There are as many different gamers as there are colors in the rainbow. So when someone asks me “Which next-gen console is the best?” I usually say “You are asking the wrong question.”
We already know which console is selling the best. That’s the PS4, with 25 million units sold worldwide. The Xbox One is estimated to have sold around 13 million units and the Wii U has sold 10 million.
But that’s not usually what people mean when they ask this question. Usually, they mean “Which console will give me the most fun?” and that entirely depends on what sort of gamer you are.
So we have compiled a list of some of the most common gaming archetypes and examined what each next-gen console offers you. Maybe this list can help you decide which next-gen console is right for you. Click onwards for a type-by-type overview, or jump right to who you know yourself to be… though you might be surprised what other viewpoints have to offer:
- The Fighter: Not interested unless they can throw fireballs using a $200 custom arcade stick.
- The Shooter: Only at home behind the sights of a gun.
- The Role-Player: In it for the story, but also enjoys watching numbers go up.
- The Family Gamer: Spends what little free time they have gaming with the kids.
- The Party Animal: Surrounds their consoles with drinks and friends.
- The Indie Hipster: Plays experimental games made by tiny studios funded by Kickstarter. You probably haven’t heard of them.
- The Retro Historian: Firmly believes sprite graphics and chiptunes are the pinnacle of game design.
- The Importer: Saikō no gēmu wa, Nihon kara kite imasu.
- The Budget Gamer: Will buy a game or two a year, if they have the money for it.
- The Media Mogul: Games are cool, but they’re just a break from Netflix.
- The Sharer: Please like, comment, subscribe, and check out our Twitch.TV channel!
- The Tech Head: Ready to spend all their money on VR goggles, motion cameras, wearable tech, and handheld devices.
- The Brand Loyalist: Buying games for the names.
- The Graphics Connoisseur: Ooooh, look how shiny it is!
You can also just skip to the final thoughts, but why would you do that?
Not interested unless they can throw fireballs using a $200 custom arcade stick.
PS4: Many great fighting game franchises are now Sony console exclusive including Street Fighter V and Guilty Gear XRD. The PS4 is also home to indie fighters, like Skullgirls and Nidhogg.
Xbox One: The Xbox’s only exclusive fighting game offering is Killer Instinct, though it’s also one of the most loved new fighting games of the past few years.
Wii U: If you aren’t playing Smash Bros, then you aren’t playing any fighting games on this console.
Winner: The PS4. Many major fighting game titles, like Mortal Kombat, are multi-platform, so the winner in this category came down to exclusivity. While Killer Instinct and Smash Bros. are both fantastic titles, the one two punch of Arc System Works and Capcom developing for the PS4 makes it hard to choose anything else. Some PS4 fighters allow you to use your old PS3 joysticks instead of forcing you to purchase a new $200 one, making this the more economically desirable choice as well.
Only at home behind the sights of a gun.
PS4: Sony scored big with shooter fans by nabbing Call of Duty “first console” status last E3, but doesn’t have much else to offer.
Xbox One: While it doesn’t have Call of Duty‘s backing anymore, it still offers great titles like Gears of War and Halo.
Wii U: Splatoon is a ton of fun, if you like shooters with no voice chat that are best played with waggle controls. No, seriously. I wasn’t being sarcastic. It’s a ton of fun.
Winner: The Xbox One. The shooters were the first gaming fandom that Microsoft targeted with the Xbox One, as they were largely responsible for the success of the Xbox 360. Many of its first party titles fall into the shooter genre. The Xbox One: Elite controller is practically designed to allow shooter players more flexibility, with customizable analog sticks, triggers distances, and redundant face buttons you can use on the back. Even if you have to wait a little bit longer for Call of Duty, this is still the shooting console of choice.
In it for the story, but also enjoys watching numbers go up.
PS4: Many Japanese RPGs are coming exclusively to the PS4, including Atlus’s Persona 5, and Nippon Ichi’s Disgaea 5. We also can’t forget the Final Fantasy 7 remake, which will be a PS4 exclusive too.
