Headlined by the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U, and Switch, the 8th generation of consoles has been a weird one for me. Coming off the previous generation where I spent more money and invested more time into gaming than ever, this one did not come close to capturing my imagination in the same way. That said, there were a few bright spots that should continue to shine going into the new wave.
With the sun setting on the 8th generation of consoles, here are the events that shaped my experience with it.
The Xbox One fell short of expectations
The Xbox 360 was my go-to console during the 7th generation and I expected the momentum to continue. It came to a screeching halt before the generation even started. Microsoft tripped over itself at the drawing board, conceiving of an always online device that put gamers in the back seat as it haphazardly tried to take total control of your living room. Launching with a weaker system at a higher price than the PlayStation 4, the system never stood a chance against a reformed Sony, who clearly took the PlayStation 3 criticisms to heart.
I would eventually get an Xbox One to play Titanfall and Killer Instinct. I think I would have been much happier if the rest of the console’s exclusive titles were of that calibre. Instead, pretty much everything they launched was critically-panned, didn’t interest me, or disappointed me.
Gears of War 4 might have been the final straw. As a huge fan of the original trilogy, I was completely off-put by how uninspired the opening acts of that new game were. Traded it in before finishing it and I don’t regret it.
By the time Microsoft launched the more powerful Xbox One X and introduced the Game Pass program, I was long gone. The PlayStation 4 had the better experience of the two, and there was no reason for me to go back. Going into the 9th generation, I really hope Microsoft finds its footing again.
$80 is the new $60
For a good decade or so, Canadian game prices were about the same as our American counterparts at $60. But then our dollar floundered at the turn of the decade and game prices jumped by 33%. Even games with lower price points got the bump. Canadian wages did not simultaneously rise by 33%, making the proposition of buying games that much more difficult.
Almost overnight, I went from being able to buy pretty much any new game I wanted on launch day to dramatically cutting my intake. I can’t afford to keep up. To this day, I haven’t paid $80 for a new game straight up. Instead, I’ll bank on pre-order deals, trade in games for store credit, or just wait for a sale. My Xbox 360 collection alone is bigger than my PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, and Switch collections put together. I have a much smaller grasp on this generation simply by being priced out of it.
The PlayStation 4 was…fine
God of War is a masterpiece and was “thisclose” to winning my Game of the Year award in 2018. The PlayStation 4 also took centre stage as my go-to console. Unfortunately, I never got into it like the 360. Most of that blame isn’t on Sony or the PlayStation 4 itself.
To Sony’s credit, they pretty much made the console that gamers wanted at the time. But for me, its software library was sorely lacking in excitement. Tired retreads of the previous generation such as Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed, and Mass Effect clogged the library. If it wasn’t that, it was service games that hogged the spotlight. I casually enjoy Overwatch and Rocket League, but for the most part, I’m not about that life.
The Wii U was not the worst, but still not great
I was profoundly disappointed with the Wii. Despite being a massive sales success, its lack of horsepower, reliance on limited and unreliable motion controls, and lack of compelling third party software was the primary reason I became platform agnostic.
As awkward as the Wii U GamePad might have been, going back to a more traditional control configuration opened the door for the types of games I wanted to play in a format I was comfortable playing them in. Titles like Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World, Captain Toad, and Rayman Legends stand as high watermarks for me during this console cycle. Nintendo also established a fantastic new franchise in Splatoon, putting their own twist on the shooter genre. I even enjoyed the Wii U version of Call of Duty: Black Ops II. There wasn’t nearly enough great stuff to overcome the platform’s inherent faults, I appreciated the Wii U as a means of Nintendo dipping its toes back into the realm of core gaming experiences.
Street Fighter V didn’t capture my imagination
Street Fighter IV changed my life. It was my gateway into tournament-level Street Fighter play and the game that inspired me to explore the genre as a whole. Poured well over 2,000 hours into it. Still love that game with a passion and rank it in my top three favourite games of all-time.
There is no game in this generation that I’ve played more than Street Fighter V. I even achieved a certain level of tournament success in it. But as time passed, it became clear that I wasn’t having as much fun with this one as the last one. As such, I’ve taken an extended hiatus from competitive play. Yes, there have been some other amazing fighting games I could have jumped to, but I still haven’t fully recovered from the disappointment that Street Fighter V left on me. Fingers crossed that Capcom can return to form with the next one!
Nintendo Switch Mania
This generation wasn’t all bad. Nintendo was a bright spot, and I’m not just talking about the Switch. Yes, the Wii U was Nintendo’s biggest home console flop, but I would even go as far as saying that it was a slight return to form after the Wii completely alienated me with its motion controls and software I wasn’t interested in playing. Games like Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World, and Captain Toad were among a number of titles that made my Wii U catalogue deeper than my PS4 catalogue for most of this generation.
Then the Switch happened and…ooh baby. Taking the Wii U tablet concept to the next level, Nintendo created a two-in-one device that added an unprecedented level of convenience to console-quality gaming. Being able to play Breath of the Wild on my TV and then play the exact same game on my commute to work is still magic to me.
Since launch, this has been my go-to console. The convenience of the platform and its killer lineup of games had breathed life into a generation that felt sorely lacking to me. Going into the next generation, I hope Nintendo keeps the form factor and adds a bit more horsepower for some sort of Switch Pro!
Lights. Camera. Action!
Game streaming really came into its own during the 8th generation of consoles. In the last few years, it’s changed the way I interact with gaming as a medium. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One allow players to watch streams and even broadcast themselves straight from their consoles, tightening the connection between games and streaming. Though I struggled to understand why one would want to watch someone else play a game versus playing it yourself, I realized that I was missing the point entirely.
The greatest strength of streaming as a platform is its ability to connect streamers and viewers in real time. For the streamers I enjoy watching, the games they play are almost inconsequential to my enjoyment of their shows. I’m there because I enjoy the connection they create with their audiences, whether I’m active in the chat or simply lurking.
Have also taken the bold step of taking my face for radio and putting it in front of the camera. The process has been a struggle in many ways, but the experience has added a lot of value to my life. Made a bunch of new friends, taking on a new challenge as a content creator, and developed this platform into something that’s generated over $2,000 for charity thus far. Have streamed almost every week for the past few years and I hope to continue doing so for the foreseeable future with an eye on creating more human connections while also exploring new ways of creating compelling and creatively-fulfilling content.
As a byproduct of this pursuit, it changes what I play and how I play it. Going through this process has shown me that it’s a lot easier for me to separate the games I play on stream versus the games I play on my own time. Certain games end up getting played more than usual cause they work on stream, while others get left by the wayside because they won’t help me achieve my goals.
Also, adding an additional creative project to my plate has cut my free time to play even further. Right now, most of my gaming time happens on stream. Not sure how to course correct that – especially now that I’m trying to get YouTube content off the ground as well – but I recognize this as something that needs to be addressed eventually.
With the 8th generation of consoles coming to a close, what events defined these last few years of gaming for you? And what are you looking forward to as we move into the new era?
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