Friendly competition: Recommending the right console

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Just a few days ago, my GameZone colleague Jake Valentine penned a little piece discussing his experience with the holiday horrors of gaming-illiterate family and friends, and how he advises buying a Wii U in place of a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One. Now, I’ve worked with Jake for a while and trust his opinion, and after speaking with my fair share of indecisive friends and parents, as well as talking with Jake himself, I’d like to flesh out the opposing side and explain why I don’t fully agree with his recommending the Wii U.

All the Wii U

First, let’s break down exactly what we’re dealing with. The argument in question is that, when deciding on what console to buy, you should buy a Wii U because:

-          It’s cheapest, totaling $300 with a game included, and with cross-play (off-tv play) right out of the box

-          It has the largest selection of quality exclusives (not including PC)

-          It is backward compatible with Wii games

-          And it’s coming from Nintendo, who’s mastered the art of steering sinking ships to victory

Next, let’s take a closer look at the Wii U. If price is your deciding factor, then you’d go with a Wii U hands down and wouldn’t bother asking which to buy. However, once games are factored in, the numbers game gets tricky. The fact of the matter is that the only reason Wii U is winning the exclusives race is that it’s significantly older than both PS4 and XOne; it’s gotten more than a year’s head-start, after all. Quite frankly, given the confirmed lineups of Sony and Microsoft’s contenders compared to what Nintendo has in the works, it’s clear that Nintendo has squandered that time in regards to releasing games—a mistake to which the company has repeatedly and openly admitted.

Pikmin 3

Wii U has been plagued by software starvation from minute one, with each quality release—like Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World, and The Legend of Zelda: The Windwaker HD—offering but a brief reprieve from nothing-to-play-itis. This is to say nothing of the sheer difference in activity between Nintendo and Sony and Microsoft which, even after accounting for the underwhelming launch lineups of PS4/XOne, makes it difficult to recommend going Nintendo this generation.

This leads us to the issue of non­-exclusive games, specifically the profound lack of multiplatform support for Wii U. Due to its crawling start, third-party interest in Nintendo’s newest system has been minimal to say the least. Then again, Nintendo barely seems to want to touch the thing, so it’s no surprise that other studios aren’t clamoring for a spot in the next Nintendo Direct. Adding salt to the wound is the fact that once-Wii U-exclusive Rayman Legends became a multiplatform release, solely because, as Ubisoft said, there aren’t enough Wii Us in the market.

Again we see that, despite a numerical edge, the Wii U is the turtle in this race. But before we start talking PS4 and Xbox One, let’s address the whole backward compatible thing. Can your Wii U play Wii games? Yes. Can it play all Wii games? No.

Moving on.

Whether I would recommend a Wii U comes down to what sort of gamer the person asking is. Nintendo fans will be happy with a Wii U simply because they’ll be playing newer versions of the exact same handful of IP that they’re used to. However, if they’re after new games—you know, the ones that take risks and advance the interactive entertainment industry instead of cowardly defaulting on proven names—then PlayStation 4 or Xbox One are the way to go. 

Sony and Microsoft have been barking about new IP and new game engines since early 2013, and to the surprise of many, they weren’t kidding. For every Killzone: Shadow Fall and Forza 5, there’s a Destiny, Titanfall, an Order: 1866, The DivisionDriveclub, and innumerable indie titles like No Man’s Sky. PS4 and XOne were designed with future games in mind, whereas Nintendo is hung up on its past heroes—knights in shining armor nonetheless (a next-gen Zelda or Metroid title would sell shelves at a time), but ones that pop up so frequently that you’d rather just have the damn dragon kill the princess already. Ultimately, it boils down to how much next-gen you want out of your next-gen purchase—a question which, if placed next to “how much food do you want out of your dinner,” answers many questions in its own right.

Bayonetta 2

Speaking of selling systems...

With these points in mind, it’s easiest to approach the decision of purchasing a console as a matter of investing. The Wii U offers immediate return, and if Nintendo’s track record is anything to go by, slow but continual growth. It’s got the games already, but you shouldn’t expect many wild cards or fireballs in 2014. Meanwhile, PS4 and XOne have made big promises, but have the trailers and announcement dates to back those promises up. There are also plenty of good games to tide you over for the real heavy hitters, and the punches won’t stop once they start hitting.

Given the Wii U’s lack of ambition, I’ll conclude my rebuttal with this: They’re expensive newborns, but I recommend PS4 and Xbox One over Wii U for all gamers. Casual players are liable to burn out on Nintendo titles, and innovation isn’t any less enjoyable because of how “hardcore” a gamer you are or aren’t. However, like many others, I’m also hoping that Nintendo realizes that the tingling sensation in their toes isn’t the cold hard cash they’re standing on, but the stagnant sea they’re slowly sinking into.  

Austin Wood
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