How's this console generation holding up so far?
Remember 2013? Remember all the articles about the Xbox One reveal and how it sounded horrible? Don Matrick's uncaring “just buy a 360” comments and the fact that Sony's similar policies were swept under the rug? Remember that we hoped that Wii U might make a recovery? Well we're a year on from all that now, it's almost mid-2014 and we're in a totally different climate, so it's worth taking a second to look at how far we've come and where we're at right now.
Let's get the sad-sack of the bunch out of the way first. The poor Wii U. Released first back in 2012, it had some great initial success and then stuttered and stumbled and has sat on the floor ever since. It's had a few big releases, but none that have really set the gaming world on fire and more importantly, hasn't got other gamers to buy the hardware.
There's plenty of excuses as to why it hasn't worked, whether it's that the casual gamers of the Wii's generation are now playing on tablets and phones, or the fact that everyone not reading tech-sites thinks it's just a Wii accessory, or that there just isn't a great game library on it. Nintendo has addressed a lot of these concerns, championing a few more hardcore games and changing up its advertising to tell you how “new” the Wii U is, but it's not had much of an impact.
Chances are the Wii U isn't going to do a 3DS and turn around its poor fortune once a few good games are released, but if any of them can do it, it's Mario Kart and Smash Bros. Slated for release in May and Fall respectively, these games are going to make or break the system.
Easily the second place runner in this generation's race, the Xbox One is doing a lot better than it looked last year. It's had a solid run of sales in the past few months, helping it shrug off that horrible press it had around its early reveal. It's also a much more traditional console than it might have been had it been explained that bit better at the time, but instead Microsoft was forced to bow to the public's demands, as it's hard to imagine it having sold any if it had continued with its plans for an always on, always watching system.
It's also had a big boost as of late thanks to Titanfall, the Microsoft (PC and Xbox) exclusive that's managed to evolve the Call of Duty framework enough to be hailed as the next-great thing in shooters. It's not the only one though, in-fact the library as a whole is starting to flesh out, even if some of its biggest and best recommended games are still launch titles.
However, not all is rosey for Microsoft. The Xbox One might have outsold the Xbox 360 around launch (having a much more popular previous console helps in that respect), but it's not doing quite such big numbers now.
In the last quarter Microsoft sold two million Xbox consoles, which would be great, if that wasn't made up of 800,000 Xbox 360s. Microsoft is also being shady with its reporting of these “sales,” saying things like it had “shipped,” five million Xbox One consoles. That term means it's sent that many to the retailers and has only a tenuous link with actual end user purchases.
The PS4 is the current darling of this console generation, showing that perhaps last year's disastrous showings of the Xbox One were well remembered come launch day, despite all Microsoft's efforts. The PS4 has currently sold over seven million consoles – and that's sales to end users – which is two million more than Microsoft's inflated “shipped” figures, suggesting an even wider gap.
What's impressive, is that it's doing it without gunning for exclusives, which is Microsoft's attempted and ultimately expensive strategy. If anything, Sony seems to be reaping the rewards of the multiplayer generation, by snowballing its user base. This works by people buying a console and their friends buying it because they have it and that trend just grows and grows. The same thing is no doubt happening with the Xbox One too, but clearly on a much smaller scale.
Of course price is certainly a factor here too. Sony's PS4 is at its most standard, $70 or more less than an Xbox One. That's not big money when you're spending nearly $500 on either, but it's still noticeable. It's certainly enough to grab an extra game with.
So with the console's very much in their first, second and third places, how's it going to pan out throughout the rest of the year? There's a lot of games set to come out in the next eight months, but most of them are cross platform, which means they won't have much of an impact – or if anything, they'll cement positions even more, since many of the AAA one's won't have a Wii u version and the Sony gamers will get their friends to buy PS4s.
My guess is we'll see more of the same for the rest of this gen and though Microsoft's Xbox One may make a comeback in the way the PS3 did, it'll be years off before we see that happen.