This week marks the swan song for the eighth generation of video game consoles. With both a new Playstation and Xbox on the horizon, the sun is setting on the Xbox One and Playstation 4.
I’ve owned both systems since they launched seven years ago (!) and I thought I’d pen some final thoughts on both game consoles.
Iterations owned: Xbox One, Xbox One S
I don’t think it can be overstated just how much Don Mattrick fucked over this console before it even got out of the gate. At the notorious E3 unveiling of the console in 2013, the former president of Microsoft’s gaming division delivered a famously awful presentation in which the Xbox One was presented as an all-in-one media device which focused heavily on integration with television, incorporated motion and voice navigation with the Kinect, and had some rather severe security measures that required the console to have a permanent internet connection for games to run and blocked the ability for players to play second hand games. Years of brand-building and good will were flushed away in an instant and the killing blow was Sony taking the stage hours later and announcing their console would be a regular games device that came in $100 cheaper. The Xbox One never stood a chance.
Time has sort of proven Mattrick to be right on some things. Many games now require a dedicated internet connection, lots of players consume tv programming through the Netflix app on their console and Google and Amazon have cornered the home market for voice controlled electronic devices. It was just that Mattrick’s messaging and timing was all wrong.
Since his departure, its basically taken a generation for Microsoft to play catch up and rebuild. Their biggest problem remains good quality exclusive games. Where Sony and Nintendo both enjoy an expansive selection of top quality games available on their devices, Microsoft rolled out tired, unremarkable sequels to Halo and Gears of War, and not much else. Scalebound was cancelled. Crackdown 3 was dreadful. Cuphead was great but it took five years after its unveiling to finally launch and its severe difficulty limited its appeal.
In short, its my least played and least loved console I ever owned. Other consoles have had shorter lifespans and significantly worse sales (Dreamcast, Wii U etc) but they were still able to provide a range of great games I enjoyed and cherish. The Xbox One ended up collecting dust for most of the time I owned it.
The real positive is what lies ahead. Microsoft today are a much changed company compared to who they were in 2013. They have built out a fantastic library of games by working to make their eco-system mostly compatible with every previous iteration of the Xbox. They have acquired a mind-boggling stable of over twenty development studios including the recent major acquisitions of Bethesda and Obsidian. Lastly, they have inarguably the best value subscription model in the market with Game Pass, the “Netflix of video games”.
For those reasons, despite having a largely miserable time with the Xbox One, I have pre-ordered the new Series X model and will be jumping in on launch day. Time will tell how the new console’s fortunes will fare but having access to 100+ games on day one via Game Pass, including the new Tetris Effect: Connected from Monstar Games, as well as the latest Yakuza game (formerly a Playstation exclusive, now a Microsoft timed exclusive) is already proof enough for me that they are headed in the right direction.
My Personal Top Five Favourite Xbox One Games: The Banner Saga Trilogy, Ori and the Blind Forest, Forza Horizon 3, Stardew Valley, Slay the Spire
Iterations owned: Playstation 4, Playstation 4 Pro
The Playstation 4 was hands down the most dominant system in the eighth generation of game consoles. It steam rolled its rivals and when its all said and done, will likely finish in the top three highest selling consoles of all time.
Right from its launch, it was squarely focused as a games product first and foremost and had an incredibly reliable pipeline of high quality story driven games from Sony’s in-house studios for the lifespan of the system. Their big add-on hardware product for this gen – the Playstation 4 VR – was one of the most exciting and interesting products in the market and delivered some of my favourite gaming experiences on the system too.
Just about everything went to plan for Sony this generation. The hardware was reliable. The first party games were excellent. They had their share of timely third party exclusives, the best games from Japan and they didn’t miss out on any of the big indy titles either.
Probably the biggest critique that can be levelled at the PS4 is Sony’s rather contemptuous attitude towards backwards compatible software. Basically, if you wanted to play games from past generations, you were out of luck. It was a surprising change in philosophy for Sony who had a fine back catalogue of PS1/PS2/PSP games on the Playstation 3. It also stands in stark contrast to the approach Microsoft are taking with their library of games.
The other gripe I have is there is a homogenous quality to their first party line up – good as it is – that left me a bit exhausted with their story-driven action adventure games. I’d like to see some of Sony’s studios try their hand at RPGs, platformers, strategy games or…honestly, just about anything else.
Still, until the Nintendo Switch really started to get going, the Playstation 4 has been my favourite console of the last generation by a country mile. It has an absolutely brilliant library of games, many which are exclusive to the console. The system represented incredible value and the general promise of the Playstation 5 – more of the same but with shinier, faster loading graphics, works for me. I’ve come to terms with the fact that they’ve jettisoned their back catalogue of games but the blow is softened somewhat thanks to the ease with which I can soft-mod the Playstation Mini and I have a perfectly good PS3 and PS Vita to play whenever I need to scratch that itch.
My Personal Top Five Favourite Playstation 4 Games: Yakuza Zero, Astro Bot Rescue Mission, The Witcher 3, Tetris Effect, Until Dawn