With the new year upon us its time to take a look at the age old story of the Console Wars between the big 3 hardware producers, Microsoft, Sony and of course Nintendo. 2017 is already shaping up to be a very interesting year with 2 brand new but very different machines due for launch. First up, we will see Nintendo launch the Switch sometime in March and later in the year we will see Microsoft's Scorpio hit the shelves. Sony have already played their hand late last year with 2 new pieces of hardware, the PS4 Pro and the PSVR Headset. Since Sony already has their new machines out, we will start with them.
Sony is the undisputed leader in terms of sales this gen, the PS4 has topped over 50 million sales since it launched and Sony are determined not to rest on their laurels. The release of the PSVR Headset in October of last year was a move by Sony to get a slice of the growing VR market. The headset itself has had great reviews by most of the industry's press. It has been highly complimented for its sleek design and comfort as well as providing a competitive VR experience next too its more powerful but far more expensive competition in the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift. Indeed the biggest complaints regarding the PSVR have nothing to do with the headset but more to do with the Move Controllers and the PS Camera that are used for the motion controls. Both these pieces of hardware were not initially designed to work in the VR space and I think that Sony should be working hard on new peripherals to combat this very problem so that they can maximise the experience for every player.
While its still very early days for the PSVR, indeed its still early days for VR in general, the biggest draw back for me before I go out and buy one is the lack of fully fledged VR games on the system. So far we have been treated to some very promising looking demos as to what the headset might offer given enough time and investment and later this month we should get to see Resident Evil 7 get its VR debut. This scare-fest would be perfect for any VR system with its first person perspective and the simply terrifying nature of the game. It will be interesting to see what the VR game and the actual PS4 game look like side by side, will there will be a noticeable difference between the two versions and if there is what improvements can the PS4 Pro offer to the VR experience over the standard PS4. I have a lot of faith in the PSVR, I think in time it might well prove to be a great addition to the PlayStation family.
Sony also released their upgraded PS4, the PS4 Pro last year, this was the first time we have ever seen a mid generation console hit the shops. The industries push for 4K gaming has seen both Sony and Microsoft go back to the drawing board to produce a machine that could display games in 4K and utilise HDR. Sony has beaten Microsoft to the punch with the Pro but being first to market has also got its downfalls. The Pro for the most part has been well received but there is a lot of confusion out there regarding how to get the best from the machine and what's the best TV to go about playing it on. Post launch there has been a lot shouting on the Internet with some games actually running worse on the Pro than they do on the standard PS4.
While the Pro itself offers a major boost in power over standard machine, developers seem to be struggling to get the very best from it. For me, I'm not overly concerned by all this, getting used to new tech takes time and time is something that is in short supply, the Pro is only a few months old and 4K HDR TV's are also still relatively new tech to work on for most console dev teams. There is also the argument that the Pro cannot deliver games in native 4K, that it is just not powerful enough to do so.
Games are being upscaled to 4K at the moment but like I said, these things take time, once dev teams get used to the workings of the Pro we might indeed see native 4K games running on the system. The games themselves are the most important component for any new console, Sony have already stated that the Pro will not have any exclusive titles for it, dev teams will have to produce both a Pro and standard version of all titles going forward. Microsoft has pretty much said the same thing as regards to their upcoming Scorpio and Xbox One games, all titles will have to run on both systems, weather this hampers developers in the future we will just have to wait and see.
I already own a PS4 and I can't see myself splashing out on the Pro any time soon but I can see myself picking up the PSVR sometime in the future, as long as it works perfectly fine on the base hardware. I'm going to employ a wait and see approach for now.
Next up is the Nintendo Switch, this unique looking console/handheld hybrid certainly caught my eye when it was unveiled to the world back in October of last year. This machine looks absolutely gorgeous with its detachable controllers and extremely sleek design. The portable nature of the system certainly gives Nintendo a unique selling point when the machine launches worldwide in March but will the Switch live up to its early promise?
I love Nintendo, I owned everyone of their home consoles up until the Wii. The motion controls was a major turn off for me but maybe at the end of the day that was my loss. You see, Nintendo are the best games developers in the world. They have a backlog of some of the greatest games ever made and they continue to innovative and blow people's socks of every gen even if the machine the software runs off has been a bit of a disappointment.
