Over the last year or so, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have been working furiously to establish each of their respective new consoles as the must-have machine for the next generation.
Twelve months on from the hype and bluster of Microsoft and Sony's launch events, and two years on from Nintendo's more modest roll-out, which console is the one to have?
Taking into consideration what was on show at this year’s E3, and looking at the slew of end-of-year games that have been released on each system, each member of the USgamer team has weighed in on which console they'd buy right now - and why. Hopefully this information will be useful when it comes to making your own choice.
If you want information on all the current PS4, Xbox One and Wii U games, here are three comprehensive articles that list the best games available on each system.
Each game has been rated, and we've also linked to the original review of any game we've covered. Each article also features each team member's three favorite games for all three systems, along with an explanation as to why.
Next up is Team USG with their answers to the above question. Once you've read what they have to say, we'd love to hear your answers to the same question: Which console would you buy right now - and why?
Which next-gen machine would you buy right now: PlayStation 4
Why: Well, to be fair, my ideal “console” would be a Wii U sitting on top of a gaming PC, but since that isn’t a real answer (you sticklers!) I’m going to make Sony’s console my number one choice. I’m not entirely happy with everything the PS4 has to offer, mind you: The pricing on PlayStation Now (for the time being) is absolutely absurd, for example, and this streaming-based service definitely puts people with subpar Internet connections at a disadvantage. PlayStation Plus, on the other hand, is the only console-related thing that rivals Steam in terms of pure savings. If you don’t mind playing things that aren’t always brand-new, it’s an incredible value. In addition, the early success of the PlayStation 4 indicates Sony learned a lot from the disastrous early years of the PS3, and what I’ve seen so far feels extremely promising. If anything, their showing at this year’s E3 provided enough variety to make me sit up and take notice.
The three games I'm most looking forward to: Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: I know it’s not a Sony exclusive, but I always associate Metal Gear with PlayStation—oh yeah, and what I’ve seen so far smacked my expectations in the back of a head with a shovel. Bloodborne: More Souls games? Yes, of course. Let’s keep doing this. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture: I don’t know much about this game, and I’m going to keep it that way until I play it. I’m a real sucker for environmental storytelling.
Additional features that attracted me: I don’t typically use consoles for more than their primary duties, so I can’t say the extra features on the PS4 speak to me. But integrated Twitch streaming is something I might actually use when I have a PS4, so there’s that. I do some streaming here and there on PC, so it’d be nice to have an option that didn’t require as much setup.
Why I didn't choose its competitors: During the last console generation, I started with an Xbox 360 but pretty much abandoned it entirely once I picked up a PlayStation 3. Microsoft’s history of consumer-unfriendly practices like using their own infernal currency and charging a monthly fee for basic services free on other platforms—those are the reasons I find the Xbox brand unappealing. Above all, I get the feeling Microsoft doesn’t know what they want to do in the console world, and might have just a tinge of regret over getting into this costly game 15 years ago. Despite their failures over the years, Sony seems to have more of a vision, which is why I plan on investing my console gaming future in the PS4.
Which next-gen machine would you buy right now: PlayStation 4
Why: As it stands, I would probably wait a year to pick up a next-gen console. Outside of a handful of games, there hasn't been a lot to motivate me to drop upwards of $500 on a new machine. Most of what I want to play won't be out until 2015 at the earliest. But if I had to choose, I would buy a PlayStation 4.
Having said that, I do own both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4; and thus far, I've been impressed by the PlayStation 4's usability and online plan. It's a massive improvement on the often-clunky PlayStation 3, and Sony has even managed to significantly improve the controller. As such, it's become my preferred console for third-party games, supplanting the Xbox 360. I've enjoyed Sunset Overdrive and Titanfall, and I'm looking forward to trying some Forza Horizon; but outside of those exclusive, I've spent the bulk of my time playing the PS4.
Right now, the PlayStation 4's biggest advantage over the Xbox One and Wii U is its breadth of indie exclusives, which are typically available for free via PlayStation Plus. Microsoft is starting to catch up, but Sony has been working overtime to get independent developers in their corner, and their efforts have paid off in the form of a variety of high-quality exclusives. Basically, if you want to play indies on a home console, the PlayStation 4 is the place to be.
