The Console Wars Heat Up Heading Toward the Holidays

By November 13, 2014
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If you have yet to pick up one of the major offerings of the current console generation, then chances are the holidays are making you think about it. It’s a big decision, after all, since new video game consoles present a large financial commitment, no matter which one you ultimately choose to pick up. The new generation of offerings from industry heavy-hitters Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all have a great deal of unique features to them that rightfully make this decision a tough one. Things are definitely getting hotter, though, and as the companies begin to make their holiday pitches to you as far as which machine you should ultimately pick up, it might be fun to take a look at the progress of the three machines just so you have an idea of how they’re all performing heading into the year’s prime shopping season.

The reigning sales champion, the PS4 only has a few exclusive releases this holiday when compared with competition from both Microsoft and Nintendo. Can it hold onto the crown...?

The reigning sales champion, the PS4 only has a few exclusive releases this holiday when compared with competition from both Microsoft and Nintendo. Can it hold onto the crown…?

Sony’s PlayStation 4

The current reigning sales champion of the new console generation, the PS4 has sold a staggering 13.5 million units since its launch on November 15th, 2013, bolstered by a strong advertising lineup prominently featuring games like Bungie’s Destiny and Rockstar’s new-gen re-release of last year’s Grand Theft Auto V. Sony’s dominance in the field so far can likely be attributed to a number of factors, such as the lower price point when compared to its direct competitor’s offering, solid architecture with the highest graphical power in the lineup, and the overall accessibility to the PlayStation brand. Sony is also bringing out new attachments like PlayStation Home, which will allow you to stream gameplay from your PS4 to another TV in your house, as well as built-in streaming capability with Sony’s portable console, the PS Vita.

Still, though, looking at the holiday lineup of software this year, it seems like the PS4 may be the weakest of the three. The system’s only major exclusive arriving in time for Christmas is LittleBigPlanet 3, an all-ages title that doesn’t have a whole lot of brand recognition outside of PlayStation fans. Still, Sony is adamant that the plethora of this holiday’s multi-platform releases all “look best” on PS4, and the multi-platform software lineup of titles like Assassin’s Creed UnityFar Cry 4Dragon Age: Inquisition, and WWE 2K15 will definitely be able to put that to the test, in addition to other recently released games like the aforementioned Destiny and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

It will be very interesting to see if Sony will maintain its lead over its competitors once we get on the other side of the new year, but either way, choosing a PS4 is still choosing a powerful system with a ticket into the hottest games that will be released for the rest of this generation.

With a lot of positive conciliatory gestures, helpful software updates, notable exclusives, and a holiday price cut, the Xbox One may be the console to beat as we head into December.

With a lot of positive conciliatory gestures, helpful software updates, notable exclusives, and a holiday price cut, the Xbox One may be the console to beat as we head into December.

Microsoft’s Xbox One

Coming out of its November 22nd, 2013 launch, the Xbox One had a bit of a chip on its shoulder, so to speak. With a hefty price tag for early adopters, less powerful tech specs than the PS4, and a compulsory web-capable camera that contributed to its premium over the competition, the Xbox One has made quite an interesting turnaround in the race to the top of the console mountain. Every month, Xbox employees roll out some solid firmware updates that help increase the ease of use and overall functionality of the console, and the people in charge of the Xbox brand have also made some very good business decisions. One of them was in detaching the Kinect sensor from every Xbox One, instead making it an optional peripheral purchase just as the first Kinect was for the Xbox 360. They also removed the pay-wall for web-capable apps like Netflix and Hulu Plus (which should’ve been the case from the beginning), and continue to take feedback from select users of Xbox Live in formulating what future software updates will look like. It’s paid off, too, as the Xbox One is poised to cross the threshold of ten million units sold worldwide.

