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Gaming's Biggest Controller Failures

 In every generation of videogame consoles, a manufacturer attempts to take how we play games past the status quo. Videogames have been presented in the same basic way for nearly 40 years. You look at a screen and control whats on that screen with a joystick and buttons. The screens have gotten bigger and the controllers have added more buttons, but all in all, not much has changed. But each generation, a company tries to move gamers deeper into the experience and expand how we interact with our consoles. And they fail. Every single time. The failure isn’t because it’s a bad idea (well, sometimes it’s a bad idea). Most of the time its because the idea was poorly implemented, lacked support, or simply didn’t work. Or maybe gamers don't want anything new. Is it possible we're satifsifed with how things are and that's why gamers as a group steadfastly reject any control scheme other than a stick and buttons?  

In this article we'll go back through each console generation and look at some of those failed attempts at innovation. We’ll only be looking at 1st party peripherals, the items built by the console makers themselves since they had  best chance to succeed in terms of development and support. That mean famous failures like the Power Glove and U-Force will get a pass.

 


  XBOX One Kinect

xbox one kinectOk, this isn’t a surprise to anyone. Microsoft recently announced that the Kinect will no longer be a required part of the Xbox One console. While this doesn't automatically mean the camera/microphone sensor has failed, lets be honest. It means that it failed. The Kinect was the most advanced sensor of its kind. It could listen to your voice commands, translate your movements into controls for games or media. Hell, it could even tell if you were smiling and when your heart rate went up. Experts will be debating why the Kinect wasn’t embraced by consumers for a long time. But the lack of software support had to have been a huge problem. For most people who had the Kinect sitting in front of their TV, that's all it did..sit there.

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  PS4 PS Camera/Move

PS4-CameraSony’s PR people are the best in the world. Not because they’re great at promoting products. But because when they have a failed product, no one ever talks about it. At the launch of the PS4 was a Camera/Microphone sensor that had many of the features of the Kinect, just not as precise. The camera was a $60 option that the vast majority of PS4 owners have skipped. And the few that did pick it up quickly realized that there wasn’t much they could do with it other that make tiny robots dance in the free Playroom software.

 

ps4-dualshock-4-controllerThe PS4 Controller is also treasure trove of failed concepts. Sony added the ‘sixaxis’ motion abilities to the DualShock 4 controller. You can tilt and rotate your controller and thus have more precise and integrated movements on screen. It’s a feature thats used less than the Sweet n Low packets at a candy store.

Sony also managed to sneak in a PS Move sensor into all of the controllers along with a touch pad. The Dual Shock 4 is equipped with a bright tracking light that is very similar to the original PSMove controller that will allow the the PS4 to have pinpoint accurate motion controls. This has yet to be used in any game (but it's rumored to be important to the upcoming virtual reality headset). And the touch pad is a pretty good way to enter your password when signing into PSN, other than that, its a controller feature that has yet to be exploited.

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 Wii U Tablet

wii u controllerIt’s a 10.5 inch tablet with a screen smaller than my 7 inch Nexus. Nintendo knew their Wii U console was underpowered spec-wise when it was released, but they figured that the innovative tablet controller would be more than enough to alleviate any problems with horsepower. Nintendo has stood behind the controller, even if it does seem forced at times. Blowing into the microphone to turn a propeller on Mario World doesnt really boost your confidence that you made a smart purchase.

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  Xbox 360 Kinect

Xbox-360-Kinect-StandaloneThe first iteration of the Kinect had a lot going for it, a wide range of titles, tons of media coverage as the next big thing, and the unwavering support of Microsoft. But after the initial surge, the games quicky dried up and the consensus of the gaming public was ‘it just doesn’t work’. Microsoft didn't give up easily though and announced the second version would be a required part of their next console (until it wasnt). Meanwhile the original Kinect is gathering dust with development for it at a near standstill.

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  Live Vision Camera 

live-vision-cameraBefore the Kinect there was the Live vision camera. Basically is was a webcam that plugged into your Xbox 360. Why would you want to do that? No reason. None at all. Unless you wanted to play UNO and witness visuals that made Chat Roulette look highbrow. The camera was succeded by the Kinect sensor which for all intents and purposes made the Live Vision cam obsolete. 

