For over 3 million people, the next generation of home consoles started with the arrival of the Wii U. For early adopters, despite being forced to tread through some potentially record-setting game droughts, more fruitful days were projected in the near future, starting with the arrival of Pikmin 3.

Pikmin 3 art

While that’s all fine and dandy, not everyone’s bodies were ready to begin throwing their money at Nintendo on sight. Many consumers also delayed purchasing the Wii U because they actually prefer to have all their options neatly laid out in front of them. Now I know what you’re thinking. “What? How dare you insinuate that gamers are capable of exhibiting reason and tolerance! One does not simply patiently wait for other options to reveal themselves.”  Well apparently, one does, as evident by the spikes in Wii U console sales after quality software releases — and, more to the point, as Xbox One the competition reveals itself.

As with every new console launch, part of the hype leading up to the official debut is shrouded with an abundance of news and rumors.  If you’ve priced your console correctly, you can expect to shatter pre-order records and sell out retail stores. The Wii U  for example, went that route, selling out at almost all retailers and even breaking pre-order records for Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Unsurprisingly, at least to the cautiously optimistic folks who follow console retail history), the Wii U was only able to sustain this success a couple of months before it began to struggle.

History has a tendency to repeat itself, at least in the specific case of pre-orders.  Many are hoping this will not be the fate of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. What many people living in the hype fail to understand is that with the way things are turning out, the two console powerhouses are starting to become much like they became during this current generation. In fact, these 7th generation console successors are even more indistinguishable between each other than before. But before I tread into the area of making baseless assumptions, let me provide further explanation.

PlayStation 4 vs Xbox One: The Hardware

As you’ll notice, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are essentially systematic enhancements of their preceding console counterparts, nothing more, nothing less. Packed into both these consoles is a Blu-ray/DVD drive used to play movies and run game discs, 8GB RAM (PS4 possess technically faster RAM), an 8 core processor, 500 GB of removable hard disk space (non-removable for Xbox One), and USB 3.0. Both have the ability to capture gameplay, both have account systems that utilize the cloud (which allows you to access your games on other consoles), both allow you to play as you download software, both have cross game chat, both have vastly similar subscription services, both allow live game streaming, both have a reputation system (achievements/trophies), both output HD and have 4k support (for movies), neither restricts the sale of used games, neither are backwards compatible, and neither are region locked. Just about the only differences between these two consoles is that Xbox One has mandatory game installs, requires an initial internet connection (for a mandatory day 1 system update), comes packaged with Kinect, and costs $100 more (not to play off the significance of that last anecdote). But what’s hardware without software?

PlayStation 4 vs Xbox One: The Software

Official PlayStation 4 Exclusives Include: Super Stardust HD ‘spiritual successor’, Knack, Killzone: Shadow Fall, DriveclubMLB 14: The Show, Infamous: Second Son, and Galak-Z: The Dimensional. There are a couple other games coming to PS4 that are so far exclusive, but they aren’t confirmed. All the rest of the 74 announced and TBA games are multiplatform.

Official Xbox One Exclusives Include: Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5, A New Halo, Powerstar Golf, Quantum Break, and Ryse: Son of Rome, and Sunset Overdrive. Like with the PlayStation 4, there are other unconfirmed exclusives coming to the Xbox One as well. All the rest of the 43 announced and TBA games are multiplatform.

Nothing (proven) makes the PlayStation 4 particularly unique in hardware compared to the Xbox One, and vice versa. Only a few exclusives make the next-generation twins distinct, but I don’t know too many people who would purchase a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One if they didn’t have their abundance of third party support–while first party and exclusives practically defines the Wii U (well almost, but I’ll get to that later). Clearly, we’ve established that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are nearly indistinguishable, but why should you care? How might this effect you as a Wii U owner?

The Dangers Of Similarity

Well, as a consumer, we always like to make sure we’re buying the ‘right’ console, usually the one that provides us with the best value. If price doesn’t matter much and your main reasons for purchasing a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One is for third party software, you can’t go wrong picking either of the two. Additionally, if you’re someone who is looking to purchase a next-generation console with the fewest trade-offs, the way things are lining up right now might present you with a formidable opportunity.  As of now, it’s way too early to talk about best value, at least between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. However, if you were looking forward to purchasing multiple next-generation consoles, each with their own distinguishable features, you’re probably already aware that 8th generation is potentially going to leave a bad taste in your mouth. Some have already begun to voice their concerns over the similarities between the two consoles..

xbox-one-playstation-4-controllers

Both provide similar experiences.

Some might argue that strong competition between Sony and Microsoft is actually a good thing, but what they fail to acknowledge is that this assumption is the product of their own selfish desires. Strong competition may be good for the consumer and the corporations when competition brings out more quality exclusives for you to buy, but what happens when that’s not the case? What happens when you’re not finding the amount of exclusives worth purchasing the competition’s console at full or near full price? What happens when you decide not to purchase the competitor’s console because you feel it would be financially redundant? What happens is, like in the 7th generation, Sony and Microsoft end up sharing the pot (a fruitful one) while the one unique console ends up sneaking it’s way to the top.

The Element Of Exclusivity

Based on that last sentence, you might have gotten the impression that I was insinuating that the Wii U was going to outsell the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this generation. I was, but I was more insinuating that as a potentiality if Nintendo plays their cards right in these upcoming months.  That however, is another discussion for another time. What the Wii U has over the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is something that they could never possess without skyrocketing the prices of their SKUs’ — the element of exclusivity.

The third party support for the Wii U in 2014 may be anemic, but third party support is dynamic. It’s something that can be won back. Exclusive hardware capabilities however, are fixed.  I’m talking of course, about the Wii U GamePad. That’s something that can’t be completely lost nor achieved by the competition without forcing consumers to purchase a peripheral separately. In addition to possessing unique hardware, the Wii U will have nineteen more exclusives releasing on the console in the coming months, which will put the Wii U at a total of 33 exclusive titles. Other features exclusive to the Wii U are free online services, two rewards programs between the digital deluxe promotion and Club Nintendo, backwards compatibility, and a $100 – $200 cheaper price compared to their competition. While the Wii U is already a great value console, it might not stay that way in 2014, at least not until things improve in the sales department.

Need-for-Speed-Most-Wanted_Wii-U-GamePad

Throughout Fall and into 2014, nobody is entirely sure what will happen. Will Nintendo have wizened up and begin marketing the Wii U and it’s potential system selling titles? Will the install base of the Wii U be enough for third parties to make a profit off their current batch of support? Once again, we’ll have to wait in see. However, there is one opportunity that has presented itself to Nintendo. One that could bring about one of the biggest turn of events in the history of gaming, and one that isn’t as absurd as some would have you believe.

If Nintendo plays their cards correctly over the next 7-9 months and the Wii U becomes healthy enough to win back most third party developers, that would practically complete the equation for Wii U to become the best selling video game console of this generation. Can’t compute how that would happen? Simply put, if Nintendo plays all their cards correctly and things actually do turn around for the better, the general public will be looking at a next-generation home console with stellar first party support, great third party support, and exclusive gaming capabilities all for the price of $299/$349. That’s a console with almost zero trade-offs, which would be quite the feat for both Nintendo and consumers alike. If Nintendo really wants this generation in a bag, this is the future they want to secure.