Xbox One: Fable Legends is an interesting RPG that is also an asymmetrical Action/RTS game, but aside from that, the rest of its RPG offerings are multi-console titles.
Wii U: The Wii U is surprisingly strong in the RPG department, between the Fire Emblem X Megami Tensei project, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and the eventual promise of a new Legend of Zelda title.
Winner: The PS4. Unfortunately for the Wii U, the PS4’s list of exclusive RPGs simply blows it and the Xbox One out of the water. The PS4 is home to Bloodborne, the Dragon Quest series, the upcoming Shenmue 3, Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, Worlds of Final Fantasy, Namco Bandai’s Tales series, the Ys series, and MMOs like EverQuest, DC Universe Online, and Final Fantasy XIV. It’s also the home to hit indie RPGs like Transistor. Ever hear of Nobunaga’s Ambition? No? See, the PS4 has so many RPGs you haven’t even heard of them all! Also… you should really play Nobunaga’s Ambition.
The Family Gamer
Spends what little free time they have gaming with the kids.
PS4: You are probably going to be playing a lot of LittleBigPlanet 3, which is a fine way to enjoy some PG family entertainment.
Xbox One: The Xbox One is a man’s console! It has no time for your pitiful and soft concepts like family! There are terrorists to shoot! Here son, Pacify yourself with Kinect Sports Rivals and Zoo Tycoon while I make this world safe for freedom! Just Dance or something!
Wii U: You can’t walk across the room to pick up your Wiimote without tripping over a million family friendly Wii U titles. Kids can learn how to spell with Scribblenauts, and get in shape with Wii Fit. Then, we can play Kirby and the Rainbow Curse or Yoshi’s Wooly World. Both are just so cute!
Winner: The Wii U. Nintendo has always been the family friendly console and they know it. They control their IP with an iron fist, making sure that nothing treads too deeply into mature territory. Their control schemes are simple and easy to understand, even if you are a child with little gaming experience. Their refusal to delve into the world of online features keeps their consoles safe for kids who might find themselves talking with unscrupulous internet trolls. Nintendo has decided to reach out to this market above all else, and they have managed to hook it, even at the expense of other demographics.
The Party Animal
Surrounds their consoles with drinks and friends.
PS4: Outside of a few sports titles like Hot Shots Golf and indie titles like Nidhogg, the PS4 doesn’t offer much in the way of party entertainment, or at least not much more than the Xbox One has.
Xbox One: The Xbox One has a lot of great racing games, which can sometimes be used as party entertainment, and also features perhaps the most fun motion controlled game of all time: Dance Central.
Wii U: The Wii U is absolutely saturated with party games, from Mario Kart to second tier titles like Nintendoland.
Winner: The Wii U. The Wii U has a game literally called Wii U Party. Their entire marketing campaign is based around bringing people together in the same room to play. While it takes a hit by not having multiplatform party games, like the Jackbox.tv games, it makes up for it by including party style modes in titles from other genres, like Smash Bros‘ eight player smash.
The Indie Hipster
Plays experimental games made by tiny studios funded by Kickstarter. You probably haven’t heard of them.
PS4: The PS3 was home to indie game greats such as Flower and Journey, and so the indie crowd was one of the first markets Sony tried to hook with the PS4. Games that were originally only available on Steam or as independent downloads are now available on the PlayStation Network, which is the only place to get them on a console.
Xbox One: The Xbox One is joining the indie race with amazing titles such as Cuphead (which I personally feel is reason enough to purchase the console) but it has a checkered past with forcing developers to publish on Xbox platforms first, along with its sometimes prohibitive publishing costs. It is offering an Early Access program which will allow gamers to purchase and play games before they are done, but historically this has been a double edged sword.
Wii U: While titles such as Shovel Knight and 1001 Spikes came to the Wii U, the 3DS is Nintendo’s stronger indie platform.
