Is buying a next-gen console responsible?

Can an adult with a family justify buying a console for gaming alone?

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I’ve been into video games my entire life. I’ve saved up and purchased just about every console platform and generation since the original NES. I currently own a PS3 and Xbox 360 but both are collecting dust now that I’m over thirty years old, married, baby and career laden. I want a reason to buy a next-gen console this year but so far I can’t find that reason.

Xbox One

I had big hopes for the Xbox One, mainly in the form of the TV capabilities. When Microsoft announced the console and demoed the system’s capabilities as a cable box, I was pumped. They were showing me what I’ve always wanted, with an extra bonus of live fantasy football overlays during the NFL season. I was all but loading my money into a cannon, ready to blast it in whatever direction would get me the new Xbox. The problem was, knowing what I know about how television technology works, it seemed like magic and Microsoft was light on details. It turned out too good to be true. Once the specifics were revealed, the Xbox One’s TV features were no different than a Google TV. It’s a big box of compromise with the negatives outweighing the positives.

Playstation 4

The Playstation 4 got me less excited. Sony’s big focus was on social gaming and friendlier development tools while returning to commodity computing hardware (after the PS3’s cell fiasco). While I like development tools, I’m not planning on creating a PS4 game and, while I like gaming, I’m not a person who will be recording game footage or watching someone else's recordings. I did like what I saw from them on the gaming front this time around though. The console seems really focused on creating the best possible game experiences instead of trying to create a whole home media system, yet another mistake corrected from the PS3.

What also disappointed me for both systems is the departure from a hardware spec race. The console lifecycle is now so long that if you don’t start out with futuristic equipment on day one, you’re going to end up with a dinosaur after only a couple years.

In need of excuses

I want an excuse to buy one or both systems, but as a responsible adult, the primary reason can’t be for gaming. The reason for that caveat has nothing to do with some perceived age limit of gaming being acceptable, it’s entirely about the amount of time available / unavailable to play games at this point in life. If, however, the device could serve another primary purpose in my home - like TV - I would be thrilled with the secondary benefit of a top notch gaming system.

Is anyone else in the same boat? What are some other purposes that one of these devices could serve to justify a purchase?

Read more of Matthew Mombrea's ByteStream blog and follow Matt on Twitter (@mombrea) and Google+. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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