Gaming, for the most part, has always been a family experience. I got a Nintendo Entertainment System on my 5th birthday and the next few years that followed consisted of my family sitting in the downstairs living room playing games like Duck Hunt, Super Mario Brothers and Metroid. However, my gaming “heyday” wasn’t until three years later, when Santa put a Super Nintendo Entertainment System under my Christmas tree. I remember playing Secret of Mana with my mom and brother early Saturday mornings, well into lunchtime.
While I can sit back and reminisce about the good ol’ days of video gaming with my family, my younger brothers could say the same thing about the Nintendo 64 and the Xbox. Honestly, my five year old son will say the same things about the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
But here is the thing, these new consoles have the potential to create the best family gaming environment that has ever been seen. It’s going to be awesome!
Although game consoles have always been marketed as family entertainment systems it hasn’t been until this current generation that consoles have started to understand that a family that plays together stays together. The next-gen consoles completely embrace this ideal and feature all sorts of great things to make this an absolute reality. All three of the next gen systems utilize features to get the average family playing and having fun.
Nintendo’s Wii U features a library of family friendly titles, with may offering opportunities for up to five players to get involved in the action. The game pad in many cases allows a player to asymmetrically get involved in the action in a way that is out of the norm when multiple players are playing a game and also a universal remote to control the TV. The game pad also allows a player to enjoy most of the games directly on the pad’s screen while the rest of the family enjoys something else on the TV as well.
The PlayStation 4 is offering opportunities to to take games on the go and offer add-on features to normal gameplay using the Playstation Vita as a controller. There are also ‘PS Move-like’ features built into each DualShock 4 controller, allowing for some very family friendly games that will work alongside the optional PlayStation Camera as well. The PlayStation 4 also features a ton of abilities to stream and share media to other sources, meaning it can still function as a central media device.
Finally, the Xbox One is probably the most family friendly console, actually integrating the most home entertainment features into its large box. The Xbox One actually has a full media center built into the system, allowing users to be able to jump to live TV right from their console and using cable add-ons to actually supplement the experience. The system also supports up to eight controllers as well, meaning that the options for filling a living room with friends and family while playing the same game is absolutely a possibility. The new and improved Kinect features also allow for an improved experience in motion gaming, so when the next Just Dance title hits you know things are going to be nuts. The Xbox One also utilizes SmartGlass which adds functionality for tablets or smartphones to be used to control or add to experiences.
The next generation will be all about connecting with friends and family, which will actually be amazing because while this will be the first time that the individual doesn’t actually seem to be the true focus. However, taking a look at what each these consoles mean to the family experience, I really think that the Xbox One will be the go to system for the family experience, with the Wi U and PlayStation 4 following suit. The Xbox One is named appropriately as it is supposed to function as the central entertainment piece for a family living room.
This isn’t to say that single player gamers won’t be a focus as well. While I had many great family moments on my old systems, I had equally great moments camping out in a pillow fort in the living room, playing games like Mega Man or a plethora of Role Playing Games. Now what will the single player get from this new console generation? Let’s take a look!
The Nintendo Wii U‘s remote play allows for great local remote play from the game pad, as I noted before. It doesn’t have the strongest software lineup right now but with titles like Super Smash Bros Wii U and Bayonetta 2 on their way, there is still a bright spot on the horizon for those single player players. The Wii U still boasts the opportunity to play the old classics from the classic consoles with the hottest games being added all the time. Everyone loves Earthbound.
The Playstation 4 is built to impact the solo gamer more than any other system. Like I referenced earlier, the features of remote play from the Playstation Vita is absolutely incredible. The entire system itself is tailored to the ability to stream games via TwitchTV, potentially allowing players to jump into the world of live streaming. Partner all of this in with impressive lineup of ‘launch window’ titles like InFAMOUS: Second Son or KillZone Shadow Fall and the Playstation 4 is poised to be the console that screams ‘gamer’.
Now, don’t thumb your nose at the Xbox One‘s singe player experience either. The day one launch lineup is very impressive, featuring games like Dead Rising 3, Forza 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome. While that may be cool, one of the biggest things about gaming on the Xbox One may be the reception of the redesigned controller. It has been hailed as the best designed controlled of all time, meaning spending those extended periods sitting with the Xbox One controller in hand should be the most comfortable as possible. It will mirror the software library that the PlayStation 4 should have, meaning that options will be available.
Taking a look at the single player options, it’s no surprise that the potential of the PlayStation 4 will be a huge draw. With the added feature to access games streamed online for instant gameplay, I can see many gamers spending late nights or lazy weekends crushing a massive library of legacy titles from the prior PlayStation generations as well.
When my son is in college, I can only imagine that he will recall fond memories of playing Xbox One with his family. Enjoying games like Halo and Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare with all of us. However, I can also see him reminiscing over the classics of the PlayStation 4, like Transistor or Deep Down. The awesome thing about this next console generation is that these consoles offer an amazing and flexible choice for gamers, both family and single, to really mold their experiences for the better part of the next decade.