Useful Notes: The Eighth Generation of Console Video Games

The Console Wars resumed quietly with the newest handhelds, the Nintendo 3DS and Sony's PlayStation Vita. 3DS brought glasses-free 3D to life, while PS Vita chose the media-free online gaming route with built-in Wi-Fi and 3G cellular networking.

It began in earnest when Nintendo released the Wii U console just before Thanksgiving 2012. It was a much bigger hardware upgrade than the Wii, with hardware indeed better than other consoles of The Seventh Generation of Console Video Games. Its "revolutionary" feature was a controller with a built-in 6.2" LCD screen. It is also compatible with most Wii games, though, it is not compatible with GameCube games.

Sony has also unveiled their entry, the PlayStation 4. Learning from their mistakes with the PS3's notoriously difficult architecture, they made the console much easier to develop for. Its controller also adds in a touchpad to match Nintendo's GamePad touchscreen, along with several other features.

On May 21st 2013, Microsoft unveiled their entry, the Xbox One, thus setting off the flag that officially signals the start of the eighth generation console wars.

Valve Software has also presented their intentions to enter the console market with Steam Machines, however enthusiasts are still divided over whether it's a console or a small PC, and whether it's part of the Eighth Generation of Consoles.

Also, this Generation has seen the rise of 'microconsoles' - led by the Ouya, which was a Kickstarter-backed Android-based game console (which closed down operations in June 2015 when purchased by Razer), along with streaming boxes like the the Amazon Fire TV which also can play Android games, and new boxes like Razer's Forge TV and the nVidia Shield that are Android-based boxes that can also stream games from a networked PC or play games stored in an online cloud. While the hardware specs of microconsoles pale to the heavy-hitters of the PS4 and X One, within a capable ecosystem, they have the possibility of providing an on-par experience as those consoles at a lesser cost.

For those environmentally conscious, this generation showcases just how much the hardware engineers have put thought into energy efficiency. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One both use just a little more energy than PlayStation 3 Slim or Xbox 360 S does while offering 4-6 times more performance. Even though the Wii U consumes twice as much energy as the Wii, it offers performance similar to if not better than the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 while using five times less energy. Previous generations all had the consoles consume at least twice as much energy compared to previous generation's initial release consoles.

The eighth generation is also the first where console manufacturers have strongly embraced the indie video game development scene. Sony's stated intention to foster indie development with less expensive development kits for studios of a certain size was matched by Microsoft's intention to do the same, while both manufacturers lowered the costs and barriers to put a game on their respective marketplaces. The response to these moves has been significant, with many indie studios porting their games to consoles or planning to do so. Nintendo mirrored the move with the Nintendo e-Shop for the 3DS and, to some extent, the Wii U.

Interestingly, though the generation has already begun, its biggest controversy may be ahead, as a shift the likes of which has not been seen since the transition to 3D gaming approaches - the advent of more common-place virtual reality technology. How the eighth and subsequent ninth generation adapt to VR tech form the likes of Oculus Rift, Google, and Microsoft will undoubtedly prove to be one of the biggest controversies and innovations during the generation.

One thing's for sure - this generation will be remembered as the one where the line between consoles and computers blur, with both sharing more architecture and hardware with each other than ever before.

Consoles of this generation

Handhelds of this generation

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Alternative Title(s):

Eighth Generation, The Eighth Generation Of Console Video Games