20th February 2013. 21st May 2013. 7th June 2011. You know what these dates represent, right? What?!? You’re telling me you don’t? There were the dates that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo first unveiled their ‘Next Generation’ consoles, and got the internet excited, confused, and disappointed. Rumours were put to rest, stock prices rose or lowered, and fan-boys roamed wild, proclaiming their favoured console was the second coming of Jesus Christ himself. Back in these good ole’ days, no-one was quite sure what these consoles could achieve or what they could deliver on, but many a promise was made. Developers stepped forward to champion a select console, announcing that it could compete with the highest of high-end gaming pc’s out there, and even possibly cook your breakfast for you if you asked nicely. Whilst I may have got carried away at the end there, the initial promises compared to the end-result reality isn’t too far away from the truth.
Certain consoles have had easy lives, such as the Playstation 4. Whether or not this was due to the colossal mishaps on Microsoft’s part is anyone guess, but the general consensus is that the thought process behind the initial Xbox One reveal was geared towards marketing Sony’s far more approachable machine. 180’s happened over the following months, with Microsoft nearby abandoning all their first pitches, such as the ‘connectivity required every 48 hours’ controversy (which was, predictably,not met with a lot of applause and some trepidation). Microsoft were going back on their image of what the Xbox One stood for and could achieve, and that worried a lot of consumers. Regardless, people wanted change, and they were given it. Both consoles released in November 2013 in the UK, immediately selling vast quantities along with both first and third party software.
The Wii U, on the other hand, has had an uphill struggle since it’s inception. Confusion has surrounded the console since it’s first reveal. The questions floating around forums everywhere were, for the most part, the same; Is this a new console, or an extra piece of hardware for the already existing Wii console? The naming was slightly odd too. The intention was to capitalise on the ‘Wii’ brand, but this in fact confused everyone just that bit more. The tablet controller, which had been in the rumour mill for quite some time, was the only thing shown in this video. “What about the console itself?” I hear you ask. A few off-focus shots here and there, but that was it. Nintendo soon apologised after E3, but for some the damage had already been done. Stock prices dropped around 10%, the lowest they had been for around 5 years.
Developers came rushing to Nintendo’s aid by singing praise, shouting glorious tales of the powerful beast that was coming but these all turned to be empty promises. The Wii U holds around the same power as the PS3 and 360 which were, at the time, outdated. New experiences were also promised by Nintendo due to the tablet controller, and this was only half delivered on. See, the initial batch of games made use of the gamepad in various ways, most notably Nintendo Land which was given away with the premium edition of the console. As time went on, both first party and third party titles alike stopped using the gamepad for the previously touted new experiences and instead resorted to mirroring the tv screen. Nintendo are still, as of this article being published, waiting for that single game that can revive the console, 3DS style.
Always look forward
Where does this leave us now? With the exception of Nintendo, next-gen machines are still fairly new to us and thus leaving us with a question: What can we look forward to in the future? Games naturally only get better throughout the consoles life span (in theory) and, as naturally curious creatures, we’re always wondering what’s round the next corner.
I was lucky enough to visit the brilliant Eurogamer Expo in 2013, a mere two months before the PS4 and the Xbone were released to the general public, and I couldn’t have gone at a more exciting time. I was going to see all the new experiences that the big three were promising in the middle of this console generation swap. Out with the old, in with the shinier, prettier new. They were out in full force, having roped off sections for their own dens to ensnare willing participants, captivate them with the allure of a new kind of experience, and then free them, forcing them to salivate over the consoles in security boxes littered around the halls of Earls Court.
With this having been my first expo ever attended, I set the bar pretty high. Assassins Creed: Black Flag, Sonic: Lost World, Titanfall and Pokemon X/Y were among the games that were available to the public to play, if you could brave the mile long queue of course. The games weren’t just there to flex their developers muscles though. The games themselves stood for everything that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo had been telling us over the past few generations, and it all seemed to be coming into fruition.
But we’ve had these games now. They’ve been and gone. What we’re left with is an insatiable appetite for more. For better. 2013 was the year of that change in generation, the promise of something better. 2014, and the coming years, have to be when that promise is delivered on, and then some. For some, titles such as Killzone: Shadowfall, Titanfall and the upcoming Mario Kart 8 has already delivered when they believed the consoles set out to do, but not everyone can have their thirst quenched so easily. Titles such as Final Fantasy XIV, Batman: Arkham Knight and Halo 5: Guardians are on the horizon, and we want every piece of information on them as soon as possible, fed to us in a straw while we continue catching up on all the other excellent games out there. Eurogamer Expo 2013 seemed to set the bar extremely high when I first walked through those hallowed doors, but the promise of something better will mean 2014 is be a force to be reckoned with. A year where the best games are out on show, where games are put to the test. It’s when we’ll find out if Bungie’s ‘Destiny’ is worth the reported $500million budget. It’s when we can experience Super Smash Bros Wii U/3DS in all it’s multiplayer glory. It’s when we can sit in our millions and watch E3, fizzy beverage in one hand and a slice of cold pizza in the other. It’s when we unite as gamers, and look towards the future.
Every generation has it’s defining games and, for the most part, they’ll be similar to everyone else’s. GTAV, for example, was a shining example of an enjoyable, narrative game that never stopped being fun in any aspect. For certain individuals, there will always be that niche game that they couldn’t put down, that first drew them to the platform. In regards to the PS3, mine was Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Storm. The beautiful, highly stylised manga animation convinced me to purchase one as soon as possible, and that franchise is still one of my most played games. As a feature, over the next few months I’ll be posting numerous reviews of old titles that really defined the last generation of console gaming for me, and I hope you look forward to reading these and sharing with us what your titles were.
What do you think of the games available now? Still looking for that killer system seller, or are you happy with your purchase thus far? Let us know in the comments below!