With just a matter of days and weeks to go before the next generation consoles from both Sony and Microsoft release, there is certainly a lot of hype and desire to own these consoles in the gaming community. The question I would like to pose is, why? What is it about the Xbox One and the PS4 that makes consumers want to own them at launch? Is there really a logical reason to have one at this point in time? I think not.
There certainly is a hunger from consumers to want to have the latest in gaming in technology, but once we get beyond the shock value of having a next-gen console in your living room, what will it be used for? If you are a fan looking at acquire the PS4, the exclusive AAA titles that are only available for the PS4 and not the PS3 are few and far between, consisting of just Knack and Killzone: Shadow Fall at launch. Most of the other major titles are also coming to the PS3 and Xbox 360, whilst more core PS4 exclusives are not coming until 2014. On the Xbox One side of things, the exclusive list is a tad bit deeper, at launch at any rate, consisting most notably of Forza 5, Dead Rising 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, as well as a few smaller titles.
Yet when you look at the pre-order numbers in America to see which games consumers are going to be picking up at launch, you hardly see any of these exclusives at the top of the pile. You see the likes of Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, and Assassin's Creed IV - the same big titles that are already out on current generation consoles. Heck, even games like Madden 25 are high up there on pre-order charts and it came out for current generation consoles back in August.
Let's look deeper at the top PS4 pre-ordered games in order: Call of Duty, Battlefield 4, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Assassin's Creed IV, Watch Dogs, Destiny, Madden NFL 25, and NBA 2K14. Killzone is the only title listed here that won't be available on the PS3. This leads on to the question of how different these experiences are going to be on next generation platforms, and I think the answer is relatively minor at best. Developers know there is going to be a small install base for these platforms for the first year or so, and that these early next generation games aren't going to sell nearly as well as their current generation counterparts, so it doesn't make too much sense to pour the money and resources into making them substantially better at this point in time.
The end result is that we are going to see a lot of gamers purchase new hardware only to play games that they already could have purchased on current generation platforms. When they go to log-in and play a game of Call of Duty Ghosts on Xbox Live, they'll see that 25 of their friends might be playing the game... of which 22 of them are on Xbox 360, and maybe 3 of them on Xbox One. At that point, which version would you rather play?
To further emphasise the paucity of titles, there is a lack of backwards compatibility, so there really isn't an extensive library to play through in the first few months. In particular, at launch, many gamers will be trading in their existing consoles and game libraries, just to have enough money to purchase a $400 or $500 console, not even including the money needed to get launch titles at $60 a pop. That's a lot of money to shell away for games that you could already experience on your existing console.
All of that said, I see two types of gamers that these purchases make sense for. One, if you are a gamer that has plenty of disposable income and you can purchase these consoles, without putting a big dent into your personal budget, and without having to trade in your existing console. If you fit that mold, then by all means, jump in at launch. The second type of gamer is the very few hardcore Killzone, Dead Rising, Forza, etc. fan that just has to have a particular game at launch.
I won't be picking up a next generation console in 2013, but look forward to getting one as soon as a library of quality titles has built up in 2014. For now, there's plenty to look forwards to on current generation consoles. Games like Beyond: Two Souls, Grand Turismo 5, The Last of Us, and a whole variety of Nintendo titles including Pokemon X/Y, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Super Mario 3D World.