When the Xbox One and PS4 pricing were both announced, I made my decision instantly. For me, my path into the next generation was to be determined exclusively by price. Price is what pushed me to pick up an Xbox 360 over the PS3, and price again determined how I’ll be spending my next few gaming years with the PS4. I preordered it literally seconds after the price was announced and preorders were opened. In the months that have followed, my wife and I have had ample time to tuck $400 (plus tax, thanks Maine!) away for the day Amazon ships that sweet, sweet hunk of gear.
But I think I made a mistake. I just finished reading an excellent piece from Eurogamer’s Martin Robinson on USGamer.net. In it, he makes the case that the Wii U is actually the most compelling next-gen console to pick up this holiday season. I have to agree with him, but there’s a catch.
See, the PS4 is supposed to be the “big gift” under this year’s Christmas tree. It’s a fine tradition in the Macy household. Last year saw the Wii U, and the year previous to that saw a pair of 3DS in blue and red. If there isn’t a video game console under the tree, it wouldn’t feel like Christmas. What a lousy precedent we’ve set.
The pair of 3DSes and the Wii U get used a lot. I mean, a lot. With the release of Wind Waker HD, my oldest son has dove head-first into the entire universe of The Legend of Zelda. He spends hours poring over Hyrule Historia, sometimes late into the night. He dressed as Link for Halloween, and leading up to the holiday, he wore the costume many times to bed. To say he is obsessed might be understating it a bit. His 3DS gets equal Zelda time, with my old copy of the DS title Phantom Hourglass. My youngest son will spend hours on the Wii U playing the Metroid missions in Nintendoland, a charming set of minigames disguising a thorough tip-of-the-hat to Nintendo fans through the ages. Myself, I am enjoying Pikmin 3 much more than I ever expected, along with the aforementioned Wind Waker HD, and a slew of Virtual Console games.
And that’s why I think I made the mistake preordering the PS4. Looking at its launch line-up, I see nothing that my kids will be excited for. There’s really nothing at launch on either next-gen console that excites me. Lego’s Marvel game will satisfy them on any console for which I purchase it, so why wouldn’t I just buy it for Wii U?
The PS4 is sorely lacking a compelling reason for parents of kids under 12 to buy it. It might just be since all the other kids on the playground will be talking about their next-gen systems when the school break is over, but is that really reason enough? I know that, in the life of the PS4, we’ll get plenty of use from it. But the idea that it will make a good gift for my kids, or anyone’s younger kids, when there is the Wii U, seems unlikely.
Nintendo has, and always has had, an ember of magic burning within its properties. Ask someone on the street to name a Nintendo character. I bet nearly everyone you asked could at the very least name Mario. Ask someone to name a Sony character. Or a Microsoft character (that isn’t Clippy). You, reading this, might be able to answer those two questions. But this is NerdSynq, come on now. Mario is a pop-culture icon. He is bigger than the games in which he appears. People have a familiarity with Nintendo’s properties, a fondness, that the other two console makers lack.
That’s why I feel like the Wii U is THE console of choice for Christmas this year for anyone who has kids under 12. Young kids like the characters, the story, and believe it or not, the history, of the characters with whom they’re playing. For a kid, playing a game is more than just navigating the pathways and puzzles set out by the developers. For them, it’s imagining a whole world, with intricacies that expand beyond what is being presented on-screen. Whether it’s the Mushroom Kingdom or the planet Zebes, or Hyrule, the worlds and characters Nintendo creates resonate with kids and grown fans of Nintendo, alike.
If you’re on the fence over which console to buy, and you have kids, just get the Wii U. They will enjoy it much more. You will enjoy it, as well. There is some modest 3rd-party support. The Eurogamer piece above points out that the Assassin’s Creed IV port on Wii U is great. If you already have a Wii U, as is the case with me, and can’t decide which one of the other two consoles to get for your kids for Christmas… long and short of it, who cares? They’re basically the same. Just pick the one you like more, whatever that reason may be.