2014 was a year in which the next generation of consoles slowly morphed into the current generation. Of the three video games consoles available, the Nintendo Wii U had been available for long enough that it was pretty much already considered current gen anyway. But with the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One both available for over 12 months now, we are better placed to assess where the three manufacturers stand in the early days of the eighth console generation.
Nintendo Wii U
Nintendo has been playing catch-up from day one of this generation, after the initial success of the revolutionary Nintendo Wii turned a bit sour for the Japanese corporation. What was envisaged as being an excellent way to get casual gamers to participate in video gaming – which initially paid off – ultimately ran out of juice. What Nintendo found out to its cost is that a casual gamers don’t buy new games; they play the Nintendo Wii a few times, and then get bored with it, stick it in the cupboard under the stairs and forget about it.
Thus, Nintendo had to take a slightly different route with the Wii U, and have produced a somewhat more powerful console that is more obviously aimed at traditional gamers. However, it still pales in comparison to either the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4, and the console is now struggling to attract multi-platform games.
A plus point for Nintendo was that it continues to produce outstanding original titles, and that the system actually arguably has the best array of exclusive games of any of the three platforms. Mario Kart was particularly praised, and the inventiveness and charm of Nintendo’s games doesn’t appear to have diminished.
The Wii U has a future, and it hasn’t been a commercial disaster, but it is difficult at this point in time to see Nintendo truly reclaiming enough ground to be considered part of the console gaming mainstream.
Microsoft Xbox One
Microsoft infamously made some major marketing errors when it launched the Xbox One, and this has enabled Sony to build a quite significant lead in terms of the number of consoles sold. Despite the strong support for the Xbox range in the United States, Sony still maintains a 50 percent advantage in this console generation in sales terms.
But if 2014 got off to a bad start for the Xbox One, Microsoft has slowly made inroads into Sony’s lead in the market, and has to some degree restored faith in its console among gamers.
While there is no denying that Sony’s machine is more powerful, the Xbox One has benefited this year from probably the superior exclusive games of the two machines. In particular, the fact that the Xbox One can still boast Forza is a massive plus point for the console, as the two major racing releases of the year on the PlayStation 4, The Crew and Driveclub, were both pretty disappointing fare. Until Gran Turismo appears on the PS4, it would seem that Microsoft will have a serious advantage in this game genre.
Elsewhere, the decision of Microsoft to stop forcing consumers to purchase a Kinect device with the console was an eminently sensible one, and this has enabled the corporation to significantly cut the price of the Xbox One. This has definitely paid off in sales terms, and it must be said that to attempt to sell a less powerful console for around $100 more than the PlayStation 4 was surely one of the more remarkable marketing decisions that has ever been taken in the video game industry.
Microsoft is heading in the right direction with the Xbox One. But it still has a lot of hard work to do to convince gamers that felt betrayed by its initial decisions related to the console that it is the best choice in this generation.
Sony PlayStation 4
Unquestionably, the Sony PlayStation 4 has been the standout console of 2014. This has been achieved due to a very simple ethos; Sony has put gamers at the absolute centre of its console, and focused on satisfying their basic desires. This might seem to be a rather facile strategy for success with a video games console, but Microsoft has eminently failed to do this, and continue to pay the price for not having done so.
It is strange to say this, but the PlayStation 4 has actually succeeded despite its games collection not because of it. We are still really waiting for the first classic game on the PlayStation 4 which is exclusive to the console, and which hasn’t been released on the PlayStation 3 previously. GTA 5, Tomb Raider and the unequalled The Last Of Us made very solid debuts on Sony’s next generation machine, but all were simply reboots of existing PS3 games.
The long awaited Driveclub was generally considered to be a massive disappointment, and overall there has generally been a lack of grade A games. The Assassin’s Creed sequel, Assassin’s Creed Unity, was hampered by a minuscule story mode and gameplay which had little to do with the French Revolution which was supposed to be essential to the gameworld.
But if there have been negatives for Sony during the calendar year, these have been far outweighed by the positives. The PlayStation 4 has outsold the Xbox One worldwide by 5 million units, and this pattern has been reflected throughout pretty much every territory on the planet. Sony has also made strong moves into cloud-based gaming, and the ability which it has recently offered for friends to play co-operatively on titles without even owning them is a massive step in the right direction for the gaming industry, and one that will surely curry favor with hardcore gamers.
The PS4 is well placed to have an excellent 2015 if some outstanding and original titles come to the fore. At present it is still being hamstrung to some extent by the vast development costs associated with AAA titles in this generation, but this should be less of a problem over time, and next year could be the year that the eighth video games generation really takes off for Sony.