PS4 vs. Xbox One vs. Wii U: What Was the Best Console of 2015?

2015 has been a great year for video games. We’ve seen the release of fantastic new IPs, sequels that have actually bettered the quality of their predecessors and, most importantly, a number of good reasons to make the jump to the current console generation, something which we didn’t have last year. 

Though Sony and the PS4 continue to lead the pack in terms of sales, the Xbox One continues to make up lost ground with by bolstering its software line-up, while the Wii U has had a selection of great game releases this year, too.

But which one console has had the best year? Read on to find out what we believe was the best console of 2015:

Exclusive Games

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The lack of games that were exclusive to the current console generation was disappointing in 2014, with both the PS4 and the Xbox One having to find their footing and, as is typically the case with new consoles, therefore boasting little in the way of must-have games. Meanwhile Nintendo were allowed to continue their plan of releasing a couple of essential Wii U games per year and then virtually nothing else without them facing any strong opposition, meaning that in terms of exclusives, the Wii U managed to have the best year in 2014 by virtue of their rivals basically failing to turn up to the race

2015 remedied this with a selection of major releases, particularly in the latter half of the year, with Sony and Microsoft debuting a respectable amount of exclusives to keep console owners happy. However, while the PS4 held its own in this department with the likes of the underrated Until Dawn and game of the year contender Bloodborne, the Xbox One stood triumphant with help from the blockbuster release of Halo 5: Guardians, one of the year’s most successful indie darlings in the form of Ori and the Blind Forest and the fantastic (timed) exclusive Rise of the Tomb Raider, which exceeded expectations even for those who greatly enjoyed Lara Croft’s 2013 reboot. That’s without mentioning the likes of Forza Motorsport 6, Rare Replay, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, which all contributed to what has been a very respectable year for Microsoft’s console.

Unfortunately, this has meant that the Wii U has been almost completely overshadowed in 2015, cast into the background and occasionally piping up with the release of a Super Mario Maker or a Splatoon which, while they were fun games in their own, weren’t enough to make this year anything other than another regrettable blotch on the Wii U’s underwhelming lifetime before it’s hurriedly replaced by the upcoming Nintendo NX.

Meanwhile the Xbox One was firing on all cylinders, making 2015 a great year to pick one up, even for those who may have rightfully been skeptical of the console last year.

Winner: Xbox One

 

Multi-Platform Games

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Performance. Performance never changes.

Though there is a greater level of parity between games released on both the PS4 and Xbox One than there was when the two console’s were first launched, the PS4’s superior hardware ensures that multi-platform titles still look and often perform better on Sony’s system than Microsoft’s. This is to be expected, though Xbox One developers’ struggle to reach 1080p continues to be a point of contention, with them often having to settle for 900p.

With that being said, the discrepancy between those two resolutions will hardly be noticed by anyone other than graphics fanatics, so an Xbox One owner playing The Witcher 3 on their console shouldn’t feel hard done by. Considering that both consoles now routinely match each other’s framerate, an element of a game’s performance that actually impacts upon how it plays, the ongoing and brutally tedious resolution debate should rightfully be a thing of the past. 

One thing that can be said for the Wii U this year is that it didn’t have to worry about its versions of multi-platform games being unfavorably compared to their PS4 counterparts, mostly because it didn’t really have any. The few great Wii U games this year were all exclusives, with Nintendo’s third-party support having shifted from mediocre to basically non-existent. The NX really can’t come any sooner. 

Winner: PS4

 

Software Updates

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The Xbox One’s user interface has always been a uniquely infuriating experience, representing Microsoft’s unwavering drive to get people interested in the Kinect by making the UI absurdly difficult to navigate without the aid of the motion control camera’s voice recognition capabilities. But to their credit, Microsoft have pushed out the updates thick and fast for the dashboard this year, frequently tinkering with it in order to make it more user-friendly than it was at launch.

Microsoft released the console’s biggest update yet in November, introducing a dashboard based upon their recently released Windows 10 operating system that was still a little messy, but overall far more intuitive than its previous design, along with adding backwards capability for a selection of Xbox 360 titles, with the list of included games set to expand as the months roll by. There was also the addition of Game Streaming, a feature that allows Xbox One games to be streamed to a PC running Windows 10 using an app on the OS. This is the biggest update any of the current generation consoles have received thus far, and while it’s not exactly perfect, it was a big step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, the PS4 received a smattering of updates that sought to add new features to the console, including a new Events app which granted players the ability to see a brief overview of activities taking place in their favorite games, and a new Communities app which allowed them to join and create communities with other players based upon mutual interests. Lastly, the Wii U removed TVii from its list of apps.