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  PS3 PSMove 

playstation moveThis unfortunately shaped device was Sony’s answer to the overwhelming success of the Nintendo Wii’s motion controls. An illuminated bulb tethered to a makeshift gamepad worked in conjunction with the PSEye camera on the Playstation 3 to give you an incredible range of precise movement on screen. And it worked pretty well, too. But people couldn’t get over the fact that it looked like it should be sold at a discount by Adam & Eve, and also the game support for it was almost non existent. The technology would like in as it was transferred to the DualShock 4 controller and Sony still contends that the PSMove works with the PS4, even though there is no software available that uses it.  

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  Nintendo Wii Balance Board

Wii-balance-boardThe Wii Balance Board was going to transform your Wii into the ultimate fitness partner. Instead it spent it's life gathering dust underneath couches all across the world.

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  Sega Dreamcast VMU

Sega-Dreamcast-VMUThe Visual Memory Unit (VMU) for Sega’s Dreamcast added a new dimension to controllers. Think of it as a very early version of the Wii U tablet. Only much, much smaller with its 1.5 x 1inch screen having a resolution of 48x32 pixels. If that seems like it would be too tiny to do anything meaningful, you would be correct. It was intended to be used as a way to display information from your games, and the VMU even had a little controller and buttons on it like a baby gameboy. But in the end only a few games took advantage of it and most just ignored it altogether. 

 

 

 


  Sega Genesis Activator

Sega-ActivatorThe Genesis had its fair share of failed add ons (32x anyone?). But for the purposes of this article, the Activator fits perfectly. The Activator was a large ring that you placed on the floor and stood inside of. It would sense your movements so that you could punch and kick while your onscreen character mimicked your actions. Now, if the Kinect has problems pulling this scenario off in 2014, this 1993 controller had very little chance of success. Its lackluster sensors resulted in unwanted motions and twitching characters that almost never resembled what the player was doing. Since it was a direct controller replacement, you could use it with any game, like say, Ecco the Dolphin (which was actually suggested by the tutorial video). They never explained exactly how punching and kicking in the air corresponded to a dophlin swimming in the sea eating guppies.

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  Nintendo NES Power Pad 

NES-power-padNintendo wanted to get kids moving. Partly to silence critics who said the NES was creating a generation of couch potatoes, and partly to sell a bunch of overpriced plastic mats. So Nintendo introduced the NES Powerpad. The power pad was a large mat you placed on the floor with buttons embedded in it. The uses started and ended with running in place or hopping back and forth like a futuristic form of hopscotch. Unfortunately kids weren’t interested in being active. They had an NES so they -didn’t- have to run around. The Power Pad died a quiet death after having only 11 titles to support it.

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  Coleco Vision Expansion Module #2 


colecovision drivingThe ColecoVision launched with an available expansion module that added a steering wheel and gas pedal to the system. It allowed players a true arcade like experience when playing racing/driving games. Today PC gamers spend hundreds of dollars on steering wheels to go with their driving sims. But in 1982, not so much. The Colecovision’s driving controller only had 4 titles available for it. Which wasn’t nearly enough reason for consumers to get the accessory.

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  Atari 2600 Keyboard Controller 

atarikeyboardOddly enough, the Keyboard controller for the Atari 2600 wasn’t really a keyboard. It was actually a 12key number keypad(0-9 and *, #). As you can expect, there are very few titles that used the keyboard controller. Classics like 'Basic Programming' and 'Memory Match' weren't enough to spur gamers into leaving the world of up-down-left-right and a single fire button.  

 

 

 


 

Game makers continue to try to change how we play games, and even though none of them caught on and infact were often huge failures, I'm glad that they are making the attempt. As consoles get more powerful and games get more complex, we need to search for better ways to interact with the virtual worlds being created. Simplifying everything down to a few buttons and joystick movements deal a huge disservice to gamers and the games we play. Hopefully we'll get a control method that's not gimmicky and actually works. Until then, I'll be yelling at my Kinect and watching Hulu on my Wii U Tablet. 

