Eighth Generation 8

Video Game Generation 8
The eighth generation of video game consoles includes Nintendo’s Wii U, released on November 18, 2012, the PlayStation 4, released on November 15, 2013, and Microsoft’s Xbox One released on November 22, 2013. These video game consoles follow the previous seventh generation: Nintendo’s Wii, Sony’s PlayStation 3, and Microsoft’s Xbox 360. For video game handhelds, the generation began in February 2011 with the release of the Nintendo 3DS, successor to the Nintendo DS, in Japan, followed by a North American and European release in March. The successor of the PlayStation Portable, the PlayStation Vita, was released in December 2011 in Japan, and Western markets in February 2012.

The eighth generation of video game consoles will face competition from smartphones, tablets, and Smart TVs. Due to the proliferation of these devices, some analysts speculate the eighth generation to be the last generation of home consoles. In 2013, gaming revenue on Android overtook portable game console revenue, while remaining a distant second to iOS gaming revenue. In FY 2013 (ending early 2013), Nintendo sold 23.7 million consoles of any type, while Apple sold 58.2 million units of the more expensive iPad alone in FY 2012 (ending late 2012).

The eighth generation has seen the rise of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) as the major processor vendor. All three of the eighth generation home consoles use AMD GPUs, and two of them use AMD CPUs. Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony were not aware that they were all using AMD processors until all their consoles were announced. Both AMD and Nvidia are optimistic for the PC market, as the unified CPU/GPU processors in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One use the same x86 programming architecture found in PCs, with AMD planning to introduce similar processors to desktop and laptop PCs in the near future. Nvidia claims that unlike in previous generations, game consoles will no longer be able to compete with PC graphics due to massive R&D funding by Nvidia and AMD, and stricter size and power requirements of consoles.

The multi-million dollar pre-sale success of Ouya through crowdfunding has raised open-source development and the free-to-play model as key issues to be addressed by 8th generation consoles. The GameStick, Nvidia Shield, Razer Switchblade, Ouya, MOJO, GamePop and Steam Machine are attempting to compete in this market; however these are seldom referred to as eighth generation consoles. Rumors have also indicated that Google may be planning to release an Android-based game console in Q4 2013.

The eighth generation of game systems consists of:

  • Wii U
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Though prior console generations have normally occurred in five to six-year cycles, the transition from seventh to eighth generation units has lasted more than six years. The transition is also unusual in that the prior generation’s best-selling unit, the Wii, is the first to be replaced in the eighth generation. In 2011, Microsoft had stated they began looking at their next console, but they, along with Sony, considered themselves only halfway through a ten-year lifecycle for their seventh-generation offerings. Sony and Microsoft representatives have stated that the addition of motion controllers and camera-based controllers like Kinect and PlayStation Move have extended these systems’ lifetimes. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata had stated that his company would be releasing the Wii U due to declining sales of seventh generation home consoles and that “the market is now waiting for a new proposal for home consoles”. Sony considered making its next console a digital download only machine, but decided against it due to concerns about the inconsistency of internet speeds available globally, especially in developing countries.

Wii U

In November 2010, Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aime stated that the release of the next generation of Nintendo would be determined by the continued success of the Wii. Nintendo announced their successor to the Wii, the Wii U, at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2011 on June 7, 2011. After the announcement, several journalists classified the system as the first eighth generation home console. However, prominent sources have brought this into speculation because of its comparative lack of power with respect to the announced specifications for PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One.

The Wii U’s main controller, the Wii U GamePad, features an embedded touchscreen that can work as an auxiliary interactive screen in a fashion similar to the Nintendo DS/3DS, or if compatible with “Off TV Play”, can even act as the main screen itself, enabling games to be played without the need of a television. The Wii U is compatible with its predecessor’s peripherals, such as the Wii Remote Plus, the Nunchuk, and the Wii Balance Board.

The Wii U was released in North America on November 18, 2012, in Europe on November 30, 2012 and in Japan on December 8, 2012. It came in two versions, the Basic Model and the Deluxe/Premium Model, at the price of $300 and $349 US Dollars, respectively. On August 28, 2013, Nintendo announced production of the Basic model was ended and expected supplies to be exhausted by September 20, 2013. On October 4, 2013, the Deluxe/Premium model was price cut from US$ 349 to US$ 300.