With the launch of the Switch quickly approaching it looks as though Nintendo are going to be offering a genuine alternative to both Sony's and Microsoft's 4K machines. Although we still don't have the exact specs of the Switch just yet, although we should know a whole lot more come the end of next week. It looks as though the Switch will be well supported by third party developers at the beginning of its live anyway. This is great news in my eyes as both the Wii and Wii U both suffered massively due to a lack of third party software.
While the overall power of the machine is important, Nintendo's in-house development teams always seem to get the very best out of the hardware they are given anyway, just look at Zelda: The Breath Of The Wild, it looks absolutely stunning from what I've seen of it, but the portable nature of the console means it can't possibly match the grunt of the Xbox One or PS4 due to its size. The power of the system will matter more to the biggest publishers and dev teams around the globe. I only say this because the likes of EA and Activision will want to port their biggest titles on the platform, if the Switch is too underpowered my fear is that support for it might fall away if said ports are just not doable. I really hope this is not the case yet again for Nintendo.
The bottom line for Nintendo is this I think, they have the most loyal fan base of any platform out there, these fans will buy the Switch but its everyone else that Nintendo needs on board for their new baby to be a major success. I for one have my fingers and toes crossed that the system delivers. I will be getting one, maybe not at launch but I know that the lure of a new Zelda, Mario and Mario Kart will get me eventually.
Last up is Microsoft's 4K console the Scorpio. We have no exact release date yet but I'd imagine we will see it arrive sometime around November this year. Hopefully we will also see it get a name change too because let's be honest here folks, "Scorpio" sounds ridiculous.
Unlike Nintendo, who are again going for innovation, Microsoft are aiming for absolute pure power with their latest machine. 6 TERAFLOPS of power to be precise. On paper at least, the Scorpio should outstrip the PS4 Pro in terms of raw grunt, Microsoft are aiming for native 4K resolution from all first party releases unlike the Pro which at the minute is upscaling everything to 4K. Weather it has enough power to do this is still unknown because the 6 TERAFLOP promise is the only real hard number we have on the system as of yet but Microsoft seem pretty confident that they will achieve their goal.
As well as aiming for 4K, Microsoft are also positioning the Scorpio to deliver a high fidelity VR experience, the Redmond giant has close ties with Oculus, every Rift that is sold is done so with an Xbox One controller included. But Microsoft are not closing any VR doors here, its my understanding that the Scorpio will be open to any VR system on the market with the exception of the PSVR of course. This is good news as there will be far cheaper VR headsets hitting the market this year as opposed to the very expensive Rift and Vive.
Like Sony, Microsoft have stated that there will no exclusive games for the Scorpio, apart from maybe the odd VR title. All games must also be playable on the Xbox One, but unlike Sony, and because of the wonder of backwards compatibility, there will be hundreds of Xbox 360 games also playable on the new system. Further more, thanks to Play Anywhere, which basically means that if you buy certain first party games for the Scorpio or Xbox One, you will also get the Windows PC version for free and your saves and Achievements will also carry across both platforms.
The biggest question that still hangs over the Scorpio is the price. Microsoft are promising an awful lot with their new console and all those promises comes at a cost. To achieve the 6 TERAFLOP dream means that there needs to be a hefty processor in there, these things are not cheap and although prices for hardware comes down all the time I'm pretty sure Microsoft will not want to sell it at a loss. Its a tricky balance, if you price it too high no one will pick it up but you can't just give it away either.
For me, I'd pay between €400 to €500 for it but anything over that and I'd be considering leaving it till it dropped in price. Also you have to take into account that the Pro will have been on the market for a year at that stage, Sony will no doubt drop their price around the time they launch it too, just to make life all the more difficult for Microsoft.
I think out of the consoles that will be available by the end of 2017, the Scorpio is the one that excites me the most, not because this is an Xbox blog and I'm supposed to say that but because its the one with the most potential. Weather it will deliver on all the promises that Microsoft has said of course is still to be determined but it has almost a year to learn from the PS4 Pro and the problems its having with 4K TVs so I have high hopes that Microsoft will hit the ground running.
I also hope that Nintendo will have a very successful launch with the Switch and I hope that Sony continues to keep pushing everyone else to keep pace. 2017 is looking like another vintage year in our much loved industry no matter what platform you game on.
How do you feel about console gaming in 2017? Are you planning on buying a new system for yourself in the coming year or are you content with what you have already? Please feel free to leave your thoughts on the matter in the comments below.
Image from dualshockers.com