What defines a new generation of game consoles?
With the release of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One this month, many are declaring it the start of the "next generation of consoles," in particular the eighth. Both machines are competing with similar specs and games, though each has its own unique attributes to push gamers in one direction or the other.
"But," a few have said, "the eighth generation actually started a year ago, with the release of the Wii U!"
And the response from some quarters has been, "The Wii U doesn't compete with them on specs! It's last-gen technology!"
And it's true, the Wii U doesn't really compete with the Xbox One and PS4 on specs -- heck, Nintendo only just added HD capabilities to their consoles, six years too late. But the Wii U has its own unique features, like the GamePad controller. And regardless of specs, being released in the same general period means it's still going to have to compete with the PS4 and Xbox One on store shelves.
So, is the Wii U part of the eighth generation? Or is it a late entry seventh-gen console? Do you determine console generations by specs, or by release date?
For what it's worth, Wikipedia lists the Wii U as part of the eighth generation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_video_game_consol...
My own personal opinion is that console generations are cultural distinctions, and not technological milestones to be met. This eighth generation is also going to be marked by the release of a slew of Android-based consoles, which can't compete at all with the PS4 and Xbox One on specs, but they will impact the gaming landscape (probably).
I guess on some level I think the Wii U transcends the traditional notion of a generation, mainly because I think they (the company) also feel this way. Nintendo's products never seem to focus on being technologically superior, but rather focus on the actual experience of PLAYING THE GAME.
Given that all three companies touted media features and some kind of motion control indicates we're in the next generation.
Hardware means very little in the evolution of gaming. It is the games that set new expectations. Just ask Trip Hawkins how that emphasis on hardware worked for the 3DO.