The launch of a new generation of consoles is always fraught with tough decisions. As a gamer, you feel somewhat obligated to take part as otherwise surely you'll miss out on all the great releases coming as part of the next-gen. Back in the late 80s early 90s it was a Genesis or NES/SNES situation, then an N64, Saturn or PlayStation quandary and so on and so forth through the generations.
The release lineup for this generation of consoles is about as staggered as they ever are, with one competitor, Nintendo, getting a year's lead in on the others, whilst Microsoft and Sony are bringing to bear much more powerful and HD capable machines than their Japanese rival. So what's a gamer to do?
Me? Personally? I'll be getting a Wii U. I don't own one yet and I won't own one tomorrow, but sometime in the future I'll be getting one, which means before an Xbox One or PS4 steps a rubber coated foot into my house, Nintendo's current home console will.
On paper, this may seem like an odd choice. It's easily the least powerful of the three available (soon) systems and it's not selling well at all - be it games or the actual console hardware, Wii U stock is not strong. People have pointed to poor marketing or a less than stellar games lineup as reasons why and they're all strong reasons why I don't have one yet, but I'm still going to get one. At some point.
The question you may be asking is why? Why would I decide to spend my time gaming away on a pseudo tablet, with a lower resolution than most Android and Apple offerings, with less powerful internal hardware than both upcoming next-gen systems from other competitors and when the game library isn't particularly impressive?
Firstly, let's talk about my gaming habits. I'm a PC gamer folks. I was born and bread on a BBC, followed by an Amiga 600 and then on to standard PCs with tens of megahertz of processing power. Keyboards and mice are in my blood and I've been playing games on them since I could click my left finger. It's where I still spend most of my time gaming today, be it on MOBAs, RTS games and the odd puzzler. Games that, let's face it, pretty much only work on a PC.
That's not to say I don't have a pedigree with consoles too though. Indeed I have a lot of nostalgia when it comes to my humble Mega Drive (Genesis), Game Gear and N64. I own all of those still today, as well as several other retro consoles. I'm a gamer, I like gaming, but the PC is my true home.
So where am I going to be spending most of the next-generation? Gaming on my PC. And it's a great time to do that too, because both the Xbox One and the PS4 are using off the shelf PC hardware (to a certain extent) which means cross platform developing is going to me immersurably easier compared to the current generation of systems. That means more games that are both console and PC compatible, therefore, there's less need to own one of those systems in order to play exclusives, because they won't be that; exclusive.
That said, the Wii U's hardware is a little less PC friendly. It might be packing an AMD Latte graphics chip, but its CPU was built by IBM – hardware you don't see in any consumer PCs. That means there's a little less likelihood that you'll see some of Nintendo's big games on the PC. Combine that with the fact that we've never seen a Mario Kart of a Smash Bros on the PC outside of emulation and the Wii U is looking to be the only really exclusive console of this generation. While the graphics on Nintendo's machine won't be anything like the offerings from Microsoft and Sony, I have my PC high fidelity gaming.
Now that said, I'm not the kind of guy to go out there and buy a console for one game, but traditionally, I've spent a lot more time playing a lot more games on my Nintendo hardware than I have on my Microsoft or Sony gear. I've owned an Xbox 360 for about five years and haven't touched it in two. I own maybe five games for it in total and have had about 10 on it over its life cycle. My Wii on the other hand, I have closer to 20 games and I've played them all, a lot, because the Wii is a party console. It comes out when you have a crowd of people over that aren't necessarily big gamers. You break out the new versions of classics or the big party games like Mario Party. On top of that, Nintendo brought the House of the Dead games to the Wii as well, so I was all over that.
So despite easily saying that I think the Xbox 360 is a better console than the Wii, I've spent more time playing on the latter, so moving forward into the next-gen, I expect I'd spend the same kind of time playing on a Wii U rather than a Xbox One.
NB. Quick caveat, I don't own a PS3, so can't comment on the amount I've played one without it being rather biased.
But let's get real for a second. Forget the games, forget compatibility and party play, let's talk finance. Just look at the launch prices of the Xbox One and PS4, they're both hundreds and hundreds of dollars, without any games and one controller. Add in a couple launch titles, the odd accessory, a subscription to their online mode and an extra controller and we're pushing $700-$800 maybe. That's ridiculous money to play just a couple games at the time.
Compare that to a Wii U however and I can probably pick one up soon after the Microsoft and Sony launches, for a couple hundred bucks. Maybe with a couple games too if I go second hand. It's got Monster Hunter Ultimate out already, which I'm looking forward to play, plus there's a few good party games out there that would while away some drunken hours.
Plus, I basically get a free tablet with it. It's not a great one with an retina display or anything, but I get a piece of kit that most house wives have spent hundreds of dollars on, just so they can sit on the sofa with the TV on and browse Facebook on a screen bigger than their phone. The Wii U gives you that. And then there's the remote play feature, if I want to hack away at a Rathian's chest plate while the wife watches some trash, I can.
That said, the Xbox One and PS4 do have other features that are noteworthy. The sharing and ability to upload footage with ease to Youtube and Twitch (once again I refer you to the PC). The fact that you can use voice commands to turn it on via Kinect and the PS4 camera( again, if a game has it, it'll do it on the PC and I'm not so lazy as to find it impossible to press an on button). The touchscreen gamepad on the DS4 (well, the Wii U has a touch screen tablet). Compatibility with the Vita and remote play from the PS4 (again, Gamepad).
And I don't even need to get in to the privacy concerns with these camera offerings from Microsoft and Sony, do I?
So really guys, this article might have started out as one about why my next console would be the Wii U, but really the question is, why wouldn't it be? It's got all the features I want in a console and I have my PC for everything it hasn't. While the Wii U might be flopping at the moment, it's the only one of the big three that offers me something I can't do on my fancy desktop PC and it's more affordable than the others.
I'm not saying the Wii U is a great machine, or the best console ever, or even better than the other two when it comes to things that are often considered to matter – like graphics – but it's doing what I want with a console, so I'll probably get it.
When the price comes down a little more that is.
Author: Jon Martindale
Find Jon on Twitter @Jonwhoopty