Gamer’s Domain: Are the new consoles worth it?

Levi Castle

I recently wrote about my thoughts and recommendations on buying new technology. Today, I will be using those standards to a narrower degree as I discuss whether I think the next-gen consoles are worth the money.

I have been a console gamer for more than 10 years. I have been through many systems, played all types of genres and know a thing or two about gaming life cycles. As I have learned more about the industry, I have detected patterns in how marketing works. I have predicted what is to come, based on what has passed. As the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One arrive on the scene this month and we are left wondering; what can we predict from what we have learned?

A notable first point to make has to do with the transition from last-gen to next-gen. When we moved from the PS2, original Xbox and GameCube to the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, the jump in graphical and processing fidelity was monumental. For two of the consoles, a transition was made from SD (standard definition) to HD (high definition). The Wii, while still lacking true HD support, had still made quite a leap by way of being the first console to successfully and drastically change the way we play games. All of these changes combined made for one hell of a gaming generation; a true symbol of the changing times and the speed of technology progression.

But when transitioning from the 360, PS3 and Wii to the One, PS4 and Wii U, we see less of a drastic change. We are used to widescreen, HD pictures. We are used to optical-quality sound output. We are used to impressive and diverse online gaming and chat systems. We are used to yadda yadda yadda; you get the point.

While all of these features are awesome, and I am glad for their existence and standardization in gaming, they have undoubtedly sedated us to the features of the consoles being released this month. Much is the same as it has been for nearly 10 years. Granted, every aspect has been improved upon, but we are still accustomed to the original ideas.

So if I were asked the question, “are the new consoles worth it,” what would my response be? As unsatisfactory as it sounds, I would answer with “it depends.” There are so many factors that can change between gamers that influence their buying decisions that I can not make a general statement on whether someone needs to buy a next-gen. Some things need to be considered.

Going back to my buying guidelines, gamers should keep in mind that these are the first versions of the new consoles. 

For instance, the PS4’s power supply unit (PSU) is internal, meaning there is no power brick in the cord unlike Xbox One. While this helps with portability and looks, it could be potentially bad for the system, as such a large concentration of power and heat condensed into one small box could cause overheating issues. In fact, there have already been reports of PS4s overheating and shutting down to cool off. Add that to the list of other issues that some PS4s have seen since launch (broken HDMI connector, corrupt system updates), and we are left wondering; what will surface as the console gets used more and more?

When I bought my new Xbox 360 so many years ago, it took me five years to learn that I had a defective unit, at which point I got the dreaded Red Ring of Death. Same goes for my friend’s PS3; he got the Yellow Light of Death. I am not saying wait five years to buy the next-gen (in fact, I would discourage that action); I am just saying that it is best to be prepared for history to repeat itself.

So, it is situational from a reliability standpoint on whether the new consoles are worth it to someone. Getting the first model of any new product is risky, but those who have functioning PS4s seem to be loving them.

What about cost? $400 and $500 is a good chunk of change, but completely reasonable for the hardware you are getting. I am a hardware fanatic, so I got very bored of my 360 in its later years. I could feel how old the console was; I no longer enjoyed the look of games on it. Some may call that being picky, but I am also a PC gamer, and I was ready for a change. Eight-year-old hardware was not cutting it for my living room any longer, but the $400 I paid for my 360 was well worth the investment and I do not regret it at all.

These new consoles will last a long time. I would bet more than 10 years to be their life cycles. Who knows how long the physical systems themselves will last; we could easily face another Red Ring of Death fiasco somewhere down the line. The consoles will get updated looks as time progresses, both physically and in their software. I would wager that five years from now, there will be multiple models of each system available. They will likely look much different than the current new models. Interfaces will change, too. Look at how different the 360’s dashboard is now from when it first launched.

Gamewise, this is a no-brainer. The games will be worth it. We did not see as massive a graphical leap from generations as we did last time we transitioned, but that is to be expected; developers are just now figuring out the ropes of the new hardware being offered. “Battlefield 4” got upgraded significantly when moving to next-gen, while “Call of Duty: Ghosts” did not receive quite as much of a makeover.

Titles meant specifically for the next consoles, like “Killzone: Shadowfall” and “Forza V,” are just a glimpse of what we can expect to see out of the new systems. I can not wait for my living room to be a fun place again, and I see promise in what the next few years will hold (can you say Fallout 4? I am too excited to write about that game).

It is a tough decision to make. I am actually breaking my own guidelines and buying the consoles very soon into their release. Why? I am a sucker for a few games coming out, and sometimes I can not control myself. But I have also analyzed my situation and found it to be a wise choice for me. My advice is that if you have it in you, step back and look at every conceptual issue I discussed in this blog. Decide whether the benefits outweigh the costs, and make the decision you are happy with.