Console Buying Guide for the 2014 Holiday Season

Well it’s that time of year again. Yes, November: where everyone is thankful for what they have and no one wants anything more than to spend time with their family and enjoy a nice meal together.

Look at those wonderful artificial smiles! What a - wait, are those french fries on the table? What is even going on here?
Look at those wonderful artificial smiles! What a – wait, are those french fries on the table? What is even going on here?

Nah, I’m kidding. Christmas is around the corner and I live in America. It’s time to buy sh*t.

Specifically, let’s talk video game consoles. It has been a year since the release of the Sony PlayStation 4 and the Microsoft Xbox One. It has been two years since the release of the Nintendo Wii U. The eighth generation of home video game consoles is officially upon us. So which one should you buy? Every fanboy out there will tell you why “their” console is the best. But let’s take a serious and unbiased look at what each console currently has to offer and what their near future plans are.

Trying to talk to most console owners.
Trying to talk to most console owners.

Let’s start with the big dog, the current best-seller.

PlayStation 4

How much: 400 bucks. Get it, it’s like a hundred for each generation of PlayStation!

Is that Price likely to fall: Possibly. Right now the PS4 is selling like hot cakes so do not expect a price drop in the next three months. That said, the Xbox One just lowered its price (again) so you never know. If fortunes change for Sony, expect that price to drop.

Games: Current exclusive titles are Basement Crawl, Driveclub, Infamous (First Light and Second Son), Killzone Shadow Fall, Knack, Resogun, and that’s it. Not kidding, those are the full list of true exclusives (not out on any other platform) that the consumer can currently purchase for the PS4. This is the best-selling console in the world right now.

There’s More Coming, Right: Yes, if you sell that many units, developers will make games for your system. The PlayStation 4 may have a lackluster exclusive library at the moment but that is going to change. The question is: will it change before the system hits $350?

There’s Other Games to Play: Sure, the PS4 gets most large AAA releases and has an impressive independent library as well. There are games to play, most of them can just be played on other, cheaper, hardware.

I own a PS3, does that matter: Not really. The PS4 is not backwards compatible. There is talk of a streaming service to play certain titles but at the moment, it is not close to completion.

Not sure how they're doing it but it is hard to argue against Sony's success.
Not sure how they’re doing it but it is hard to argue against Sony’s success.

Xbox One

How much: Currently, it is $350. That said, this system was released for $500 only a year ago.

Is that Price likely to fall: Less than impressive sales numbers have fueled the rapid decrease in price. Who is to say that Microsoft is done cutting the cost? Do not expect it to drop again before Christmas.

Games: Current exclusive titles are Crimson Dragon, D4, Dance Central Spotlight, Fighter Within, Forza Motorsport 5, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Killer Instinct, Powerstar Golf, Shape Up, Sunset Overdrive, Xbox Fitness, and Zombie Driver. That is the current lineup of true exclusives available to the Xbox One.

There’s More Coming, Right: Yeah, the Xbox One is far from dead. Sure, the system has not had a great first year but Microsoft is a very large company with a lot of money to spend. Do not count them out yet.

There’s Other Games to Play: The Xbox One gets the same library of large releases that the Ps4 and other systems enjoy. They do not have the same level of indie development however, at least not yet.

I own a 360, does that matter: No. The Xbox One is not backwards compatible. Do not hold your breath for Microsoft to change this.

Xbox One is having a very similar identity crisis that the Wii U suffered through in the year following its launch.
Xbox One is having a very similar identity crisis that the Wii U suffered through in the year following its launch.

Wii U

How Much: $350.

Is that Price likely to fall: The Wii U has yet to have a major price drop. I would not expect this to change before Christmas. That said, with the Xbox One price drop, it is likely that Nintendo will lower the Wii U price tag within the next year.

Games: Current Wii U exclusives include (but are not limited to) Bayonetta 2, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Hyrule Warriors, The Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker HD, Pikmin 3, Mario Kart 8, and ZombiU. This system has been out the longest, so a full title list is here.

There’s More Coming, Right: It is Nintendo so you can expect their continued support and library of famous franchises.

There’s Other Games to Play: Here is Nintendo’s Kryptonite zone. The company has long-held strained relationships with many third-party developers. While the Wii U has a strong library of first-party titles, expect to miss out on many of the larger releases.

