The Tortured Decision To Buy A Game Console

Like a game of risk, the console wars have exploded into a conflagration amongst all the major and minor power in computers, electronics, gaming, and on-line shopping. Then Microsoft announced it was dropping Kinect from the Xbox One and the war went nuclear!

Of all the glitziest new consoles, Sony’s PS4 is the clear winner with 7 million sold to consumers as of April and undisputed proof that games run better on the PS4 than the Xbox One. Then Microsoft surprised everyone by announcing that they were going to make the Xbox One just like the PS4, with no Kinect, a $400 price, no online subscription required for Netflix, and 2 free games per month if you pay for an online subscription. The only difference between the machines are now the controllers, the Xbox One’s HDMI input, and the PS4’s superior performance. If I were Sony, I would offer some sweet incentives to buy a PS4 before the PS4 can get back on its feet. 

On the PC front, Valve is playing early 1980s Microsoft and licensing its Steam OS to any hardware manufacture willing to build a Steam Machine. 13 planned Steam Machines were announced a few months ago and they were estimated to cost anywhere between $500 to $6000

On the one hand, new PC game releases have always run terribly on anything but the newest and most expensive hardware. On the other hand, PC games are generally cheaper than console games. This point is veritably moot, as the only Steam Machines worth buying cost more than twice as much as an Xbox One or Playstation 4.

On the mobile front, iOS and Android games are cheap and plentiful. However, I own lots of iPad games I never play because they do not work with virtual controls. SteelSeries released a bluetooth game controller for the iOS that uses Apple’s own game controller API. Unlike other bluetooth iOS game controllers, this one will actually work. The controller looks like the child of a Playstation and Xbox controller, which is to say, it looks pretty good.  Too bad it only works with the newer iPads, because this would be great for my iPad 2. There are plenty of controllers for Android too.

The last consideration for me is whether to keep playing my old Xbox 360. There are plenty new games available for both the Xbox 360 and PS3 and they play great. In fact, most of the games on the newest consoles are also available on the old consoles and some games of the old consoles are not available and the newest consoles. Both Microsoft and Sony made a big mistake buy not including backwards compatibility. If the Xbox One had backwards compatibility, I would bought an Xbox One at launch and this article would be about how much I still hate Kinect.

Let’s put all of this information in a chart:

Game Console Price Multi-Player Fee Other Considerations

Xbox One (no Kinect)

$400

$60/year

Halo 5 coming eventually

Playstation 4

$400

$50/year

better graphics than Xbox One

Steam Machine

$500-$6000

$0

it’s just a PC without Windows
iPad Air + Controller $560

$0

iPads are great, cheap games.
Xbox 360 that I own

$0

$60/year

Cheap games, I already own it.

Looking at the chart, keeping the Xbox 360 is a no-brainer. The same goes for anyone who owns a Playstation 3. This is a great time to own an old console. Microsoft has been giving away two free Xbox 360 games per month for Xbox Live Gold subscribers and has been selling most other old games for $5. Sony has been similarly dumping games on PS3 owners. For the first time ever, I have more games than I have time to play. (Of course, I hardly have any time to play games unless I give up copious amounts of sleep, so maybe that’s not a good metric of a console’s value).  Moreover, the new consoles cannot yet play Minecraft, and there is no way my kids are going to give up Minecraft.

Between the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One, the Playstation 4 is the obvious winner. The whole point of buying a new console is to play better looking games, and I want the console with the best looking games. The Xbox One has some TV stuff and picture-in-picture features. I shrug my shoulders because I do not subscribe to cable or satellite and I already use my iPad as a second screen for things like watching video while playing games (multitasking!). None of these features balance the Xbox One’s poorer performance playing games.

Having chosen the Playstation 4 as the next console in my household, I have to decide when to buy it. Now that Microsoft is offering a $400 Xbox One, I expect Sony will offer some free games with the purchase of Playstation 4. Why buy now when you know a deal is forthcoming. The Xbox 360 also has quite a bit of life left, so I can wait.

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