Winner: The PS4. The PS4’s indie library is absolutely huge. Some of this generation’s biggest indie titles, like Hotline Miami, are on the PS4 as are huge experiments like No Man’s Sky. The best part is, you can experience this library passively. As long as you have PlayStation Plus, which is required to play online anyway, Sony will just continue throwing free indie titles your way every month.
The Retro Historian
Firmly believes sprite graphics and chiptunes are the pinnacle of game design.
PS4: The PS4’s big retro claim is its PS1 classics library, which can also be played on the PS Vita. It also has a lot of PS2 and PS3 remakes that have gotten the HD remake treatment. Finally, they have PlayStation Now which allows you to buy or rent classic games for streaming play, but this is expensive still somewhat buggy.
Xbox One: The Xbox One has a lot of HD remakes as well, and now has the humongous Rare Replay to offer. It’s also backwards compatible so if you count the Xbox 360 as retro, this might be the console for you.
Wii U: The Wii U has perhaps the most varied retro library by way of their virtual console. You can purchase titles from the NES, SNES, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo 64 and Nintendo DS, and with a little finagling of the Wii U’s Wii mode, you can download games for the Sega Master System, Genesis, Turbografx-16, and Neo Geo.
Winner: A Tie. Frankly, if you like retro games, the console you buy comes down to which consoles you bought in the past. The oldest gamers grew up with the NES and SNES and will likely enjoy Nintendo’s virtual console. Slightly younger gamers who grew up with the PS1 and PS2 will enjoy the PlayStation Now library. The youngest gamers will cherish the Xbox One’s backward compatibility. No one console offers significantly more retro titles than the next, and they are almost all exclusives, so take your pick.
Saikō no gēmu wa, Nihon kara kite imasu.
PS4: The import crowd is Sony’s second big market. Not only is it easy to important Japanese exclusive titles, but Sony goes out of their way to localize even obscure Japanese releases.
Xbox One: The Xbox One is also region free, except for some digital games and DLC. Unfortunately, there just aren’t a whole lot of Xbox One exclusives that don’t make it over to America.
Wii U: Just about every game released for the Wii U is made in Japan, but most every major game released for the Wii U makes its way to America, which is a good thing because the Wii U is otherwise region locked.
Winner: The PS4. Anyone who likes Japanese games will love that the PS4 is the only 100% region free console. You can even make foreign PlayStation Network accounts to purchase import games digitally. Sometimes, when an import title gets enough support from fans, Sony will look into officially localizing it. Want to play Sengoku Basara 4: Sumeragi or Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory II? Then the PS4 is your console of choice.
The Budget Gamer
Will buy a game or two a year, if they have the money for it.
PS4: PlayStation Plus is probably the best value in online services with constant sales and tons of free games given away to everyone each month, but casual gamers may balk at the $50+ a year cost along with the PS4’s high price tag of $400.
Xbox One: $50 cheaper than the PS4 with a huge library of AAA titles.
Wii U: Cheapest on the market at $300, but suffers from a limited library and feature set.
Winner: The Xbox One. While the Xbox One is $50 more expensive than the Wii U, it also comes with 468 more GB of storage, which is great if you are getting budget games with Microsoft’s Games with Gold service. While its software library is smaller than the PS4’s it has a higher saturation of AAA titles, which is good if you are only buying one or two games a year. Note, if you are signing up for Xbox Live, then the PS4 overtakes the Xbox One simply because of the sheer amount of free games on PlayStation Plus, but if you are looking to stay offline, the Xbox One is the way to go.
The Media Mogul
Games are cool, but they’re just a break from Netflix.
PS4: Sony’s suite of apps include services like Epix, NBA Game Time, the WWE Network, and Crunchyroll for all the anime fans out there. It also features PlayStation Vue which is supposed to take the place of your standard TV provider.
Xbox One: Microsoft features ESPN, Fox Now, NFL, The CW, and more, with a number of features that integrate with your existing TV service.