Going forward, I expect the PS4 and Xbox One to level out, much as the PS3 and Xbox 360 did last generation. Microsoft definitely got off on the wrong foot with the Xbox One, but there have been definite signs of improvement since the beginning of the year. Barring a major update to the UI and some killer exclusives though, I think I'll be sticking with my PS4 (and Wii U) for the time being.
The three games I'm most looking forward to: I'm really looking forward to playing Bloodborne. I don't know that it'll be a huge improvement on Dark Souls and its sequel graphically, but I'm fully onboard with whatever Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team come up with at this point. I doubt that it'll do world-beating numbers, but getting Bloodborne as a PS4 exclusive is actually a pretty big coup for Sony.
Unfortunately, Bloodborne likely won't be out for a while, and the same could be said for the other games I'm anticipating this generation. Square Enix has yet to offer any real details on Final Fantasy XV, much less a release date, so it'll be a while before we see that one. The same goes for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. Beyond that, there's the usual spread of Sony exclusives, from LittleBigPlanet to Uncharted. To tell you the truth though, I'm mostly excited to be playing more indies on the PS4. Apotheon and No Man's Sky look just grand.
Additional features that attracted me: I'm really curious to see whether Sony can pull off streaming via PlayStation Now. It's a neat idea, but even speaking as someone living in San Francisco, I find myself wondering whether they will be able to fully address the issue of input lag. No matter how bad it is for me, I'm sure it'll be even worse in North Carolina or Idaho. Still, I like what Sony is trying to accomplish with their streaming service. It may not quite be a Netflix for gaming, but I expect it to steadily improve as time goes on. If it works, and Sony manages to load it up with enough games, the PS4's library will instantly become huge (addendum: I'm still bitter about the lack of backwards compatibility). Fingers crossed.
Why I didn't choose its competitors: I actually own both a Wii U and an Xbox One, so I suppose the question is moot. But if I had a gun to my head and I could only choose one of the three, I would probably pick the PS4. I would have to think about it for a while though. Over the years, I've stuck with Sony because I know that's where Japanese developed games and RPGs will ultimately end up; and for the most part I haven't been disappointed (though I had to wait quite a while with the PS3). I actually really like the Wii U, but as a supplementary system rather than my primary console. With third parties outside of Platinum all but refusing to support it, the library just isn't that deep. You know what they say about content being king? That would be the PC. But the PS4 will at least be a close second..
What next-gen machine would you buy right now: Xbox One
Why: I've got both a PS4 and an Xbox One, but if I had to get rid of one... Well... That's a tough, tough choice. If truth be told, I’ve actually used my Xbox One far, far more than my PS4 since I bought both in November of last year. The main reason for that is a trio of exclusives: Titanfall (which I’ve played incessantly), Forza Motorsport 5, and Forza Horizon 2, which is my current go-to racing game, and general all-round obsession.
Because of that, I'd buy an Xbox One right now. That's a flip-flop from the last two times I've been asked this same question - the PS4 emerged supreme both times before. This time around, however, Xbox One exclusive Forza Horizon 2 is seriously tipping the scales in Xbox One's favor thanks to it being my most favorite racing game for years - buoyed by the fact that arch rival PS4 racer DriveClub just doesn't come close to it.
The other thing that's changed is that Xbox One can now be bought for $50 less than a PS4. That might change soon - either the Xbox going back to $399 or the PS4 matching the lower Xbox One price. However, this question is about the here and now, and that $50 is not to be sneezed at - especially considering this time last year, Xbox One was getting ready to roll out at $100 over the price of PS4.
Speaking of which - I shelled out that ton-up premium for an Xbox One, and that left me feeling pretty disgruntled - especially as it seemed I was paying extra for a piece of redundant pack-in tech I just wasn't interested in. My Kinect has been gathering dust since then, and apart from using it to play Fantasia: Music Evolved, it's been a complete waste of money. But now I've gotten over blowing a c-note on then-mandatory, useless tech, and having spent so much time playing Xbox One games, I'm feeling a lot more positive about it now. Basically, what I feel I wasted on Kinect, I've more than gotten back from the console itself.
I still don’t have my own Wii U as of yet. There’s not really been a compelling reason for me to buy one up until recently, but Bayonetta 2 has pushed me right to the brink of purchase. The only thing holding me back is that Wii U is still a bit on the pricey side, especially when you take into account how much I’ve already shelled out on the other two consoles in the last year. Maybe if it drops a little in price, and if I can trade in some of my old games to mitigate the cost a bit further, I'll go for it. It's only a matter of time anyway - there are some great games slated for the machine in 2015 that I absolutely want to play.
