A new dawn is upon us, gamers! Fancy, expensive, and more importantly, new video game systems are set to launch this week and next. Sony’s Playstation 4 is first out the gate on November 15th, with Microsoft’s Xbox One nipping at its heels on November 22nd. The lines in the sand have been drawn, blood has been spilled over the course of many E3 tech demos, and battles are forged daily on the charred battlegrounds of Twitter and GameFAQs and NeoGaf. Soon, very soon, the systems will be out in the wild, and in the hands of hungry gamers.
Unless you didn’t get a chance to pre-order one of them. In which case, you are boned. (You are more than welcome to spend several hundred dollars more to scalpers on eBay and Craigslist, though!)
But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. History has shown that, time and time again, the launches of new video game systems are rarely – if ever – truly successful. Here are ten reasons NOT to buy a next-gen video game system at launch!
A Playstation 4 will set you back 400 big ones; an Xbox One, 500. Hopefully I don’t have to write yet another list detailing all the different things you could purchase with that kind of money. Suffice it to say that brand-new video game systems are almost never priced to move.
Except maybe the Ouya. But the less said about Ouya, the better.
Far be it from me to criticize what other people do with their money, especially a not-entirely insignificant though not-earth-shattering amount like 500 bucks, but keep in mind yet another key fact that repeats itself time and time again for video game systems: The prices tend to drop. Typically within a year, and typically at amounts around 50 dollars or more.
Take a look at this Wikia list that charts all the various price drops for video game systems since the mid-’90s. The timing where the price drops occur may fluctuate (the Xbox 360 held firm at around 300 dollars until 2008, while the PS3 jumped up and down with several different models until the PS3 Slim was released in 2009), the message is pretty clear: it pays to wait.
There are two types of games that appear at the launch of a new system: ports of games you can already buy elsewhere, and a select few “Exclusive” games you can only get on that system. Sometimes, those “Exclusive” games are amazing, and make your purchase of a new system worth any amount of money! Sometimes those launch games are Super Mario 64, a revolutionary title that redefined video gaming itself! Other times, those launch games are Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire, which are pieces of shit.
Most of the time, though, the launch games are somewhere in between. Think of stuff like Perfect Dark Zero for the Xbox 360. Mehh. Or Resistance: Fall of Man for the PS3. Not terrible games, but not worth several hundred dollars. They can currently be found sullying the $4.99 bargain bins at any game store. For the PS4, Sony is hinging on you and I being excited about Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack. Not bad. On the Xbox One, Microsoft is hitching their wagon to Forza Motorsport 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome. Okay, sure.
Okay, so maybe Killzone: Shadow Fall turns out to be amazing, or Ryse: Son of Rome is more than the gore-fest it appears to be. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that neither of them is probably going to be as strong and rewarding as The Last of Us or Grand Theft Auto V, both of which are only available on our crummy, outdated, markedly inferior Xbox 360s and Playstation 3s.
So, let’s cut the crap – the reason you or anyone you know would ever want or care about an Xbox One or Playstation 4, right at launch, is because they look pretty. And, yeah, they look REALLY fucking nice!
Here’s Battlefield 4 running on a Playstation 3:
And here’s Battlefield 4 on a Playstation 4:
Which is all fine and dandy, but judging from nearly every review of the game out there, all the extra polish and nice features that are exclusive to the next-gen console versions doesn’t significantly improve the game. No sir; the reason that Super Mario World and Sonic the Hedgehog still hold up as classic games is BECAUSE they’re still classic games. They looked pretty goddamn amazing compared to 8-bit games in 1991, which is why everyone bought the damn things, but even a significant leap in graphics isn’t enough to become a fixture in the gaming pantheon of greatness.
With that in mind, let’s think about less of the new system’s “cost” in pure dollars, and put another metric to it. Right now, as of this moment, if you want an Xbox One or a Playstation 4, and you have not already pre-ordered it, be prepared for one hell of an ordeal. We’re talking about camping outside of major retailers all night, in order to barge into the store when they open. And even post-launch, getting one of these things is going to be a nightmare. Be prepared to spend a lot of time calling and bugging the hell out of the Target clerk, week after week, for any information about when they’re next shipment arrives. Driving frantically around town to every Gamestop and Best Buy in the area, “just in case.”
Yup! Any PS3 or 360 owner shudders when they hear the letters YLOD or RROD – that would be the Yellow Light of Death and the Red Ring of Death, respectively. Both were rampant problems for early adopters of both systems, and both required costly repairs. Even in 2007, nearly two years after the launch of the Xbox 360, retailers estimated that the system had a failure rate as high as 33 percent. That’s right; one-third of every 360 owner got the dreaded Red Ring, foiling their latest Gears of War kill streak.