I own a Wii, does that matter: Yes. The Wii U can play every Wii game in existence. You can also keep using your old wiimotes for certain titles.

Super Smash Bros for Wii U is the big holiday title this year from Nintendo.
Super Smash Bros for Wii U is the big holiday title this year from Nintendo.

3DS

Please see my article on the New 3DS to know my thoughts on whether or not you should buy one this holiday season.

3DS has a huge game library and is backwards compatible with regular DS games.
3DS has a huge game library and is backwards compatible with regular DS games.

PlayStation Vita

What the heck is a Vita: It is the Sony portable system.

How Much: At least $215.

For a Portable: Yeah, they’re not kidding.

Is that Price Likely to fall: The PlayStation Vita has not sold well since launch, selling roughly only 4 million units since launch. Sony may very well drop the price further if they continue support.

Games: Vita exclusives include Army Corps of Hell, Bullet Girls, Killzone: Mercenary, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita, Phantasy Star Nova, Silent Hill: Book of Memories, and Touch my Katamari.

There’s More Coming, Right: Sony has not discontinued plans for the PlayStation Vita so expect a sprinkling of games to come in the future.

There’s Other Games to Play: A full list of all titles playable on the PS Vita can be found here

I own a PSP, does that matter: Yes, so long as the title was downloaded and not physically purchased, it can be played on Vita.

Sony is trying to keep the Vita alive by integrating more with other hardware.
Sony is trying to keep the Vita alive by integrating more with other hardware.

A Gaming PC

How Much: A good PC can be built for as little as $300. Completed models usually run between $500 and $1000.

Is that Price Likely to fall: As newer and better PCs are released, prices fall accordingly.

Games: Pretty much everything you can think of, from now back through the last twenty years, provided it has been updated on services like Steam and Good Old Games.

There’s More Coming, Right: The PC will receive pretty much every major release going forward.

There’s Other Games to Play: The system also has an unmatched selection of Indie games. Provided you ever finish reliving the nostalgia of a back catalog that spans decades. Oh, there is also modding.

I already own a PC: Keep it upgraded and in working order and you can play anything.

Yeah, it is tough to argue against that library of classics old and new.
Yeah, it is tough to argue against that library of classics old and new.

So there you have it. As a non-PC gamer, I will say that I believe a gaming PC is by far the best option out there for those looking to play the most games and spend the least amount of money. Yes, the system itself may cost more initially but thanks to services like Steam, games are available at a fraction of the cost. For a gamer looking to play every major release out there, I recommend a gaming PC and a Wii U. Nintendo’s series are the only thing guaranteed to skip the PC market.

For those out there not tech savvy and not wanting to spend a ton: the 360 and PS3 are still supported systems. They receive practically all the same big releases as their next-gen counterparts.

How most PC gamers see themselves.
How most PC gamers see themselves.

 

Double Dipping: Why No Backwards Compatibility is Bad for Console Gamers

I never thought I would say this but: Sony and Microsoft could learn a lot from Nintendo… at least when it comes to backwards compatibility. True, the Big N is totally lost when anything internet-oriented enters the table (why is Mario Kart 8 the only first-party game to possess online multiplayer?) but they understand the importance of allowing players to retain the past generation of gaming. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are out and, at the moment, the lack of backwards compatibility does not appear to be hindering hardware sales (stopped me from buying either). Yes, this is an issue that the public appears to have deemed as not very important. That said, it does matter: no backwards compatibility is a bad for the consumers and, in the long run, it is bad for the console industry as a whole.

Nintendo is the industry leader in terms of backwards compatibility. Sony comes in second, with Microsoft trailing as an indifferent third.
Nintendo is the industry leader in terms of backwards compatibility. Sony comes in second, with Microsoft trailing as an indifferent third.

When new consoles come out, it generates excitement (hype) in the consumer market. Companies need this excitement – it is what compels otherwise level-headed individuals to fork over hundreds of dollars for buggy just-released systems with no real game library to speak of. Excitement is generated by the NEW: NEW graphics, NEW gameplay, NEW experiences, NEW games. Part of that also used to mean a trade up: time to get rid of the old console and replace it with a new one. This encouraged brand loyalty as a person with a PlayStation 2, for example, could (initially) replace it by simply buying a PlayStation 3. All the old games still worked and less room was taken up on the shelf. Out with the old, in with the new.