PlayStation 4

On February 20, 2013, Sony announced the PlayStation 4 during a press conference in New York City, and was released on November 15, 2013 in North America. The new console places a heavy emphasis on features surrounding social interaction; gameplay videos can be shared via the PlayStation Network and other services, and users can stream games being played by themselves or others (either through the console, or directly to services like Ustream). The PS4’s DualShock 4 controller is similar to the previous model, but now includes a touchpad and a “Share” button, along with an LED light bar on the front to allow motion tracking. An updated camera accessory will also be offered for the system; it now uses 1280×800px stereo cameras with support for depth sensing similar to Kinect, and remains compatible with the PlayStation Move peripherals. The PS4 will also have second screen capabilities through both mobile apps and the PlayStation Vita, and game streaming through the recently acquired Gaikai service.

The PlayStation 4 was released on November 15, 2013 in North America and November 29, 2013 in Australia and Europe at US$399.99, A$549 and €399 respectively.

Xbox One

On May 21, 2013, Microsoft announced the Xbox One at an event in Redmond, Washington. The console has an increased focus on entertainment, including the ability to pass television programming from a set-top box over HDMI and use a built-in electronic program guide, and the ability to multitask by snapping applications (such as Skype and Internet Explorer) to the side of the screen, similarly to Windows 8. The Xbox One also includes an updated version of Kinect with a 1080p camera and expanded voice controls, a new controller with “Impulse Triggers” that provide force feedback, and the ability to automatically record and save highlights from gameplay.

The Xbox One was released in North America, Europe and Australia on November 22, 2013 at a launch price of US$499.99, €499 and A$599 respectively with Japan and other countries set to be released at some point in 2014.

Handheld systems

Nintendo 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS is a portable game console produced by Nintendo. It is the successor to the Nintendo DS. The autostereoscopic device is able to project stereoscopic 3D effects without the use of 3D glasses or any additional accessories. The Nintendo 3DS features backward compatibility with Nintendo DS series software, including Nintendo DSi software. Announcing the device in March 2010, Nintendo officially unveiled it at E3 2010, with the company inviting attendees to use demonstration units. The console succeeds the Nintendo DS series of handheld systems, which primarily competes with PlayStation Portable. It competes with Sony’s handheld, the PlayStation Vita.

The Nintendo 3DS was released in Japan on February 26, 2011; in Europe on March 25, 2011; in North America on March 27, 2011; and in Australia on March 31, 2011. On July 28, 2011, Nintendo announced a major price drop starting August 12. In addition, as of September 2011 consumers who bought the system at its original price have access to ten Nintendo Entertainment System games before they are available to the general public, after which the games may be updated to the versions publicly released on the Nintendo eShop. In December 2011, ten Game Boy Advance games were made available to consumers who bought the system at its original price at no charge, with Nintendo stating it has no plans to release to the general public.

On June 21, 2012, Nintendo announced a new, bigger model of the 3DS called the Nintendo 3DS XL. It has 90% larger screens than the 3DS and slightly longer battery life. It was released on July 28, 2012 in Europe and August 19, 2012 in North America.

On August 28, 2013, Nintendo announced a low cost, 2D version of the 3DS called the Nintendo 2DS. This redesign plays all Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS games, albeit without a 3D option. Unlike previous machines of the DS family, the Nintendo 2DS uses a slate-like design instead of a clamshell one. The console launched on October 12 in both Europe and North America.

PlayStation Vita

PlayStation Vita is a handheld game console developed by Sony Computer Entertainment. It is the successor to the PlayStation Portable as part of the PlayStation brand of gaming devices. It was released in Japan and parts of Asia on December 17, 2011 and was released in Europe and North America on February 22, 2012.

The handheld includes two analog sticks, a 5-inch (130 mm) OLED multi-touch capacitive touchscreen, and supports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and optional 3G. Internally, the Vita features a 4 core ARM Cortex-A9 MPCore processor and a 4 core SGX543MP4+ graphics processing unit, as well as LiveArea software as its main user interface, which succeeds the XrossMediaBar.

The device is backward-compatible with a subset of the PlayStation Portable and PS One games digitally released on the PlayStation Network via the PlayStation Store. However, PS One Classics and TurboGrafx-16 titles were not compatible at launch. The Vita’s dual analog sticks are supported on selected PSP games via button mapping. The graphics for PSP releases are up-scaled, with a smoothing filter to reduce pixelation.