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Next Gen Console Alternatives

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Christmas means one thing and one thing only. New videogame consoles. This year gives us some huge offerings from the big three, Microsoft’s Xbox One, Sony’s Playstation 4, and Nintendo’s WiiU. But what if you dont want to follow the crowd. What if you have $500 of console buying money burning a hole in your pocket, but dont want to hand it over to those billion dollar corporations.

 

We checked in with some prominent members of the All Games community which consoles they would buy this Christmas, but with a slight twist. There are 3 rules:

  • They can choose as many consoles as they want, as long as the total retail cost is $500 or less
  • They can only choose new products. No rummaging through thrift stores or ebay listings.
  • The systems can’t be from Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft  

Take a look and see what they chose and let us know what alternative systems you'd get with $500 in the comments section.

 


 

 Derrick Hopkins (Dead Pixel Live)

DerrickH hosts the weekly podcast Dead Pixel Live here on Allgames.com. He's been known to dwell on retro gaming as a 'golden age' of gaming but oddly enough he still manages to get every next gen console.

 

His list shows off this duality with a mix of old and new consoles.

 

 

$250 - Nvidia Shield -

nga nvidia-shield

This was a tossup between the Nvida Shield and the MadCatz Mojo. Both let me play phone games on the big screen, but the Nvidia Shield also lets me stream PC games, pushing it over the top.

 

$175 - Neo Geo X -

nga neo-geo-x-gold

It may seem a little over-priced, but when you realize this same setup with the games would have cost way over $1000 when it was released, it’s a no brainer. You get a flood of great looking and great playing arcade titles in a package that fits into your pocket.

 

$75 - Atari Flashback -

nga Atari flashback 4

It was either this or one of the Retron boxes. I went with the Atari Flashback because come on, it’s Atari.And unlike the Retron, it has 75 games worth of blocky pixel goodness already loaded in. It even has wireless controllers.

 

 


 

 

 Esgee (R9Cast)

 Stephen Gibson, otherwise known as Esgee from the R9Cast is a unabashed fan of high tech gaming. His selections reflect his interest in staying on the leading edge while still getting the most bang for the buck.

Listen to him and his cohost BrigitteB every Sunday on Allgames.com

 

 

$250 -Nvidia Shield-

nga nvidia-shield

I'm not a super hardcore PC elitist, but the idea of being able to stream PC games to this handheld controller screen contraption is alluring. Not to mention it also has a suite of android based apps to choose from. To date, it's the most powerful handheld console. It's a beefy machine in a portable package.

 

$100 -Ouya-

nga ouya

It's just my morbid curiosity that allows this console to reside on this list. I must admit of having some hype for this prior to release but as the reviews came in, that hype quickly turned to stoic mehs. I still like the industrial design of it. A very cool looking paper weight.

 

$60 -Retron 3-

nga retron3

Let me first say that my first choice of consoles from Hyperkin was the Retron 5, but a delay due to faulty pins has caused me to choose it's older sibling. I have over 200 games and would like to have an all in one machine to accommodate my collection.

 

$60-Sega Genesis Arcade Portable by AT Games-

nga segagenesisportable

I used to be a hardcore Sega Fanboy. I guess I kind of still am. The main reason I play video games, the game that made me fall in love with video games was a Sega Game. That game was Space Harrier. With it's 15 built in games and a SD card slot

 





 

 

 Lord Moon (Writer)

Lord Moon, aka Tracy-Mark Gorgas, is a long time contributor to AllGames. His tastes lean toward not just the Next Gen, but the Next Next Gen. Having played nearly every system out (and some that still arent), his list is filled with cutting edge tech and new ideas. Check out his latest review of LocoCycle for the Xbox One

 

 $250 -Nvidia Shield-

nga nvidia-shield

Hard choice between the Madcatz M.O.J.O. and the NVidia Shield. I got to play around with the M.O.J.O. at E3 and found it to be a pretty damn good system and I like the fact they let you tap whatever Android market you want Google Play, Amazon, and Nvidia's TegraZone. The Shield looks to be limited to their store and Google Play.

