This last weekend I spent quite a bit of time at Salt Lake Comic Con. As I talked with the other attendees and they discovered I was a video game journalist, almost every single person asked me either one or both of the same two questions. “Is the Wii U worth buying?” or “Are you excited for the Xbox One/PS4?”. These questions bug me for multiple reasons. Not just because I had to to answer them dozens of times (and here I am doing it once more), but because they aren't the right questions to be asking.
We’ll start with the first question; “Is the Wii U worth buying.” For me? I only have one to do reviews, so the answer is no. For others? I have no idea! What is a video game console besides a way to play the games published for it (and Netflix, never forget Netflix)? The better question is “How much would I pay to play game X?”
Let’s say that the only game you want to play for the Wii U is Pikmin 3. That means the cost of playing it would be $360. $300 for the Wii U and $60 for the game (yes, I know you can get things for less than full retail, but this is just an example). For most people, this is way too expensive for just a single gaming experience. How about if you wanted to play six titles for the Wii U? That would be $660 in total, but only $110 each. Still expensive, but far less than the $360 for just one game.
I’m not asking everyone who is contemplating purchasing a Wii U to break out a calculator and go crazy with some math to decide if they should buy it, but this is the basic process that should, if it doesn't already, go through everyone’s heads. How much are you willing to pay for the gaming experiences you want? That’s what buying a console is all about. Very few people buy a console then never buy games for it, because what would be the point? The goal is the games. If there are enough games that you want to play to mitigate the cost of the console purchase, then that’s a greenlight on the purchase. Otherwise, wait until the software lineup is up to snuff.
The second question is, ultimately, about the same thing as the first, just with a different timeline. “Are you excited for the Xbox One/PS4?” Not for the console, no. Why would I be excited for a black box that does basically the same thing as the other three black boxes in my entertainment center? On the other hand, am I excited for some games coming exclusively to these console? Hell yes.
I understand where the question comes from, and when I was a child I felt the same way. The thought of getting a new gaming console was like walking through a door to an alternate world filled with adventure. The possibilities were endless! It allowed me to be a knight saving kingdoms, a god controlling vast armies or a boy with a cohort of loyal animal companions attempting to become the very best. Unfortunately, the passage of time has dulled my sense of wonder. Now I have plenty of devices that can provide me entertaining gaming experiences, so what makes these new ones any different?
I can still be excited for some of the next generation games on the horizon, like The Division or Titanfall, but for the console that runs them? Meh. The prospect of controlling my TV with my voice doesn't really excite me. Motion controls? Social media interactivity? Offscreen play? Bleh. These are all buzzwords I’ve heard in the past and been disappointed by. The PS4 and the Xbox One by themselves are nothing more than expensive Blu-Ray and Netflix players, but the games they offer? THAT is what I can get excited about.
What I’m trying to get at is; I really dislike hardware loyalty. Buying a PS4 or an Xbox One because “You owned all of the others,” or you are a “fanboy” is one hundred percent the wrong reason to be buying a console. Not only are you potentially wasting your money, you are doing your best to prevent product advancement. Is the highest quality, most innovative product going to get the most sales? Maybe not, because so many people today buy without thinking.
Are you really going to get an Xbox One and play with the new Kinect and TV functionality for hours? I doubt it. Most people will probably mess around with it for the first couple of weeks, then never touch it again. Superfluous “features” are not a reason to buy a console. If you plan on buying one of the next-gen consoles, do it for the right reason. Games. That’s why we are all here, so do your part to make the video gaming industry a better place and buy smart.