It’s that time again. New consoles are hitting the market. The PS4 and Xbox One are enjoying record-breaking sales, with even gigantic retailers like Amazon and Walmart struggling to keep them in stock. It’s a phenomenon that never fails to mystify me. I always shake my head and ask myself one question: Why on earth would you buy a console at launch? There is a certain appeal to being the first to get your hands on shiny new hardware, but too often it just isn’t worth the headaches it accompanies.
Although not quite epidemic, both consoles have already had their launches soured by hardware problems. As seen in the several hundred outraged one-star reviews on Amazon, each console has suffered its own unique variety of hardware failures to herald in the new generation. The PS4 has gained a reputation for the “Blue Light of Death” (an issue where your PS4 simply won’t output video), while the Xbox One has apparently been shipping with faulty Blu-Ray drives.
Although these problems are admittedly only affecting a small percentage of players, it’s impossible to determine what kind of long-term problems a console might have until it’s been out in the market for a while. After all, the Xbox 360’s infamously high failure rate didn’t become apparent until the console had been out for a year or two and Xbox owners started experiencing first-hand the terror of the RROD.
Even if you get a perfectly functional console and aren’t afraid of future hardware issues, there really isn’t much to play on either console. The PS4 has a sparse lineup of exclusives that consist primarily of “Killzone: Shadowfall” and “Knack” (both of which have underperformed in review scores), in addition to a few moderately interesting PSN games like “Resogun.” The Xbox One has a little more variety, with a diverse lineup that includes “Dead Rising 3,” “Forza Motorsport 5,” and “Ryse,” but none of these are the kind of games you wait in line to buy a console for.
Assuming you play video games fairly regularly, there’s also a good chance you’ll find yourself running out of things to play, especially when you consider the lack of backwards compatibility on these new consoles. Most of the hard-hitting exclusives or multi-platform titles (such as “Infamous: Second Son” or “Watch Dogs”) are slated for vague sometime-in-2014 releases. Fans of more niche genres, such as horror or JRPGS, will have an even tougher time, since these genres are basically nonexistent at launch.
Of course, there are always the multi-platform titles such as “Battlefield 4” or “COD: Ghosts” to tide you over, but it’s kind of hard to get excited about plunking down $400-500 on a new console when you could’ve just as easily played those same games on your current console. Although these games undoubtedly look prettier on next-gen consoles, it’s not nearly as dramatic of a leap in graphical quality as it was at the start of the last generation. Also, if you were looking forward to playing local multi-player in any of these games, you’ll have to pay a hefty $60 per new controller, since neither system can use controllers from the previous generation.
There isn’t anything inherently wrong with buying a console at launch, but I can’t help but think that it’s a far better deal to hold off a year or two before pulling the trigger. In exchange for waiting, you get a vastly expanded library of games to choose from, slashed prices on both games and systems, and the peace of mind that comes from not being a new hardware beta-tester. What’s not to like about that?