November is approaching, and with it, Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PlayStation 4. If you haven't already put in a pre-order for one, don't beat yourself up about it. If history is any indication, you're probably better off waiting a while than pouncing on a brand-new system.
For one thing, consider the cost: If you want a PlayStation 4 on launch day, you'll probably have to go through retailer GameStop (the Xbox One bundles have long since sold out). Don't think you can just grab a console and be on your way, though. GameStop knows that you want the console badly enough to throw some extra money at it, and thus only sells it in bundles.
Admittedly, the PlayStation 4 bundles aren't unreasonable: The basic ones include one game, and cost $460 ($400 for the console, plus $60 for the game). However, if you don't want "Killzone: Shadow Fall," "Call of Duty: Ghosts," "Battlefield 4," or "Madden NFL 25," you're out of luck. Games like "Knack" and "Driveclub" only come with more expensive bundles, which also include an extra controller. If you want your first PS4 game to be "Watch Dogs" or "Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag," you'll have to buy it separately.
Although GameStop is currently sold out of Xbox One pre-orders, the bundles were similar. Amazon sells PS4s and Xbox Ones individually, but cannot guarantee shipping dates. Pre-ordering them now will ensure that you get your system when the second or third wave ships, but you may end up waiting weeks, or even months, depending on how long it takes to restock.
Even if money is no object, there's still game selection to consider. Both the Xbox One and PS4 will have very strong launch libraries — a rarity, as gamers are usually lucky to get one or two quality titles. In addition to the titles discussed above, next-gen early adopters can look forward to "infamous: Second Son" on the PS4, "Ryse: Son of Rome" on the Xbox One, and titles like "Need for Speed Rivals" and " Skylanders SWAP Force " on both consoles.
Here's what you might not know: With very few exceptions, you can get these titles on current-gen consoles and PCs. "Ryse" and "inFamous" will be exclusives, but almost every other title discussed so far will be available on Xbox 360, PS3 and Steam (for PC downloads). You will be sacrificing marginally better graphics, smoother gameplay and a few next-gen exclusive missions or features, but you will not have to live without "Assassin's Creed" or "Need for Speed" if you hold off.
In fact, buying a next-gen system to play long-running series may be disadvantageous. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are not backwards-compatible, meaning you'll be unable to use any of your Xbox 360 or PS3 games with them, or the save files for those games. Story-driven series like "Dragon Age" and " Assassin's Creed " (both confirmed for Xbox One and PS4) have employed save-game bonuses in the past.
Transferring data from a previous installment — which is impossible to do between an Xbox 360/Xbox One or PS3/PS4 because of conflicting system architectures — could grant anything from an extra character in multiplayer to entire narratives and story arcs carrying over. In other words, if you've been playing "Dragon Age" on the Xbox 360, you might want to finish it there, or else lose a good chunk of what made your playthrough unique. [See also: Xbox One vs. PS4: Side-by-Side Comparison ]
Some of the Xbox One's and PS4's most anticipated exclusive titles won't be touching down right away, either. "Halo 5" and "Quantum Break" are some of Xbox One's obvious draws, but at present, there's no set release date for them aside from "2014." The same goes for "The Order: 1866" on PS4. Buying a system on launch day won't do much good if its best games are still months or years away.
Finally, there's the issue of hardware. Modern consoles have a lot of sensitive parts, and if even one of them malfunctions, your entire system could get fried. Almost one-third of Xbox 360s from its original production run eventually succumbed to the infamous "Red Ring of Death," which rendered the systems inoperable and could take almost a month to repair. Over time, consoles become more reliable, and if you wait long enough, they tend to come down in price and get slimmer redesigns as well.
If you have your heart set on a next-gen console, then by all means grab one on launch day and never look back. Otherwise, your money may be better spent on this holiday season's promising roster of games with a console in your future once things quiet down.
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