The next-gen video game consoles are now available, and once again, gamers have to choose between Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. Although Nintendo's Wii U beat the other two consoles to shelves and has the most unique technology, the new console fails to move units like the previous system. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One share strikingly similar technology, forcing gamers to pick a machine based on subtle differences and the promise of exclusive games. For many gamers, the purchases from previous years will determine which new gaming console they will buy.

These new consoles point to a declining home console market. Although a lack of compelling software is to blame for the Wii U's poor sales, the PS4 and X1's similar components point to safer decisions and less advancement in gaming technology. Fortunately, there are a few distinct features of the three consoles, and if developers can take advantage of these advancements, we could see some interesting changes in gaming. We will discuss our favorite features of each next-gen console and where the consoles should push the technology further.

When consoles compete for dominance, players get the best new games and the most interesting technology.

Nintendo Wii U

The Wii U is not a graphically powerful gaming console with a much weaker graphics card, CPU and RAM than the PS4 and X1. It has one of the worst online gaming infrastructures, and much of the Nintendo Network begs for improvement. However, it does have the Gamepad, a tablet-like controller. The Gamepad gives players several playing options. First, some games can stream to the Gamepad, freeing the television for others in the home. You can also push things from the Gamepad to the television, allowing you to find videos and images on the tablet before sharing with others in the room. Finally, the Gamepad makes the Wii U similar to the DS and 3DS handheld consoles. You can map menus and special inputs to the Gamepad's touchscreen, while allowing the game to continue on your television.

The Wii U influenced Sony and Microsoft to create second-screen mobile apps. However, these apps require a smartphone or tablet, and players still have to use the controller as the primary input. We love the potential of gaming on multiple screens, especially if these screens show different perspectives and options.

Sony PlayStation 4

The most interesting part of the PS4 is the new DualShock 4 controller. This new gamepad is larger than previous DualShock models, and it has a few notable improvements to the buttons and analog sticks. The controller also has a touchpad on the face. At launch, few games took advantage of the multi-touch face, but the potential is exciting. In the future, we'd like to see the PS4's main menu and its many entertainment apps utilize the touchpad as a navigation system. Also, this new controller gives developers the potential to let gamers draw objects on the touchpad and make them appear in the game.

Microsoft Xbox One

Although many criticize the new Xbox as an underpowered gaming system, Microsoft promises that its power will only increase through cloud computing. Xbox Live Gold members will have access to web-based processors to supplement a game and boost the system's strength. Naturally, this technology requires a reliable and constant internet connection. If more developers utilize the Microsoft servers, the Xbox One will steadily become the best-looking and most capable gaming console on the market. However, there is the risk that gamers who don't buy Xbox Live Gold memberships and don't have reliable internet connections will not be able to play future Xbox One games. It all depends on how Microsoft uses cloud computing.

PC and Beyond

The best graphics will always be on PCs, but games only look as good as developers make them. If developers design games around the new console technologies, many PC ports will suffer from poor controls. Fortunately, many game makers design exclusively for computers, and PC gamers will continue to see the best-looking games on their desktop and laptop.

Also, many new micro consoles are entering store shelves. These download-only systems usually run on an Android-based operating system and allow you to play mobile games on your television. In its early stages, the mobile games make poor ports, as most of them utilize some sort of touch or motion control. However, some developers are designing games specifically for micro consoles, and systems like the Ouya are creating fantastic exclusive experiences.

Summary

The home video game console will continue to innovate and change how we play, as long as manufacturers are willing to take risks and try different forms of technology. In order for gamers to experience the best and most interesting games, consoles will have to push harder to innovate.

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