn't a computer. My experience with the game system comes from playing with my younger brother on his Xbox 360 or over at friends' homes. And they were always shooting games; mostly out of the Halo series. That and the infamous stories of preteens heckling players on Xbox Live never really turned me on to the system. I know they say don't dismiss it until you try it, but none of the games really interested my own personal tastes, and for a system which seems to cater to shooting and fighting genres, it has never been anything in which I wanted to invest. Microsoft said it will be using player feedback for Xbox One to keep those who seem to enjoy spouting vulgarities at people like they are some troll on the Internet away from those who simply want to enjoy the game. It will remain to be seen how that will work, and how well.
The lineup has some good games such as: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, Crimson Dragon, Fighter Within, Killer Instinct, Lego Marvel Super Heroes, Ryse: Son of Rome, Skylanders: Swamp Force and Zoo Tycoon to name just a few out of the 22 titles which will be available. Xbox will also be coming out with some of its own triple-A titles like Titanfall.
Xbox One is vastly different from the other two consoles in the fact it doesn't just aim to be a gaming system. It wants to be the premier entertainment system for your living room. Just think, everything you can think of can be used out of the Xbox One. This means not only can the Xbox One play games, but live television can work with it. It seems to have everything for entertainment available within one machine, and it can be accessed within 15 seconds by simply saying "Xbox: On." Granted it's left in "always on" mode. Of course, it remains to be seen how well it actually registers your voice. This may be my own bitter experiences talking though with other voice-recognition technology and having to practically shout the same word several times before the machine registers it.
Microsoft has come out with great games over the years, and like Sony, the games tend to be a bit higher on the rating scale. Plus, the Xbox One is clearly an offline system, even if it can be played online. The reviews I read said to even play the system, it needs to connect to the Internet and download patches otherwise the console won't go anywhere beyond the Dashboard. Plus, this is my own thought, but I honestly feel Microsoft is a system more slated for teenage and young adult males with some other games thrown into the rooster, so they aren't pigeonholing themselves.
The system costs $499.99 and besides the controller and system, comes with a Kinect camera, HDMI power cable, power brick and chat headset.
NINTENDO WII U
Ever since the launch of the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo has branched into a more casual and laid-back market of gamers. As a whole, I'm going to say Nintendo is much more family friendly than its competitors. When Wii U initially launched, Nintendo had a poor start with their game lineup, but after being out on the market for a while, the company has come forward with some great games such as: Super Mario Bros. U, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD, Pikmin 3, WiiFit U, WiiSports Club, Rayman Legends, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Batman: Arkham Origins, Disney Infinity plus many others. This repertoire will only continue to grow with a new The Legend of Zelda game in the works, as well as a Super Smash Brothers game slated to come out next year.
The Wii U also boasts backward compatibly to play Wii games, and has the ability to support all Wii accessories, including Wii controllers. This means your child will have access to the games already released on the market for the Nintendo Wii, as well as the Nintendo Wii U. In addition, games can be downloaded from the Nintendo eShop, which includes a healthy selection of games from past consoles which no longer can be found on the market. These titles boast popular classic series such as: Megaman, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Castlevania, Metroid and Earthbound to name a few. Unfortunately, only titles from the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System can be bought through the Wii U with the rest of the virtual console library only being available through an implementation of the console's "Wii mode." The third-party game support leaves a lot to be desired all around, though. Lucky for Nintendo, it has solid first-party games. Even so, I have noticed Nintendo missing out on some solid games in the past which were released on Sony and Microsoft platforms. Even now, it seems the Wii U will be missing out on some potential great games, such as Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes.
The GamePad though is the selling point for the Nintendo Wii U. It allows for gameplay on its touchpad screen, even when the TV is off. Up to two tablets can be supported on the Wii U at a time.
Besides the lack of third-party support, Nintendo also had floundered when it comes to online play. The company finally decided to get into the game this generation with the Nintendo Network. While it is making steps in the right direction, it is nowhere on the scale of the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. Most multiplayer games, though, Nintendo released are for people to play with others in the same room, not across the Web, to be fair.
Honestly, I love Nintendo. There is bias here, and I will freely admit that. I have been a fan of it ever since I picked up my first controller. Unlike Sony and Microsoft, which I feel have become too engrossed with catering to gamers who spend all of their time playing games and not much else, Nintendo acknowledged there was a another group of gamers. While I, like most gamers, feel like Nintendo focused too much on party games and casual games with the Nintendo Wii, the company continues to come out with solid games I eagerly look forward to. I know I'm looking forward to the upcoming Zelda game and the new installation of Super Smash Brothers slated to come out next year. Honestly, if I throw any part of my paycheck toward these three systems, it would most likely be toward the Nintendo Wii U.
The Nintendo Wii U comes in three packages parents can buy, all of which are $299.99. They are the Deluxe Edition, Limited Edition and Skylander's Bundle. While they all come with the typical system, Game Pad, and accessories which are needed to operate the system, there are different inclusions for each package.
The Deluxe Edition comes with 32 GB internal storage, New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi U games and a deluxe digital promotion where 10 percent can be earned back on games and content downloaded at the Nintendo eShop, with every 500 points earned, you will receive a code worth $5 in eShop credit.
The Limited Edition comes with 32 GB of internal storage, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD full game download and a free digital version of Hyrule Historia - a book filled with the history and artwork of The Legend of Zelda series.
The Skylander's Bundle comes with 8 GB of internal storage, three Skylander figures, a Portal of Power, a poster, three trading cards, three stickers with secret codes, Skylanders Swamp Force and Nintendo Land.
At the risk of receiving angry emails from hardcore Microsoft and Sony fans, I am going to say Nintendo would be the best system in which to invest, especially for younger children. That goes double if you are worried about violence. While you can't truly escape violence in video games (or anywhere to be fair), there is a huge difference between cartoon violence and games which look so real you have to ask yourself if those are real people.
Sony and Microsoft I would say would be better for older children, even if they have some games which may be found acceptable. This is because overall, I am going to say Nintendo has a wider selection of "family-friendly" games which can be played. In its history, I can think of maybe one or two games which have received an "M" rating on a Nintendo platform while Microsoft and Sony have quite a bit more games then that.
Really, it all boils down to what you are comfortable with your children having and playing. Most kids I would say these days know themselves what they are looking for, especially the older they get. Each system has its merits and downfalls, and it is just taking an active interest in what your kid is playing.