But I love the idea of PC streaming. The Shield is also portable, the M.O.J.O. isn't. So I'd probably slide to the Shield. $250

 

$60-Sega Genesis Arcade Portable by AT Games-

nga segagenesisportable

I'm more of a SEGA guy so I would go with the SEGA Genesis Ultimate Portable Game Player with a great collection of 80 games, granted it's limited to SEGA and CAPCOM games, but there is a good selection, plus again it's portable also. $50

 

$100 - Sifteo Cubes

nga Sifteo-Cubes

Lastly would be something that seems to flown under everyone's radar, Sifteo Cubes. I already have a set of these, both the original and the newer fully portable touchscreen versions. They make games a little more challenging and fun with each cube having it's own touchscreen.

  Leftover money would go towards games on the Shield and OUYA systems.

 

 


 

 Redertainment (Writer)

Hunter Red (Redertainment) values gameplay over all else when it comes to consoles. With a selection filled with retro consoles, he'll have access to hundreds of games great games and still have cash left over for extra controllers. Read more of his insights at , R.C.O.A.: The Four Stars Blog

  

 $60 -Retron 3-

nga retron3

This is the Retron 3.  There have been many devices like this put out over the years, but this device combines all of the best things that all of the people who love retro consoles obsess over.  The Retron 3 is a Nintendo Entertainment System, a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and a Sega Genesis all wrapped up in one.  While the Retron 3 doesn’t have all of the features of the upcoming Retron 5, namely the ability to play games from two more retro consoles, the Retron 3 has the unique feature of actually being available for purchase right now

  

$45 -FC Mobile II

nga fc-movile-ii

$75 -Hyperkin Supaboy-

nga Hyperkin-SupaBoy

$60-Sega Genesis Arcade Portable by AT Games-

nga segagenesisportable

There are plenty of options available for people who want to indulge in retro gaming on the go., such as the FC Mobile II and the Hyperkin SUPABOY, some options reek of piracy, like the At Games Ultimate Portable Game Player.  However, since these don’t involve me having to download game ROMs that may or may not work, I’m going to go with them

 

Throwing in the three portable retro consoles, along with the one non-portable retro console and two wireless controllers, brings my total $400

 


 

 

Lies, Damned Lies and Game Trailers

 

Mark Twain has been noted as saying, there are three type of lies. Lies, damned lies, and statistics. If Twain played videogames, the quote would probably be ‘There are lies, damned lies, and game trailers’. Since the earliest days of videogame consoles, developers have used a slew of different ways to entice gamers to make a purchase. And none of them involved being truthful to players.

When videogames first hit the market there was almost no way for the underpowered hardware to portray anything meaningful to the player via the screen. Atari Combat Box ArtAtari Combat Box ArtGamers were told they were looking at a biplane, or a tank, or even a dragon protecting a castle. But not really. Instead they were staring at a grouping of odd shapes and listening to different variations of white noise masquerading as sound effects. The box art for these games promised incredible worlds filled with action and adventure. These painted covers attempted to tell the story via artwork that the console couldn’t with pixels. 

Those box covers were lies. But at the time, everyone understood that we were complicit in the fraud. The Atari 2600 would create as complex a picture as it could muster, and we’d fill in the missing pieces with a healthy dollop of imagination. It worked. I can still remember the thrill of stealing gold trinkets while dodging balls of searing flame in DragonFire, or narrowly avoiding a cannon shot in Combat.

Combat on the Atari 2600 Combat on the Atari 2600

As games grew more sophisticated, the hardware they were played on became more varied and diverse. Home gaming consoles gave way to home computers and the myriad of options that came with them. A ‘PC’ could mean anything from a monochrome TRS-80 to a Commodore Amiga boasting millions of colors. With only a handful of game magazines available, one of the most important factors in deciding whether or not to buy a game was the screenshots displayed on the back of the box. Defender of the Crown - Amiga screens shownDefender of the Crown - Amiga screens shownThis small image, maybe 2 inches square, was the game’s only way of convincing you that it was worth your hard earned allowance.
This screenshot was a damned lie. While it may have been an image from the game, it was rarely from a version of the game that ran on the lowly Atari 400, Commodore 64, or CGA equipped PC that millions of people owned. Instead the picture shown on the box was from the one of the rarefied graphical powerhouses like the Atari 1040ST or Amiga 1200. You would stare longingly at the vibrant colors and detailed images on the back of those game boxes, only to watch in disappointment as your 4mhz computer with 64k of memory failed to live up to promises that were made with a $2000 piece of hardware. But still, those screenshot were from actual games on actual, if mostly unattainable computers. And if you looked hard enough, you could make out the small print that admitted ‘images from Amiga Version’.