Wii U: While the Wii U tried to keep up with other consoles, adopting services like Crunchyroll and Netflix, these apps are slow and buggy on Nintendo’s platform.
Winner: The Xbox One. The most popular media services are available on multiple consoles including Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, and Youtube. There simply aren’t many media apps that are worth buying a console for. However, the Xbox One handles PC to console streaming better, and has a number of features for the avid TV watcher. Using the console’s HDMI pass through, you can watch TV in picture-in-picture mode, use the Kinect to turn to your favorite channels, use OneGuide to make suggestions based on what you have watched in the past, and even make use of limited DVR functionality. One of Microsoft’s more controversial decisions was to market the Xbox One as an all-in-one media device rather than a game console, and while this may have lost them some ground with the hardcore gaming crowd, it’s undeniable that their media capabilities are leagues beyond Sony, who asks you to give up your standard TV service for their exclusive one.
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PS4: Sony allows you to stream using either Twitch or Ustream, and upload to Youtube with the press of a button.
Xbox One: Microsoft’s streaming and uploading features are harder to use, but it has more Twitch features to offer, especially to gamers with a Kinect.
Wii U: You can give out your friend code via Miiverse if you really want to be a Wii U celebrity… but that’s about it. Don’t think of capturing your gameplay and posting it on Youtube. Nintendo will either take it down or insist that they have to make money off of it after a strict editing and approval process, leaving you with a torn apart video and pennies to spare.
Winner: The PS4. It’s hard to argue with a console that literally has a “share” button on its controller. The simplicity in simply hitting a button quickly editing a clip, and uploading a Youtube video a few seconds later is welcoming to video editing newbies. Streaming is similarly simple, and “SharePlay” allows your audience members to play alongside you. It also plays nicer with social media, notifying you when your friends are streaming or when they upload new videos and screenshots. Just beware that Sony does have a habit of giving developers too much control over what they can “censor” during streams, leading some companies to censor their whole game.
The Tech Head
Ready to spend all their money on VR goggles, motion cameras, wearable tech, and handheld devices.
PS4: Project Morpheus will introduce all of Sony’s fanbase to 3D in the near future, and the Vita allows for in-home streaming from the comfort of your bed. Sony also has the PlayStation Eye and the PlayStation Move, which uses the light bar on your Dualshock 3 controller. If you are into modding your console, the PlayStation 4 can easily have its hard-drive replaced without voiding the warranty.
Xbox One: Microsoft has made deals with Oculus to bring VR to your living room, and their HoloLens will integrate the virtual world with the real one. It also has the Kinect, the first controllerless motion interface for a console and is the home of the Smart Glass, the first console to mobile interface.
Wii U: The Wii U Gamepad has made two screen console gaming a reality. It also features in-home streaming, but has a much reduced ranged compared to the PS4.
Winner: The Xbox One. The Xbox One is (or should be) devoted to using its hardware in new ways. The Kinect has the least latency of all voice and motion systems. Couple this with the HoloLens which has the ability to project virtual computer monitors or TVs into blank space, and using the Xbox One starts to feel like some sort of sci-fi movie. In the bleak cyberpunk future, we will all live in featureless white apartments, and our Hololenses will project an augmented reality hologram of the house we want to live in after we waggle our hands and shout at it to get it to work.
The Brand Loyalist
Buying games for the names.
PS4: Uncharted, God of War, and The Last Guardian are the major first party titles PS4 owners can look forward to.
Xbox One: Gears of War, Halo, and Forza are the headliners of Microsoft’s camp.
Wii U: Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, Pikmin, Star Fox… the list goes on.
Winner: The Wii U. The major reason to buy a Wii U console is to play Nintendo games. That’s it. The Wii U has the largest first party library of all consoles. Nintendo has 61 first party published titles on the Wii U and most of them are unique retail titles! Nintendo’s software library is so dedicated to their first party releases, that the only question you should ask yourself when considering the purchase of a Wii U is “do I want to play Nintendo titles?”
