The lights are on
I waited in line for my Xbox 360 at midnight after days of nail-biting over smaller than expected launch shipments. Was I going to get the console I preordered? Was I going to have to make a choice between a stripped down "core" system now or a standard system later?
Thankfully, all went well. I came home with Perfect Dark Zero and Kameo, and was surprised at which was the better game (hint: Kameo). I was excited for the upgraded Xbox Live experience. Over the coming weeks, I played nearly every launch title, happily consuming everything I could.
I don't feel that right now about the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4. Both companies have done a decent job competing with one another, but have failed to do something more important: explain why the jump to next-gen systems is as important this time as it was eight years ago.
A large part of what's driving my disappointment is the weakness in the launch lineups. Microsoft's heaviest hitters are on the bench. There's no Halo and no Gears of War. Unless Gamescom yields a Crackdown 3 announcement (something that has been teased since the console reveal in May), Microsoft is going to limp across the finish line in November (unless you like racing games or Dead Rising, which doesn't apply to me).
As for Sony, its brightest title, Infamous Second Son, will arrive in 2014. The Killzone series has been enjoyable, but it's not a system seller. Knack looks cute (and might surprise just like Kameo did on the Xbox 360), but I'm not sold enough to drop down $400 plus tax.
Beyond exclusives, there are a number of cross-generation games to consider. Call of Duty, Battlefield 4, Watch Dogs, and Assassin's Creed IV are all going to be available on current-generation consoles. There's no reason to upgrade to either the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4 just for these prettier versions. If there is, then shame on the developers and publishers involved for failing to explain why.
As for console features, onboard streaming is kind of neat, but what else is there that makes next generation feel like more than a visual upgrade? I'm hard pressed to think of one other feature that the upcoming hardware offers that is earth shaking like the online revolution on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 was.
My finger has been hovering over the "cancel" button on both of my pre-orders. The only thing stopping me so far is the fear of regret in November. The closer we get, the easier this decision is getting.
You're going to have to try harder, Sony and Microsoft. Stop competing with each another and start competing with your history. You have a big case to make and not a lot of time to do it.