While I've chosen Xbox One this time around, the PS4 is only a half-step behind. I’ve been a PlayStation fan ever since I was blown away by a behind-the-scenes demo of the very first one in 1994. I’ve bought each new Sony-branded console on day one of its release, and I’ve never been disappointed. Well, almost. The early days of PlayStation 3 were pretty crappy if truth be told, and my machine was little more than a Blu Ray player for more months than I care to mention. But the machine turned around in the end, and I have no complaints about the last generation. Well, other than my first fat PlayStation 3 burned itself out after about three years.
I think both machines' interfaces are great. They're functional and easy to use, so there are no deal-breakers there. The Xbox One is the better media machine, so if you're a heavy TV watcher, I'd definitely factor that into the equation. The PS4 is physically smaller than the Xbox One if that makes a difference. And from what I understand, the PS4 has an edge in terms of power - though quite how much remains to be seen.
Looking into my crystal ball, I'm probably more interested in what's coming up on PS4 than Xbox One, but as we've seen with DriveClub recently, we just can't judge their quality until we've played the games first hand. So for now, I'm asking myself this one simple question as a tiebreaker: given a choice between a PS4 or Xbox One plus five of their respective best games, which one would I buy right now? The answer is Xbox One - but only just.
The three games I'm most looking forward to: The next Gran Turismo. Hopefully, this generation won’t make us wait eons like we had to the last time around. To me, it can't come soon enough - especially after DriveClub turned out to be such a technical disappointment.
Another game I saw at E3 that I found really intriguing was Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. It’s not quite a game, but more of a storytelling experience that packs some really great ideas. I reckon it won’t be a long-lasting experience, but it is exceptionally imaginative and interesting. And anyway, one of my favorite games of the last generation was Journey, and that didn’t offer more than a few hours gameplay, but it was still phenomenal.
Lastly... well - take your pick. I'm very excited by Bloodborne like everyone else, and the Division looks phenomenal, but I haven't had the chance to play it yet. And, of course, there's No Man's Sky - along with the aforementioned LittleBigPlanet 3. Now I think about it, that's my third most-anticipated game.
It's pretty crazy that my most anticipated games are all PS4, yet I'm choosing Xbox One to buy. But then again, if those games aren't quite what we hope, I'm pretty sure I'll still be putting more console hours into my Xbox One. It just shows how tight a choice this is - but one thing's for sure. Both machines deliver the goods.
Additional features that attracted me: Nothing much. I don’t really care about the social features at all – most of my social interaction is done down the barrel of a gun, or whatever weapon I have available. So more ways of reaching out and connecting with the friends I don’t have means nothing to me. I like the idea of sharing videos – perhaps to show off some cool stuff, but again, it’s a neat thing, rather than a "wow" thing.
Why I didn't choose its competitors: Actually, I chose and bought both the Xbox and PlayStation in real life. But for the benefit of this feature, the Xbox One edges PS4 in a photo finish on pure personal preference when it comes to games I’m most interested in right now - games I'm actually playing. Wii U takes third because its release roster is more limited, and I think it’s still too expensive. If Nintendo can cut the price, and once those fantastic games we saw at E3 this year are released, the Wii U will be a far more attractive option than it is at the moment.
Ultimately, you can't go wrong with PS4 or Xbox One, so choose whichever one has the most games you're interested in - and factor in the latter machine's media credentials if that's important to you. Wii U is a cool machine, but in the company of Sony and Microsoft’s giants, it just seems a little overpriced for what it has to offer.
What next-gen machine would you buy right now: PlayStation 4
Why: Last year, after Sony's absolute thrashing of Microsoft at its press conference, I surfed to Amazon on my smartphone and pre-ordered a PlayStation 4. So far game-wise, both platform holders have released some compelling titles, but in a wash they're both equal. Microsoft has done a good job gaining ground back from Sony.
Both systems sit under my entertainment center, but if I only had enough money to purchase one, it'd still be the PlayStation 4. The Xbox One is a better media box for me, but if the focus is playing games, I spend far more time on my PlayStation 4. For multi-platform games, it looks like Sony's console will continue to hold the edge and the DualShock 4 is a superior controller to Microsoft's option.