The Graphics Connoisseur
Ooooh, look how shiny it is!
PS4: Sony has been very dedicated in getting third party developers to make 1080p, 60fps games for their console.
Xbox One: Microsoft boasts similar graphical power to the PS4, but many of their big name titles only run in 900p or similar. On the other hand, World of Tanks is gorgeous.
Wii U: While you would expect Nintendo to lag behind in this category, most of its first party titles run in 1080p in 60FPS, beating out the Xbox One, though these titles tend to be less graphically complex.
Winner: The PS4. Aside from its dedication to 1080p 60FPS games, the PS4 also has compatibility with new ultra HD 4K TVs, and 3D TVs, if you are into that sort of thing. Note, however, Sony isn’t looking into making 4K games and has drastically reduced their focus on 3D games as well. But if you are looking to watch the latest Blu-Ray release of Pacific Rim in glorious 4K resolution, the PS4 is your console.
The reality is, you can play all the biggest games on either the PS4 or the Xbox One. Everything from Call of Duty to Final Fantasy XV will run just fine on either platform. Console exclusive are actually few and far between, and even then they tend to show up on the PC at a later date. So it feels like we have moved past the age where you purchase a console specifically for one killer app. Instead, we have to look at what each console does that the others don’t in order to figure out which kind of consumer it appeals to.
The PS4’s main draw is variety. On top of its AAA publishing deals, it has a lot of Japanese developers and indie houses on its side. Sony has no problem giving away games for free on its PS Plus service, giving you a chance to try a little bit of everything. If you haven’t tried streaming before, it makes itr as easy as pressing a button. It has a little bit of compatibility with mobile devices with the PlayStation App, a remote play service with the PS Vita, an game streaming network in PlayStation, and a bunch of apps that allow you to watch movies and listen to music without going too specific into individual tastes.
These features make the PS4 the console of choice for the general gamer, i.e. the fan of games of all varieties and genres. You aren’t giving up many games by choosing a PS4, only features. You’ll be able to play Call of Duty one month, No Man’s Sky the next, and Disgaea 5 the month after, all while getting some Street Fighter V matches in during your down time.
The Xbox One is a console for someone who knows what he wants. Yes, the Xbox One library is smaller, not sporting the Japanese or indie developers the PS4 has, but it’s concentration of AAA titles is larger. If you are a gamer that only plays the AAAs, then the Xbox One will have more to offer you in titles like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Forza 6, Halo 5, and Gears of War 4.
The Xbox One is also experimenting more with its hardware. Voice commands with the Kinect really work and are easy to use. The integration the Xbox One has with television providers through its HDMI passthrough and One Guide, brings a level of interactivity to the normally passive pastime of watching TV. The Microsoft Hololens is actually going to change your life with its ability to create monitors, posters, and other virtual objects in augmented reality space. It’s far more of a step forward than Project Morpheus or the Oculus Rift.
But in exchange for these features you’ll have to give up games of a more eclectic taste. It’s an easy choice if these games aren’t important to you, but a harder choice otherwise.
The Wii U is the black sheep of this console generation. It doesn’t play well with third party publishers and they don’t play well with it. It’s wholly uninterested in providing an online feature suite and includes streaming services like Netflix simply because it has to avoid falling too far behind.
It’s interested in only one thing: playing Nintendo games. It succeeds at that, and not much more, ending up a very feature-light console with a very small and specialized, if high quality, library. As I said before, this make the choice of whether or not to purchase a Wii U very simple. If you want to play Nintendo games, buy one. If you don’t, don’t. But don’t for a second think that the Wii U can be a replacement for the PS4 or the Xbox One, because it doesn’t even come close to playing the same titles.
What do you think? Which next-gen console have you chosen and why? Let us know in the comments.[i]Console Wars is our series on the current showdown between dedicated boxes in the world of gaming. If you’re curious about the state of the competition, check out how Sony got their incredible 2:1 sales advantage and some suggestions as to how Microsoft can catch up… or even win.