Hmm.

Winner: Xbox One

 

Accessories

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The PS4 hasn’t seen the release of any notable accessories this year, so the only real contenders are the Xbox One and Wii U.

Microsoft’s debut of the Elite Controller was an exciting prospect for many, given that it represented a notable improvement upon what is already arguably the greatest controller that’s ever been released for a console. The Elite Controller’s fully customizable layout, improved D-Pad, interchangeable analog sticks and hair triggers made it a pro player’s dream, and while it wasn’t exactly a reasonable purchase for the more casual gamer given its high price point, it was perfect the demographic it was appealing to.

However, despite the high quality of the Elite Controller, there is simply no beating Amiibo. Nintendo’s NFC-supported figurines have taken on a life of their own, proving to be more of a lucrative venture for Nintendo than the majority of games released on the Wii U this year, with new waves continuing to be released, forcing collectors to tear their hair out as they attempt to snap them up before they swiftly sell out. While their implementation in Wii U games leaves a lot to be desired, there’s no denying that Amiibos have been one of the biggest and most unexpected success stories the gaming industry has experienced in the past few years.

Winner: Wii U

 

Online Experience

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All three consoles’ online services have had an exceptionally smooth year. With there rarely being any outages across 2015 and big multiplayer game launches not collapsing under their own weight, there are few complaints that can be had about the likes of PSN and Xbox Live this year.

We specifically reference PSN and Xbox Live because the Wii U’s online service continues to be mostly perfunctory. Considering that Nintendo has never been concerned with leading the pack in this department, and Wii U owners didn’t exactly buy their console to play violent, multiplayer shooters with their friends (unless those shooters involve lots of paint and anthropomorphic squid), it’s understandable that they wouldn’t provide as robust a service as Sony or Microsoft. With that being said, their continued reluctance to offer even the most basic of features, i.e. in-game voice chat among friends, continues to be irritating and stifles the replayability of some of their best multiplayer-focused games.

PSN had a satisfactory but uneventful year, with the free release of Rocket League on PS Plus being the most notable event in the service’s 2015 calendar, alongside the aforementioned selection of unexciting updates rolled out by Sony. Meanwhile, Microsoft has now brought its much-maligned Games with Gold feature up to par with the PS Plus Instant Game Collection, with the likes of Child of Light, D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die, Rayman Legends, Thief and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (which also made its way to Sony’s own service) all being given to Xbox Live Gold members free of charge. While it still wasn’t the most exciting line-up of free games, with PS Plus having many years of consistency under its belt in this department, it was the first time that Games with Gold has truly stood toe-to-toe with the Instant Game Collection and is a good sign of things to come for Xbox Live members.

Another feather in Microsoft’s cap was its introduction of backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games, which hasn’t exactly seen a huge selection of games make its way to the Xbox One, but is at least a lot better than Sony’s alternative. While the PS4 will be backwards compatible with PS2 games in the near future (though this presents its own issues, given that Sony will require users to pay for the games all over again because the PS4 doesn’t support PS2 discs), this year the company unveiled their lackluster PlayStation Now service. PlayStation Now is essentially a cloud-based library of old PlayStation games, but the selection of games is very limited, it only allows you to rent out games for a limited period of time and, if you experience any connection drops while playing a game, it will disconnect you from your play session given its online-only nature. It’s a service that sounded good in theory, but in practice was far too awkward and over-priced to really make any form of impact.

So by virtue of making the most number of improvements and introducing a number of key new features, the Xbox One comfortably comes out on top in this category.

Winner: Xbox One

 

Conclusion

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Both the PS4 and the Xbox One have had a much better year in 2015 than they did in 2014, with there being many fantastic new video games launching on both consoles. Meanwhile, the Wii U has continued to limp behind its competitors, offering owners of the console little to sink their teeth into as Nintendo continues development on the NX.

But even though it was only ever a two-horse race, the competition was still tough. However, the Xbox One deserves to take its place atop the throne this year, thanks to Microsoft having put plenty of effort into providing a host of new games and features in order to convince people to pick up their system following its shoddy launch. While its still early in both console’s life cycles, 2015 proved that the Xbox One is going to do much more than just linger in the PS4’s shadow, because despite trailing behind Sony in terms of sales, Microsoft are leading the pack in many respects and have highlighted a keener desire to innovate with their console than their competitor.

If you had been considering picking up an Xbox One but had been put off by its underwhelming launch, then 2015 was a good year to bite the bullet. 2015 has been a pretty exceptional year for video games, and the Xbox One played a big role in that being the case.

Winner: Xbox One

 

 


2015 Gaming Gift Guide