In subsequent revisions of the PS3 and Xbox 360, many – if not all – of the hardware defects were ironed out, and resulted in consoles that consumed less power, failed a lot less, and cost less to boot. So there’s that to think about.
But whatever; you can roll the 400-500 dollar dice and take the risk. 1 out of 3 failures means that 2 awesome people had Xboxes that didn’t break, right?
If your new console doesn’t break, think of all the cool new features you can use from your Xbox One and Playstation 4! Video streaming! Game sharing! Voice commands for everything from switching games to controlling your DVR! Sign me up!
Hold your horses, now. While both systems offer a bevy of extra fun stuff to go along with the supercharged CPU, not all of those features are going to be available at launch. This isn’t a new development – stuff like Netflix streaming and whatnot wasn’t introduced on either the PS3 or the Xbox 360 until several years after their launches – it’s still a deterrent to buying a system on launch day. For example, the PS4 won’t support stereo headsets at launch, nor will it let you “Share Controller,” which is a neat feature where a friend playing the same game as you can literally take over for you via the Internet. Cool! But you’ll have to wait a while before you can use it.
Plus, the PS4 is going to be missing a few things that the PS3 already does, like media streaming. Being able to stream music and videos from my laptop to my HDTV was one of the coolest things about the PS3, so without it, the PS4 is kind of a bummer.
The situation on Xbox One seems a bit rosier, at least as far as official Microsoft PR is concerned. However, there are a lot of dodgy rumors about sluggish UI, apps crashing, and lots of technical glitches that’ve yet to be ironed out. Take as much stock in rumors as you will, but know this – the Wii U had the same rumors before it rolled out, and just about all of them turned out to be true.
Oh, if only that were true. The launch lineups for both systems are out there, and as of right now, you can probably go down to your local game store and buy a copy of Killzone: Shadow Fall if you want something that costs 60 dollars that you can’t do anything with. But where is Ubisoft’s ambitious open-world game Watch Dogs? Where’s Sony’s ambitious racing game Drive Club? Popcap Games made a big stink that their latest sequel, Peggle 2 would be an Xbox One exclusive AND a game available at launch. Nope! But at least the PS4 is actually coming out in nearly every major territory – save for Japan – before the end of this year. The Xbox One, meanwhile, is delayed everywhere else until “Spring 2014.” Sorry, Europeans and Australians!
In other words, save your breath for a lot of the games you’re looking forward to on these systems, because chances are, it’s going to be a long, long time before they arrive. Until then, I guess you could play any number of games currently available for the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3, right?
Nope! You can’t! Neither the PS4 or the Xbox One are backwards-compatible with PS3 or Xbox 360 games. All those games you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on over the years? Just pick them up and toss them into the goddamn garbage, because neither system wants anything to do with them.
Sony has mentioned, in passing, that potentially they’re thinking of using the PS4’s Gaikai streaming technology to enable you to play “specific” PS3 games over the cloud, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Meanwhile, the Xbox One isn’t even bothering. And for Microsoft’s part, they’re sort of muddying the message a bit. On the same day they announced the Xbox One, they also announced yet another redesign of the Xbox 360. No price drop or nothing; just another smaller, lighter, faster, and probably cheaper-to-manufacture console. It appears that Microsoft is endeavoring to keep the Xbox 360 chuggin’ along as a cheap video game system for kids and idiots for the coming year or so, while devoting the lion’s share of their top-tier resources – i.e., money – to the Xbox One.
In both cases, both companies seem to be telling their customers, “please hold on to your current systems. And buy our new systems, too!” I agree on the former, but as for the latter…
Aside from the obvious, in that nearly all of the Xbox One and PS4 launch games are also coming out for your existing console, there are a TON of amazing-looking and probably awesome games coming out over the next year that ARE NOT going to be available on either PS4 or Xbox One. Here’s a quick list:
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Dark Souls II
Final Fantasy X HD
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z
Gran Turismo 6
And too many more to count. Plus, some of the flagship Xbox One and PS4 games – stuff like the new Dragon Age, or Bungie’s Destiny – are ALSO going to be available on consoles you already own. They won’t look as astoundingly good, sure, but the games themselves are around 75 to 90 percent likely to play exactly the same.
So, look. The games that are coming out aren’t that great. Either system is both expensive and also going to be impossible to find. There will be hardware and software problems. It may or may not break. All the awesome games will also be available on pre-existing systems. And amazing games that are coming out, like Dark Souls II, won’t even be available for them. So, frankly…