How to choose your gaming console
Not that arguing about resolution, raw processing power and nextgen-ness is any smarter -- fanboy-bashing of other people's preferences can get pretty shallow, as you can imagine. As gamers, shouldn't the games matter more than the hardware they’re played on? Who said we need to pick just one anyway? Oh, right… my wallet did. Commence comparison.
With all the next-gen systems finally out, the console wars are in full swing. For those looking to pick a fight, you should know that this will not be an in-depth analysis of gigaflops and polycounts. If talking numbers and tech specs is your thing, it's easy enough to find that elsewhere on the interwebs. Instead, it will be focused on the strengths of each platform, and why anyone would want to consider any of the big three: Microsoft's Xbox One, Sony's PlayStation 4, and Nintendo's Wii U.
Microsoft Xbox One
Microsoft's newest platform had quite the marketing snafu in the months leading up to its launch in November of 2013. The barrage of customer backlash to planned features resulted in Microsoft eventually reversing their stance on things like the always-online requirement, DRM that blocks out second-hand games, and a Kinect camera that would always watch you even if the system isn't turned on. Creepy. Even if you actually liked some of these ideas (no one likes DRM though), one thing remains true: their removal will not affect your gaming experience.
Microsoft, like any other console maker, carries its own horde of exclusive titles. If you can't bear the thought of missing out on MS properties such as the next Halo epic or the new Killer Instinct reboot, Xbox One has got you covered. Third-party exclusives include Dead Rising 3 and Titanfall. Yes, Titanfall. If you haven't seen the trailers for that one, you'd better get to it. The combination of first-person shooting on a war-torn planet and titanic mechs that rain down destruction is enough to bring any hardcore gamer to tears. Happy, manly tears. Couple those with the usual cross-platform franchises such as Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed, the Arkham series, NBA Live, and there’s enough testosterone fuel in there to last you a while.
Keep in mind though that, being a new console, only a handful of games are actually out. Fortunately, there are other things that might be able to keep you busy while you wait. Much like Nintendo's Wii U, Microsoft is taking the all-in-one living room device concept and running with it. If you've always wanted your console to handle everything from games to TV shows to your digital media all the way to your social apps, the Xbox One may just be what you’re looking for, even integrating the Kinect as a futuristic controller for all the added features.
Technically speaking, it bears mentioning that the Xbox One benefits from a new AMD APU much like the PS4. The architecture on both is almost identical, and you would be hard-pressed to spot the differences in a side-by-side. Why is this significant? Well, since the technology is closer to that of a desktop PC, it's easier to port games from one platform to another. Basically, if a non-exclusive title you like is on another platform (even PC), chances are it will be on Xbox One too. Is there a downside to that? Why yes, now that you mention it. The new architecture also means that backwards-compatibility with Xbox 360 games is not possible. If you have a soft spot for your beloved gaming collection and plan to play those titles again someday, you can't put that old box up on Sulit.com just yet.
Sony PlayStation 4
The PS4 has just recently passed 6 million units sold in a mere 4 months since launch. That's pretty amazing. It's clearly the market leader among all the next-gen platforms, and for good reason. Sony didn't have the same teething problems that Microsoft did with their features and marketing. Their concept was focused, centered on gaming and free of the living room gimmicks that their competitors seem intent on having. What? It... lacks features? Depends on whether or not you really want it to handle more than your games. The silver lining is that the PS4 ends up around P3,000 cheaper than the Xbox One.
I did mention that the PS4 and Xbox One have nearly identical architectures, and so backwards-compatibility is out, too. However, the small differences in implementation and other components actually give the PS4 an advantage in terms of raw power. A huge debate recently erupted in the gaming community about games which are able to run at 1080p on the PS4 but only 720p on the Xbox One. If that distinction matters to you or if you have a big-ass flatscreen TV that can actually showcase the difference, by all means go the PS4 route.
Once again, however, I would argue that it's all about the games. As previously mentioned, the standard-fare of hardcore games will be present on the PS4 just as they are on the Xbox One and PC. Assassin's Creed, Tomb Raider, Metal Gear… all will be a part of the PS4's growing library, and all signs point to third-party developers giving it full support. Apart from maybe Killzone Shadow Fall and the Uncharted series though, there may not be as many notable PS4-exclusives at this time. And don't forget that it's relatively new as well so the games available now are still pretty sparse. The potential for excellent games, however, is massive.
Nintendo Wii U
Launched in November of 2012 -- a full year before competitors -- Nintendo's successor to the groundbreaking, waggle-controlled Wii innovates with a new Gamepad that enables second-screen gaming and now enjoys widespread acclaim and adoption among gamers of all ages, tastes and cultures... said no one ever. Oh Nintendo, you poor rich bastards.
For full disclosure, I should mention that I am a huge Nintendo fanatic (not a fanboy -- there's a difference). I grew up in the golden age of Mario, Zelda and Metroid. I was already a gamer when Donkey Kong was still a villain and not a hero. Kid Icarus may have even caused me premature hair loss in my childhood.
Sadly for my platform of choice, the Wii U has not been doing well at all despite unique features that set it apart (or perhaps because of it?). Theories on this abound, from branding confusion over 'Wii U' being an add-on and not a completely new system, to inferior specs, to developers just not knowing what to do with the second-screen schtick. Whatever the cause, gamers haven’t taken the bait and so developers have been reluctant to make more games and so gamers haven't taken the bait and... well you get the point. Even with an observable lack of new, triple-A third-party software, there are still a couple of reasons to opt for a Wii U, and the overall high quality of the games that are already there are at the forefront.
Of course, no other console will have the best-of-breed first-party titles that only Nintendo can produce. If Microsoft has a horde, Ninty has an army. Super Mario 3D World, Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze, Pikmin 3, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD… these and more are already out for the console. A host of other platform-exclusives are in the pipeline as well such as Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros. Not hardcore enough for you? Ok then. The rights to the sexy, gun-toting, hair-flinging witch Bayonetta were snatched up by the Big N, and the sequel will only be released on Wii U. Xbox One has Titanfall? The Wii U will have 'X'. Well okay, that's a stretch; 'X' is actually an RPG and not a fast-paced first-person shooter but, you know, giant mechs. Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge and even Mass Effect 3 are also available now.
None of that escapes the fact that the Wii U is comparatively underpowered, prompting objections to it even being considered "next-gen". It isn't difficult to see that the Wii U cannot push polygons like the Xbox One can, let alone the PS4, even if it IS the cheapest of the three. Historically, Nintendo IPs make up for it with excellent art direction, but other studios might not be as skilled. Again, it boils down to how much it will matter to the games you're after, and boy, does the Wii U have games. But wait, you said it didn't have much! Well, not exactly. Unlike the other consoles, the Wii U is backwards-compatible with the entire Wii catalog. Additionally, Nintendo routinely releases classic games from all of its past systems through what it calls the Virtual Console. If you missed out on great games from before, they're not lost to you just yet.
Ultimately, the best choice is the one that will have most of the games that you want to play. Hardcore action games will be best on Microsoft and Sony's platforms, and you can't go wrong with the sheer number-crunching abilities of these machines, not to mention the mature online features in Xbox LIVE and the PlayStation Network. It's worth mentioning as well that some of 2013's highest-profile games such as The Last Of Us, Tomb Raider, and Grand Theft Auto 5 were on the Xbox 360 and PS3, and similar titles will most likely take the same route. Nintendo's console will remain the go-to for brilliant -- if not technically impressive -- family-friendly entertainment, and games that tickle the nostalgiabone (I totally made that up), with a few mature games sprinkled here and there for good measure.
Okay, wallet. Now it's your turn.