Microsoft marketed the Xbox One as the "one" device you would need in your living room. Yet it isn't even the "one" device to play all of your Microsoft games.
Microsoft marketed the Xbox One as the “one” device you would need in your living room. Yet it isn’t even the “one” device to play all of your Microsoft games.

Without backwards compatibility, brand loyalty goes out the window (in theory, fanboys are oh so devoted.. for some reason). On the face of it – this sounds like an advantage for the consumer: everyone is now free to buy the new system that best suits their needs. Really, however, this is a tiny plus compared with all the drawbacks. The advantage shrinks even further when the two systems’ specifications are compared (they are remarkably similar in every way).

So you have to buy a new system… and if you still want to play older games… you’ll have to keep your old one. Sucks for space but that’s not a huge deal. There’s still great NEW games coming out. New games like this one:

LAST1And this one:

91jwO5PCReL._SL1500_And this one…

To be fair to the Master Chief Collection: four graphically remastered games is a pretty good deal.
To be fair to the Master Chief Collection: four graphically remastered games is a pretty good deal.

You see my point – there are a lot of re-releases coming out. Hey, that’s okay though as both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 possess killer exclusives that can’t be played anywhere else. Exclusives like Titanfall – wait, no, exclusives like Watch Dogs – nope, not that one either, exclusives like Wolfenstein… not that one. What is an exclusive for the new systems?

We have the critically panned Knack for the PS4.
We have the critically panned Knack for the PS4. Also Infamous: Second Son – to be fair.
And Killer Instinct for the Xbox One... a game that will ever be part of gaming's infamous misogyny.
And Killer Instinct for the Xbox One… a game that will ever be part of gaming’s infamous misogyny.

But obviously systems get more games the longer they’ve been out. This is not an article to bash the lack of exclusives. The problem with the re-releases is that they encourage double-dipping. Companies have found a way to charge $120 per game ($60 on the past-gen, $60 on the next-gen). Obviously, not every re-release is like this. To go back to Halo: the Master Chief Collection, some of those games are very old and packaging them all together is convenient for Halo fans. Let’s talk about Grand Theft Auto V though. That was one of the last great titles released for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. Now, it comes out for the next-gen with improved graphics:

Upgraded for all your Deer Hunter needs.
Upgraded for all your Deer Hunter needs.

This game is a recent release and, while a graphical update is nice… is it really another $60 nice? I’m sure many people will answer yes, of course it is (it’s NEW after all). For everyone else – what’s the big deal, right? So idiots spend another 60 bucks, who cares? You can still play it on the old consoles… until you can’t. Remember when Microsoft shut down Xbox Live on the original Xbox? Is there any reason to think that that won’t happen again – no. It has already happened this generation with Nintendo shutting down the online services for the Wii and DS. Microsoft and Sony will eventually pull the plug on online support for their old machines. It probably won’t happen within the first year or two – but it will happen.

That is very bad for the consumer… but why is it bad for Sony and Microsoft? Well, consoles have competition from another source. You think that graphics update to Grand Theft Auto V looks nice? Well, check this out:

GTA-V-Vs-GTA-IV-PC-Version-Visual-Comparison

Consoles cannot win against PCs, at least as far as graphics are concerned. It is simply much easier to upgrade the graphics card in a computer. You know another advantage of PCs: you can play games you bought eight years ago on a new PC. In the backwards compatibility arena, computers are killing it. They have the power, the games, the gameplay.

But they’re more complicated!

Yes for now but consider this:

This doesn't look much more simple...
This doesn’t look much more simple…
... than this.
… than this.

Consoles are losing the advantages of being consoles, without gaining the advantages of PCs. The industry will have to adapt or die, and no backwards compatibility is a move in the wrong direction.

PC gaming giant, Valve, is poised to enter the console race. This could be the largest newcomer since Sony unveiled the PlayStation.
PC gaming giant, Valve, is poised to enter the console race. This could be the largest newcomer since Sony unveiled the original PlayStation.