As we head towards the holidays, the Xbox One has a lot going for it. Chief among these attributes is a $50 holiday price cut, temporarily bringing the price of admission down to $350 for the basic Kinect-less model, making it the more economical option when compared to Sony’s PS4. The Xbox One also has an ace up its sleeve in the form of an exclusive little franchise called Halo, recently releasing the massive Master Chief Collection, that also includes access into a multiplayer beta test for next year’s Halo 5: Guardians beginning two days after Christmas. That presence of a defining blockbuster franchise exclusive to the platform may be a decisive key to the Xbox One’s success this season, since the appeal of Halo is certainly in the public consciousness in a way that is not so with any recent or imminent PS4 releases. On top of that, Microsoft has partnered with Activision to bring Call of Duty content first to Xbox, and the presence of that brand on a CoD-specific Xbox One console may also be a helping factor. Other solid exclusives, like March’s Titanfall, also add to the uniqueness of the system when compared to both Sony’s and Nintendo’s offerings.

Compared with the other two consoles of the new generation, the Xbox One has likely made the most visual and substantive change, and the easily visible nature of that change may spell good things for Microsoft’s latest home console.

Although in third place, Nintendo's latest console has seen a dramatic increase in sales consistently for the last six months, and has its most anticipated game of the year coming home just in time for the holidays. You do the math.

Although in third place, Nintendo’s latest console has seen a dramatic increase in sales consistently for the last six months, and has its most anticipated game of the year coming home just in time for the holidays. You do the math.

Nintendo’s Wii U

Ah, the Wii U. Often looked down upon and definitely Nintendo’s lowest selling console since the GameCube, the Wii U was actually the first of this generation to be released, having hit stores on November 18th, 2012. That head start didn’t seem to do much for it, though, since a weak software library and a relatively high price tag slowed the pace of the “Big N” down to a crawl. Recently, though, Nintendo’s console has seen a very dramatic comeback, and is actually now about neck-and-neck with the sales figures of the Xbox One. Much of this comeback is attributed to the release of Mario Kart 8, the latest release in the company’s flagship racing franchise, dropping at the end of May and causing sales of the system to jump dramatically. In addition to Mario Kart, though, the Wii U by that point already had an impressive list of first-party titles that were released to a very high level of critical acclaim, including Pikmin 3Super Mario 3D World, and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. With Mario Kart having driven (no pun intended) the sales of the platform even further, the new consumer base began discovering those acclaimed titles.

Also, similarly to the Xbox One and the release of their Halo anthology, Nintendo will be bringing out one of its biggest franchises to push them forward strongly into the holidays: Super Smash Bros. for Wii U. The Nintendo all-star fighting game series bowed in October on Nintendo’s handheld 3DS console, but the highly awaited console version will be appearing on store shelves on November 21st. Recently, Nintendo of America COO Reggie Fils-Aime spoke to Bloomberg News about the internal outlook for the Wii U heading into the big shopping season. He said, “The launch of Mario Kart 8 has essentially doubled our Wii U sales year-on-year. Our expectation is that the sell-through for Smash is going to be very strong, certainly on par with what we saw with Mario Kart 8. We think the impact on hardware will be similarly dramatic.” Sensing that the new adopters of the platform have picked up on Nintendo’s string of acclaimed titles, Fils-Aime added, “Consumers buy the hardware so they can play the software. When you have a robust library of games, that’s when consumers jump in.” With a going price tag of around $300 for the current model of the system, the Wii U also stands as the least expensive offering with a guaranteed selection of acclaimed games.

Time will tell if the Wii U can catch up with its more powerful contemporaries, because while it does have some high quality forthcoming exclusives like Smash and Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, third party support for the platform has dwindled a lot over the last two years. It would be very interesting, though, if Nintendo succeeded in spite of that, which is certainly possible considering the amount of love people have for its core franchises. As Mario might say, “Here we go!”

 

The (Tough) Choice is Yours

I don’t envy you if you have to choose between these three consoles. They all have a lot of great features, and all have great software worthy of trying out. The best thing you can do before committing yourself to one or the other is to take in as much information as possible. What kinds of things will you be doing on your new system? Will you be buying it for the family, or a child? What kinds of games do they like to play? What kinds of games do you like to play? Each console will give a whole world of options to go along with it, but whichever choice you ultimately make, one thing is for certain: you’re in for a fun time.

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.