It has - as many people have observed - been a very weird console transition. Instead of a changing of the guard, we’ve had a slow and cautious handover, where neither developers nor many gamers seem desperate to jump from the old consoles to the new. New games are coming out on everything, straddling the generations. It will be at least another year before the PS3 and Xbox 360 start getting left behind.
There’s a good and obvious reason for this. The 360 and PS3 live under many millions of TVs across the world and abandoning that lucrative, established pool of potential game-buyers doesn’t make good business sense yet, despite the PS4 and Xbox One’s impressive sales. I was a PS4 and Xbox One early adopter - I kind of had to be, for work - but I’m now wondering whether I would have bought either if I didn’t have to. Then there’s the Wii U, which had a year’s head start on both of them, and which I also bought on day one. Are any of the newer consoles actually worth it yet? Do they have enough games? Are they the right price?
£349 is a magic price point for the PlayStation 4: just low enough to tempt, just high enough to feel like a special shiny purchase. I like the machine. I like the menus. I like the Friends list and the pretty sounds that it makes. Even the shop looks nice.
But… I don’t play it. Not since I finished Assassin’s Creed 4 and stopped improving at Resogun (I never got very good) and finished laughing at Octodad. inFamous isn’t really my thing, not when Dark Souls 2 is out. I will definitely be playing The Last of Us again on PS4 when that arrives in a few months, but I prooooobably wouldn’t buy a console to play a game I’d already played. (Not even The Last of Us).
PlayStation 4 does have the best digital offering of any of the consoles, and it’s only going to improve. Where Xbox Live Arcade was once one of the 360’s best selling points, now things like Outlast and Octodad and the forthcoming Transistor make the PS4 more attractive for people with gaming tastes that extend beyond sports and shooting. The PS4 also suddenly gets about 20% better if you have a Vita for Remote- and Cross-Play, but then that effectively raises the price by around £135.
It’s strange that the PS4-exclusive games are not the best reason to own a PS4 right this minute - it’s the indie and cross-platform.
If you live in Japan or Denmark or Sweden you actually can’t buy an Xbox One until September this year, but let’s assume you have the option: as the most expensive choice, the Xbox One is a little harder to justify. There is one very good reason to own an Xbox One at the moment, for me, and that’s Titanfall. Otherwise it’s the least-played of the consoles I currently own. Titanfall’s also out on 360 now, though, and it’s unexpectedly great - the difference probably isn’t worth £400.
I was also massively irritated by the price cut from £429.99 to £399.99 (with free Titanfall) a couple of months after the console came out. I really wish I could have waited and saved myself both that £30 and the £50 I spent on giant robot shootamans.
That’s not the only reason that the Xbox One is a better purchase right now than it was when it launched: updates have also fixed problems with the UI and made the thing more pleasant to use. But nobody who was holding off is suddenly going to decide to get their wallet out for an improved friends notification system. It’s probably Halo that will eventually do that.
Well, it’s not like the Wii U’s games are also appearing in almost-as-good form on the Wii, so that’s not even a consideration. But this time last year it would have been extremely difficult to make an honest case for buying a Wii U on the back of, well, Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. There weren’t many delighted day-one purchasers.
Now, though, The Wii U is easier to recommend - IF, and only if, you are a Nintendo fan. If you’re not there is still no reason to own it, and at this stage there probably won’t ever be. It has Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World and Zelda: Wind Waker and Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate: two of which are updated old games, sure, but they’re REALLY good. There’s also Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze and Wonderful 101, in the not-quite-so-excellent-but-still-interesting range.
STILL, though, there has been no official price drop, despite plenty of UK retailers slashing the price down below £200 over the past year. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata remains adamant that there will not be an official price drop, either, despite the console’s rather desperate sales figures. For £250+ it’s still a tough sell, but if you can get it for £180 then the Wii U is worth it - if there’s anyone out there with a soft spot for Nintendo who hasn’t already got one.
Also: SMASH BROS. Just sayin'.
Are the new consoles worth it, right now? The best I can honestly say is “just about”. I don’t massively regret buying any of them, but I also don’t think they’d be desperately missed if I hadn’t. If you’re still waiting to make a next-gen console purchase, there’s no compelling reason to run down to the shops and start screaming and throwing money at confused sales assistants. I’m not sure when that real switchover moment will come, but it’s unlikely to be before the end of this year, by which point they might all be a bit cheaper.
Or, hey, you could just buy a PC instead.
Keza MacDonald is Kotaku UK's Editor and spends a lot of time justifying expensive purchases to herself. Follow her on Twitter, if you're into that.