2015 Holiday Console Score Card
It’s hard to debate that the holiday season is one of the busiest periods in gaming, with the year’s biggest releases typically sliding in at a relentless pace starting in November. It can be difficult to decide which console to focus on or, if you’re finally upgrading to a new generation of gaming hardware, which one to choose in a market full of great options. Well, dear readers, I have all of the current consoles and am here to shed some light on the situation for you.
Keep in mind that this is not a definitive ranking by any means. Just another set of opinions to potentially help you navigate the holiday fog. Here’s how I’d rank the current heap of gaming consoles, with a handy-dandy letter grade just for fun.
I have always been a console gamer and will more than likely remain one in the future, but the value of a powerful gaming PC is not lost on me. The pure variety of games available on the platform is astounding, especially through Valve’s superb Steam service. Just about any gaming experience imaginable is possible on a good gaming rig, making it the easy choice for gamers who don’t have to worry about pinching pennies.
PC gamers have something of a harsh reputation for being elitist and not welcoming to newcomers, but these stereotypes are mostly unfounded. In fact, I’d argue that the PC crowd is the more mature of the bunch by a mile, and a good gaming group can easily be formed, making your time gaming on PC a real pleasure. Add that to the fact that every genre is well represented on the PC and you’ve got your clear winner.
Most big-budget multi-platform titles land on the PC as well, further strengthening the incredible library of games available to you. Fallout 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Metal Gear Solid V, Rainbow 6: Siege, and most other big holiday releases are waiting for you here. There are some examples of poor porting to worry about but, with things like Steam’s refund program and increased effort in PC optimization, it’s a little less daunting.
Cost of entry is the only real concern here. Mid-range gaming PCs can be acquired for somewhere in the neighborhood of $600, but they tend not to offer the type of experience one would expect when gaming on a PC. For the best time, you’re looking at spending well into 4-figure mark, which is absolutely prohibitive for most. Still, even with that concern for some, the PC is a earns a very solid A ranking and is your best bet for gaming this holiday season.
Wii U: B
Nintendo’s Wii U has been struggling at retail since it launched, but it’s one hell of a great console. It has the most interesting true exclusives and the strength of Nintendo’s roster of IPs keeping it alive. Not many have given it a chance, unfortunately, but I’ll argue for the Wii U all day long.
At the moment, the best bundle deals are available for the Wii U, with the Splatoon and Smash Bros. bundle reigning supreme, making it the most budget friendly option. That’s 2 stellar, must-play games that will keep you busy for months, especially if you’ve got a good gaming group that’ll come over for some of the pure chaos of Smash Bros. Add games like Mario Kart 8, Super Mario 3D World, and Nintendo Land, and you’ve got the best couch multiplayer console on the market. Yoshi’s Woolly World is also there for cute platforming fun, and Super Mario Maker will make a believer in Nintendo’s vision out of anyone.
The console’s biggest issue is the complete lack of third party support, so it makes for a tough proposition as a stand-alone option. The Wii U is, above all else, the perfect companion console to the other consoles you may have. Nintendo’s games are absolutely peerless in execution (though antiquated in their online service) but obviously can’t maintain a consistent release schedule over the course of a year, leading to some drought periods.
For my money, the ideal gaming configuration is a top-notch gaming PC and a Wii U, but Nintendo’s little box would also fit in well on a shelf with either The Xbox One or PS4. It’s endless fun for those who have taken the plunge, though, and I couldn’t recommend it enough to anyone and everyone. Its status as a budget friendly option and a unique roster of games make it a solid B. BUY ONE!
Xbox One: B-
Look, before you get angry at me for daring to place the X1 ahead of the PS4, let me clarify a couple of things. Yes, the PS4 is the superior piece of hardware overall. Yes, the PS4 is killing it on the sales floor. Yes, the PS4 has a lot of great exclusives coming in the future. However, if you’re like me and want to game in the now, the Xbox One just might be the better option this year.
Much like the Wii U, Microsoft has been very aggressive with its holiday bundles for the X1. Plenty of amazing, valuable options exist, including bundles starring Fallout 4, Halo 5, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Forza 6, Gears of War Ultimate, and others. Even if you wanted to get ridiculous and get the best of the best, Microsoft even recently launched the Xbox One Elite bundle, featuring an amazing new controller and a slightly amped up X1 console. Pretty ridiculous amount of options.
Another feather in its cap is that most of the big holiday releases this year are multiplayer-centric, and Microsoft’s Xbox Live is simply the best online platform available on a home console. Better friends lists, better performance, and more reliable than PSN by a mile. Even the controller itself, which is a modest remake of the amazing 360 pad, is better suited to first person gaming than Sony’s admittedly amazing Dualshock 4.
Its only true weakness is that it’s less powerful than the PS4, leading to ports that aren’t as technically impressive as its competitors. Still, if that sort of thing matters a lot to you, there’s a good chance you’re gaming on a PC anyway. So, with the aggressive bundles, superior online platform, and great exclusives available to you TODAY, Xbox One is an easy B-.
Playstation 4: C+
As mentioned above, the PS4 is easily the most powerful home console available today, offering more potential for amazing, technically impressive gaming experiences. It will also eventually be home to some spectacular exclusives, but its library is a little lacking as of today, placing it at the bottom of my rankings.
To be clear, if you’re not aiming for exclusive games just yet and are content playing fantastic ports or remastered games for a while, you should absolutely buy yourself a PS4. Right now. You’ll still have Bloodborne and Dragon Quest Heroes as true exclusives to look forward to, along with the best console ports of the biggest games to play. As a bonus, PSN is littered with fantastic indy experiences to keep yourself busy with as well.
Looking into March 2016 and on, the PS4 will be home to Uncharted 4 and Ratchet and Clank among others, making it a great long term investment for patient types. That its install base is already so high at this point in its life also leads me to believe that it’ll eventually have the vastly superior library of 3rd party content on its side too. It’s just too bad that, right this moment, it’s lacking those blockbuster true exclusives that’ll keep you on your couch.
A lack of really exciting bundles makes the PS4 the lowest day one value of the current crop of consoles, but I couldn’t be any more enthusiastic about its future. It will no doubt be a fantastic console for anyone, at least eventually, and you could do a lot worse. For now, call the PS4 a solid C+, but look forward to a vastly different picture in 2016.