Of course, this was an easier decision when the Xbox One was $100 more than the PS4. I'd be willing to miss out on Sunset Overdrive, Phantom Dust, Crackdown, and Killer Instinct for $100, but now, the choice is much harder. The PlayStation 4 feels like the better game system overall, but Microsoft is now close behind and its exclusives seem stronger.
The three games I'm most looking forward to: Uncharted 4 is almost a killer app for me. I've always loved the Uncharted series, though U4 is early enough that my jury is still out. Then there's No Man's Sky, which seem full of possibility. Finally, I came out of E3 excited for a few multi-platform titles - Batman: Arkham Knight, Assassin's Creed Unity, and Shadow of Mordor - that I'll probably be buying on PlayStation 4.
Additional features that attracted me: Vita Remote Play is absolutely perfect. I thought off-screen play was one of the Wii U's better ideas, but the Gamepad is limited to a certain area that doesn't stretch throughout my entire apartment, whereas my WiFi does. I've also tested the feature by connecting to my system from someone else's WiFi; it worked great. Being able to continue a PS4 game on a Vita makes me love the little portable even more. Plus, the Share button feature is pretty awesome for on-the-fly Twitch streaming. Plus, pulling screenshots of games for reviews right off the system with a USB drive is too cool.
Why I didn't choose its competitors: Performance. The games shown at E3 2014 for the Xbox One and PS4 generally perform better on the latter platform. If you only have one, that's fine, but in a shoot-out the PlayStation 4 wins hands-down. There's also my assumption that Japan's support of the Xbox One will be as strong as its support of the Xbox 360. Which is to say, almost non-existent.
Which next-gen machine would you buy right now: Wii U
Why: This was not an easy answer by any means. Let's say some disaster — a hurricane, I guess — were to come and destroy my apartment and leave me with just enough money to invest in a single current console… that would be tough. It would be a toss-up between PlayStation 4 and Wii U. I think, in the end, I'd probably go with a Wii U. That could change a year from now, but at this very moment? Yeah. Wii U.
Wii U has several advantages at the moment. It's more affordable, so you can snag a great library along with the console without breaking the bank. It's backward compatible, playing both Wii and Virtual Console releases (including Wii Virtual Console games, of which I own hundreds). And its one-year head start over the competition means its library is already reaching maturity and critical mass, while the other systems are kind of coasting along on good feelings.
On top of that, this year's E3 showings really cemented the fact that Wii U is the console to go to for exclusive and unique games. Most of the big releases for the other systems appear on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, but Nintendo offers a ridiculous number of unique games that, honestly, look a lot more interesting to me than further iterations on the same tired genres. Like most people, I see Wii U as a natural complement to the mainstream consoles, but if I had to pick… I'd probably go with the unique content. I'd pine for Destiny and Alien: Isolation, but I'd survive.
The three games I'm most looking forward to: Mario Maker seems like a must-have, even if it doesn't build much further on what we saw at E3 (though by all accounts it will) — a tool for making and sharing Mario games that manages to be a fun and amusing toy in and of itself. Xenoblade Chronicles X appears to be a refinement of the massive, open-world odyssey Xenoblade, so that's good enough for me. And finally… hmm. I kind of want to say Yoshi's Wooly World, but nah, let's go with Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. I loved those bonus stages in Super Mario 3D Land, and the opportunity to play an entire game comprised of those seems too good to pass up.
Additional features that attracted me: Honestly, it's as simple as the reasons I outlined above. The system's access to such an extensive library of classics through Virtual Console really helps sell it, though. I was on the fence about PlayStation Now, but now that I've seen it in action and — more crucially — have seen a glimpse of the insane prices Sony is charging for software "rentals," I think I'll go with Virtual Console. It's not cheap, but at least there's a sense of permanence to it; I still have access to the VC games I bought at the Wii's launch in 2006.
Why I didn't choose its competitors: Again, it wasn't an easy choice; PlayStation 4 is pretty great, and Xbox One isn't too shabby, either. I could get by owning only any one of them. In the end, though, PS4 and Xbox One just need a little longer to build up steam, by which I mean a library. The lack of backward compatibility for both systems really hurts them in the near term — I have plenty of games from last generation I need to catch up on, and Wii U is the only system that lets me do that while retiring my previous console. I find myself spending as much time with my PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 as I do their successors, whereas the only thing I've done with Wii since the sequel launched has been to transfer my games over to Wii U. Yeah, so Wii U doesn't have quite as much oomph under the hood as its competition. I'll take fresh ideas over horsepower any day.