Politically Correct: The Issue of the Washington Redskins

Yesterday, as I was reading through the news avenues of the inter-webs, a story concerning an issue at Concordia University came to my attention. The issue was this: censoring song lyrics in regards to political correctness. The song lyrics in question weren’t… well, if you were a white male they were fine! There were two pieces, a thoroughly researched impartial view of the evidence and an attention-grabbing, opinion-driven editorial. As is always the case: more people were talking about the editorial (I love how much the average person fact-checks!). Anyways, I begin with this to address a larger issue closer to home: the Washington Redskins.

For those out there who don’t know, the Washington Redskins are a professional football (NFL) team that operates out of Washington D.C. They were founded in 1932 (back then known as the Boston Braves) and have been around ever since. So what’s the issue? Well, if the name hasn’t already tipped you off, have a look at the logo:

Redskins

Or the mascot:

chief-zee2

The Washington Redskins are not unique. They represent one of several professional sports teams (looking at you, Cleveland Indians) with, frankly, poor choice in their name. For the sake of today’s article: let’s focus on Washington. What’s the big deal? Who cares if they are called the Redskins? Indeed a very recent poll (2013) showed that 79% of Americans felt that the name was fine and that Washington should keep it. Well if the majority thinks its the right thing to do than who cares?

There are worse logos.
There are worse logos.

This is why I hate the term “political correctness”, more often than not it can be written as “what group(s) are okay to make fun of, what groups are not?” Let’s try some name suggestions: the Delaware Dykes, The Hampton Housewives, The Philadelphia Faggots, The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (this one is real), and the Nebraska Negroes. Were those names offensive: yep. Okay, new question: why the f*ck is the name “Washington Redskins” okay?

The term “redskin” began as a racial slur against Native Americans back when European settlers were still colonizing America. It enjoyed it’s height of use in the 18th and 19th centuries before fading away (no longer “politically correct”). At it’s base, the word is a racial slur (red skin) but was also used denote the “primitive” dress and culture of the Native Americans. Essentially this word is a two-for-two, debasing someone based on what they look like and how they live (aren’t words great?).

I guess the best way to put it is this: if you were walking home alone one night and saw a stranger of Native American descent walking toward you, would you feel comfortable calling out: “How’s it going, redskin?”

Apparently, 79% of Americans think it’s okay. Let’s count some numbers. Right now there are roughly 313.9 million people in the United States. That’s estimated, the last full census was conducted in 2000. Of that number, 2.8% of the entire population identified as “American Indian”. They couldn’t influence a poll if they tried.

800px-Census-2000-Data-Top-US-Ancestries-by-County.svg

I’m going to guess that most of that 79% were not “American Indians”. Makes a bit more sense now, doesn’t it? Do I personally (as a white male) really find the word “redskin” offensive to me. No. It doesn’t deliver any kind of impact. However, that whole wonderful notion of progress dictates that, for the greater societal good, I look beyond my own apathy to empathize with other people (some of whom do not share my cultural background). This is what needs to happen with the Washington Redskins.

Human beings do not like to change traditions, even if the tradition is horrible. Take a look at slavery, one of the worst crimes in humanity: 625,000 people (in the United States alone) had to die in order to lose that tradition. That’s not to say that slavery didn’t exist for over 200 years (again, just in the U.S.) before people finally acted. Was it worth it: yeah, racism still exists but slavery is gone. That’s progress.

Luckily, there is no institution remaining that is as overtly inhuman as slavery. However, people are still human. A lot of us are way too okay (and self-justifying) about treating others in really unfair and cruel ways. I include myself in this bashing, so I’m trying not to preach.

20121207-225414

My point is this: nothing will be lost in changing the Washington Redskins’ name. At the end of the day who cares, it is the name of a freaking football team. So IF there is even a chance that it might be offending say, a whole group of people, why not change it? Think of the merchandising opportunities (you greedy bastards). Think of what one small gesture like that might mean to the remaining Native American community (sorry for the whole ‘murdering your culture thing’, I guess we can change our sports teams’ names. You know we spoil you). Think of it like this: “tradition” or “the way its always been” is one of the poorest, most self-justifying excuses there is for: we don’t want to change, even if it bothers other people.

For the record: I don’t think the Washington Redskins organization is racist or bigoted in any way. The driving emotion of this issue is apathy. Who cares if a few Native Americans write letters and complain? The vast majority of the non-Native American population doesn’t mind.

Let’s be more than “politically correct” on this one.