The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are almost here! But take a deep breath and be patient. There's no need to rush.
Both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will be here in a matter of days -- November 15 for the PS4 and a week later for the Xbox.
But that doesn't mean you should rush out and buy one.
Even if you're excited about the next wave of console games, signs are pointing in flashing red neon to wait. You could -- and probably should -- wait until next year to enjoy the fruits that these consoles will hopefully bring.
I'm not saying that I don't feel somewhat excited about the potential for new gaming consoles. I just know, based on what I've been seeing, that the future won't be arriving in 2013. The future path for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 is a long one, and one that still has more questions than answers.
Bottom line: you're probably better off waiting. Here's why.
The year's best games won't be available on the new consoles.
BioShock Infinite. Grand Theft Auto V. The Last of Us. None of these will be available -- or announced -- for the Xbox One or PS4, at least not yet. And while many of this fall's top games -- Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Madden 25, both NBA games -- will be released on next-gen hardware, you'll still get a really good version of all of these games on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
The PS4 and Xbox One aren't backward-compatible, either.
I'm sure you already know, but the PS4 and Xbox One can't play PS3 and Xbox 360 games right now, and they can't even load up previous online-purchased downloaded games via PSN or Xbox Live Arcade. So, if you want to enjoy one of the games like Grand Theft Auto V (or any other game in your current collection), you've got to keep your other game console plugged in, too.
None of the exclusive next-gen launch games has that 'must-have' buzz.
What do you want to see on a brand-new game system with new graphics? Odds are, it won't be here this year. All of the most promising games -- Watch Dogs, Titanfall, Infamous: Second Son, Destiny -- have slipped to 2014, leaving a very mixed bag for both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 -- unless you're looking for a handful of games already coming out for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, but with a bit of extra graphics polish. Sports games might benefit most, but it'll be hard to get excited about "must-have" killer PS4 and Xbox One games.
Several online streaming services and features won't be available at launch.
Remember Gaikai, Sony's game-streaming technology for the PlayStation 4? It won't be here this year. Microsoft's own TV and living-room-dominating strategy is also shaping up to be more of a slow-baked process, if you're waiting for all the pieces to fall in place.
Both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have an excellent assortment of apps and services, covering most major streaming-video packages, cable apps, and sports. The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will have their own collection of apps that will undoubtedly grow to be better than current-gen over time, and it looks like both consoles will cover most of the major bases, but they won't immediately have everything the last-gen consoles already do.
The Xbox One has an impressive set of starting apps, but they'll be unrolled between now and spring 2014. Sony's initial streaming apps look promising, but the much-hyped and more exciting game-streaming and sharing capabilities of Gaikai on the PS4 won't be around, according to Sony, until 2014.
First-wave hardware and software's always a mixed bag.
Some software's bound to be buggy. Expect at least six months of troubleshooting, where you, the early adopter, will be the test subject. That's what buying early tech does to a person.
Your friends won't be playing online on these new consoles yet.
Social gaming and online gaming is useful when everyone is online together. Your friends won't be next-gen this fall -- or at least, not all of them. That may not matter if you can find some cross-compatible games, but it's still more of a challenge.
We don't know which one is better.
Hey, guess what? We haven't reviewed either console yet. Who knows what the PS4 and Xbox One will really be like? Maybe one will be miles ahead of the other. Maybe it'll be too close to call. Over the next six months, however, a better picture will emerge. You'll know which console has the games you like, and which one is working better for what you need. With two consoles so close to each other in spirit, it makes sense -- unless you're dead set on PlayStation or Xbox as a platform -- to wait and see how it all shakes out.
They'll still be here next year, and they'll be an even better value.
By mid-2014, you can expect the first big wave of PS4 and Xbox One games that really shine to start emerging, making these consoles a lot more palatable. At least, we hope so. But either way, these consoles aren't going anywhere. Wait six months, wait a year, and see what these systems produce in terms of games and apps, and make a decision then. You have lots of games to play until then, and there are few big premium games this year that you'll be missing out on for the Xbox One and PS4.
That's my plan, anyway.