Today videogame systems are orders of magnitude more powerful than the consoles and home PCs of yesteryear. Games have become so complex that it can take dozens of people, millions of dollars to produce a top selling title. Developers have tools at their beck and call that coders from prior generations only dreamed of. And instead of fanciful cover art or misleading screenshots on the back of game boxes, consumers are wooed with the latest type of lie, the game trailer.
For some reason, publishers aren’t content with enticing gamers with the incredible graphics and immersive sounds that modern consoles are capable of. Maybe they don’t believe that people would be intrigued by what the Xbox One or PS4 could produce with their multiple core chipsets and gigabytes of storage. Instead, time and time again gamers are outright lied to in form of a gametrailer that is at best misleading or at worst a complete fabrication.

NetherRealm’s Mortal Kombat X was announced with a trailer that showed a pair of intricate CGI warriors locked in a brutal battle in the middle of a frost bound forest. The gaming community rejoiced at the return of the legendary fighting game that seemed to actually use the power that had been missing from the next generation of consoles. But it wasn’t long before that trailer proved to be nothing more than fantasy. MKX was released to much fanfare, but without a trace of the graphic wizardry from the announcement teaser. What happened? The game that was released seems to be a enhanced incarnation of the game engine used for Injustice, and while it’s still a top notch fighter, it’s a far cry from what was first paraded in front of the public.

The Madden Series is another offender of the game trailer showing you something patently different from what you’ll actually be playing. The low camera angles highlighting the spinning, jumping acrobatics of the player is far removed from the three quarter overhead view that you’ll be using for the vast majority of the game.That slow motion shot of the dirt being thrown up by cleats will only be seen on the youtube trailer, and never make an appearance in your online scrimmages.

EA premiered the trailer for the long awaited Star Wars Battlefront to a convention hall full of diehard Star Wars fans that breathed in every frame of the spectacular looking game. Even though the words ‘Game Engine Footage’ are emblazoned on the screen, it’s hard to imagine a control scheme that would allow for the multiple camera angles and character motions shown. While some form of the game engine may have been used to create the cinematic trailer, you can be sure that those arent the scenes that gamers will be interacting with. Instead the audience was shown what amounted to a barrage of cut scenes.

It’s a trend so prevalent that we’ve become used to it. No single company is more or less to blame. It’s practically the industry standard. More and more, games are being sold with a bill of goods that bear no resemblance to reality. Instead of being shown what we’ll actually be playing, we’re shown what a 3d artist was able to dream up and render out. And now that game demos have all but disappeared, gamers have less information to go on when purchasing a game than in years past. Pre-orders are pushed heavily with discounts and bonuses as developers are asking customers to put down money for a game before its released, based on footage that most likely doesn’t portray any aspect of what they’ll actually be playing. And that’s sad because games today can truly be breathtaking. The next gen consoles that grace today’s living room are capable of astounding visuals. The actual gameplay and interactivity has progressed to a point never before possible. That’s more than enough to sell a game. They don’t need an artists rendition on a box cover. They don’t need misleading screenshots from an overspecced super computer. And they don’t need a gametrailer devoid of real gameplay. All games need to sell themselves are the games themselves. There’s no need to lie about it. And yet, the lies remain.

AllGames Console Power Rankings 5/12 - 5/19

Each week the AllGames Console Power Rankings will the rank the impact of gaming consoles. This is not a sales chart. It is compiled by the Allgames editorial staff using data about each console's current status in the gaming zeitgiest. Media coverage, title releases, corporate dealings, and other components can influence the rankings.  

