Jun 17, 2013

    Buying next-gen consoles? Not so fast

    SO, YOU might have heard Sony won a public-relations coup against Microsoft at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles last week, by declaring that it won't impose restrictions on used games for its new PlayStation 4 console.

    There was much fanboy excitement over Square Enix's reveal at the game convention that Final Fantasy XV is headed for the PS4 and Microsoft's Xbox One.

    But - before plunging into the giddying hype of these upcoming consoles, or even Nintendo's Wii U that hit stores overseas late last year - you might want to take a rain check first.

    Sure, getting next-generation consoles early or at launch lets you play next-gen games before anybody else. But there are several caveats to take note of.


    Don't count on the Xbox One being officially sold here in November, when it becomes available in 21 countries. Microsoft said its console is reaching Singapore shores only late next year.

    The PS4 will be available in the United States and Europe this "holiday season". It is understood that it will likely hit Singapore shelves at the end of the year, The Straits Times reported. But expect delays, as Sony said PS4 demand could outstrip supply due to positive response to the console during E3.

    Meanwhile, the Wii U still hasn't been officially launched here. Some shops are parallel importing Wii U sets, but not all provide warranties on them.


    If you can't wait and are thinking of parallel importing them, the Xbox One presents some issues.

    Xbox One games are region locked such that those bought in the US must be activated only there before they can be played, reported The Army Times. Once that's done, games can be played elsewhere.

    Wii U games are region locked, too.

    But importers can rest easy with the PS4. Like those for the PS3, PS4 games are region free.


    Many next-gen games were announced at E3, with a number ready for sale when the Xbox One and PS4 are launched. Trouble is, some fan favourites won't retail by then.

    For instance, the earliest Final Fantasy XV could debut is in April, going by what Square Enix said.

    A new Halo game for the Xbox One and Bungie's first-person shooter, Destiny, for next-gen consoles aren't due until sometime next year.

    As for Wii U games, there's a new Super Smash Bros. title, Bayonetta 2 and a Xenoblade Chronicles successor slated for next year.

    Just don't expect to be able to play Xbox 360 and PS3 game discs on the Xbox One and PS4 respectively.

    The Wii U doesn't really have such backward-compatibility issues with Wii disc games, which expands its games catalogue.


    This limits piracy and playing second-hand games on next-gen consoles. But it can get complicated and confusing.

    You can sell your Xbox One games only at participating stores, unlike the case for Xbox 360 games now. Non-Microsoft publishers can opt to charge a fee for used Xbox One games.

    Giving a friend your Xbox One game is still free, but depends on whether a game publisher allows you to do it.

    The process is also not straightforward, since to play physical Xbox One games, they must be activated, which ties them to Xbox user accounts.

    You can give games only to friends who have been on your Xbox friends' list for at least 30 days. Games can be given only one time after they're bought.

    The Xbox One Console must be checked online once every 24 hours or it will be unable to play its games. If you lack Internet access for this, Microsoft advised that you can turn to the Xbox 360 console instead.

    Thankfully, an Xbox official said that Microsoft will allow games to still be playable on the Xbox One even if the servers for online checks are eventually shut down in the future.

    I was once frazzled from getting an outdated online-checking software - which made an old PC game unplayable - to work, until I discovered an official update much later. So, the Xbox clarification eased some fears.

    But things are simpler for used Wii U and PS4 games, as they're treated like used games as before.

    The requirements for selling used Xbox One games or giving them to friends, as well as mandatory online checks, don't apply to PS4 and Wii U disc games.

    Even so, non-Sony publishers can impose game activations and other copy-protection measures that limit second-hand PS4 games from being used. This isn't different from the current situation for PS3 games.