Rank Last Week   Console Comments
15  -  

 Analogue NT

analoguent

 Boutique Consoles may one day be a real market, but a $500 NES may not be the best place to start
14  -7  

 Atari 2600

Atari-2600

 Nostalgia may be strong, but it usually doesnt last long
13  -2  

 Neo Geo X

NeoGeo-X

 How much longer can this retro wonder stay relevant?
12  +1  

 Steam Machine

Steam-Machine

 With E3 around the corner, people are are expecting some big reveals for Valve's wonder box
11  +1  

NVidia Shield

nvidiashield

 So much power in such a small package. If only Nvidia would let people know about it.  
10 +4  

 Nintendo 2DS

Nintendo-2DS

 The stepchild of the Nintendo line up...although it's gaining on its Wii U big brother.
9  -  

 Ouya

ouya

Ever feel like you're working twice as hard and not moving forward. That must be how Ouya feels every week
8  -4  

 Nintendo Wii U

wii u

Weak (very weak) sales numbers have people wondering how long will Nintendo support their failed flagship
7  +3  

Kindle Fire TV

amazon fire tv

Strong(very strong) sales numbers are making the Fire TV look like the next big thing, at least according to Amazon
6  +1  

PSVita

PlaystationVita

 Sony saying AAA games aren't feasible on the Vita didn't help it. But the new pack of free PSN+ games did
5  +1  

Nintendo 3DS


nintendo3ds

 Nintendo dodged a bullet with Tomodachi-gate. 
4  -  

 Xbox 360

Xbox-360

Without strong releases, the 360 may be slowly losing steam
3  -  

 PS3

ps3

 Sheer numbers can't be ignored.
2  -1  

Xbox One

xbox-one

The Sunset Overdrive reveal looks great. Now they just need to release some games.
1  +1  

Sony PS4

playstation-4

Reversing gear on the Drive Club 'scandal' made Sony look like heroes...but dont forget that they tried it in the first place
   -      

AllGames Console Power Rankings 5/5 - 5/12

Each week the AllGames Console Power Rankings will the rank the impact of gaming consoles. This is not a sales chart. It is compiled by the Allgames editorial staff using data about each console's current status in the gaming zeitgiest. Media coverage, title releases, corporate dealings, and other components can influence the rankings.  

Rank Last Week   Console Comments
15  -  

 Retron3

retron3

 It's not the mythical Retron5, but i'll do for now
14  -  

 Nintendo 2DS

Nintendo-2DS

 The 2DS is a solid piece of tech that was made obsolete before it was even released. 
13  -  

 Steam Machine

Steam-Machine

 Once they hit stores, they'll be a force to reckon with. But right now, Valve's traditional lack of promotion isn't helping to hype up the line. 
12  -  

 Nvidia Shield

nvidiashield

 Nvidia had a strong showing at PAX East...for it's graphics cards.Meanwhile, the Shield continues to be seen as just a remote display for the PC
11  -  

 Neo Geo X

NeoGeo-X

 The legal battle going on between SNK and Tommo isn't helping a retro console that had an uphill battle to begin with.  
10  -  

 Kindle Fire TV

amazon fire tv

 Amazon enters the console wars with a bang. Voice Control, low price, big marketing blitz..but it forgot to bring the games
9  -  

 Ouya

ouya

 Another cool Emulator release buys the Ouya another week of lffe. But how long can it hold out against Amazon?
8  -  

 Atari 2600

Atari-2600

 Nostalgia is a powerful force. Especially when it's dug up in the Arizona desert and hits every news outlet known to man. 
7  -  

PSVita

PlaystationVita

 Sony refuses to give up on the Vita. And with a steady flow of titles this week, gamers aren't giving up on it either
6  -  

 3DS

nintendo3ds

 The workhorse that's keeping Nintendo afloat.
5  -  

 Xbox 360

Xbox-360

 While TiitanFall proved the Xbox 360 is still relavent, another lackluster Games With Gold announcement takes away any momentum the console had
4  -  

 Wii U

wii u

 Nintendo excited everyone with more Mario Kart 8 news. But it's still months away and there's little to play until then.
3  -  

 PS3

ps3

 No BluRay, no problem. The PSN Plus free AAA titles are keeping the PS3 in the mix.
2  -  

 PS4

playstation-4

 The PS4 is riding high off of strong sales and a solid lineup of titles. But the news of declining BluRay sales and big losses from parent comany Sony have shown a dent it the PS4 armor
1  -  

 Xbox One

xbox-one

 The Xbox One managed to hold off the PS4 strong sales numbers by announcing a full lineup of online shows. Being able to throw the name Steven Speilberg around doesn't hurt.
   -      
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