This-Gen (console) Conflict Rages!

This-Gen (console) Conflict Rages!

We're about a month away from complete, utter chaos in the game space, so as the major players are busy taking a long, deep inhale before making the plunge, I thought I'd take a moment to look at the current state of affairs. Prepare yourselves.

Here's the situation as we know it: Microsoft (last round's number two finisher) has had a new console on the market for about a year, and at this point is projecting a five million unit head start before its competitors hit stores, albeit in limited numbers. Sony (last round's leader) is planning to "release" their new console next month (400,000 of them anyway) and Nintendo (dead last) is doing the same about two days later.

These are all the so-called "next-gen" consoles, but I think I'm going to start calling them "this gen" because, as Joe and I were discussing yesterday, it can't be tomorrow and today. The consoles are here, the tech is locked. It's "this" gen, people. Move on.

Besides, since the world is now reeling from not one, but two announcements that the next-gen won't be starting until some asshat or another proclaims it has started, I think we're ready to call it a day on this buzzword. Just like with the picnic tables in Central Park, once the goofballs start claiming ownership it's time to move on.

Enough has been said already about the machines themselves, but what's interesting to note is Miyamoto's recent admission that the Wii hardware is essentially a supercharged version of the Gamecube hardware, and the generally favorable reception this acknowledgement has received so far in the press. Is this a tacit admission that in spite of the supposedly vast technological leaps between Microsoft's first and second console and Sony's second and third, the games aren't exponentially more fun? Perhaps.

I for one still spend the majority of my time playing games on older consoles or games designed for older consoles via Xbox Live, in spite of the fact that I've owned a 360 for about half a year. In fact, I just sold two of the three 360 games in my possession, and am not rushing out to buy more. Sure they're prettier, but just like with women, pretty only gets you so far. And even then a little intelligence doesn't hurt.

Or maybe we're experiencing a little this-gen buyer's remorse, considering the fact that an alarming number of first-run Xbox360s have failed after only months of use, and the reports of similar failures of PS3 demo units at the Tokyo Game Show. Who wants advanced technology that doesn't work?

Nintendo's recent announcement that they're increasing their earnings forecast is a nice move on their part, but more theatrical than analytical. A lot of companies release revised earnings forecasts immediately prior to launching a new product. What's remarkable in this arena however, is the fact that Sony's stock is falling. whether or not either of these indicators have anything to do with reality, this is the kind of thing buyers pay attention to.

Because the real story here is that none of the technological shortcomings of these consoles matter. In the free market, perception is reality. When the machines hit stores people will make their buying decisions based on their perceptions of two things: the quality of the games and the value of the consoles; neither of which will be influenced by anything put forth by editors like yours truly.

Earnings reports and stock tickers, however, are another matter entirely. Especially when one is going up and the other is gong down.

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I haven't considered getting a Nintendo for many years, but I might if they can bring some compelling games to the table. I am not that fired up about the Wiimote, but the price, size, exclusive francises, and relative quietness of the system is appealling. I think it will do very well after release. I think it will emerge the leader, with the 360 giving it a run for its money.

The 360 occupies that sweet spot between the Wii and the PS3, in terms of price and performance. This may prove it greatest weapon come time for battle. Let's not forget the success of XBL. I also anticipate the price coming down once they optimize their production and supply chain and start generating some serious revenue from software sales. Personally, the 360 is the one console I know I will own.

The PS3 greatest ace in the hole is the PS1 and PS2. Both of those consoles are, in my opinion, the best consoles ever made, behind the NES. They both had great graphics and great games. Sony's history in the market may not be enough, however, to overcome the sticker shock of parents out Christmas shopping. Then again, I bought a PS2 at launch for double its current price, which was a lot of money for a console at the time. Sony's price may not be that big of a hurdle. But, it didn't have the competition back then as it does now.

I really don't think any "mum or dad out shopping" will be buying a PS3 this christmas. Got nothing to do with the price, they just won't be able to find one. In fact I'm not certain you will be able to walk into a store and buy a wii off the shelf just before christmas either and they are launching with a boat load more consoles than sony.

It's going to be a good season for "casual gamers" to think about picking up a 360 I reckon.

Goofonian:
I really don't think any "mum or dad out shopping" will be buying a PS3 this christmas. Got nothing to do with the price, they just won't be able to find one. In fact I'm not certain you will be able to walk into a store and buy a wii off the shelf just before christmas either and they are launching with a boat load more consoles than sony.

It's going to be a good season for "casual gamers" to think about picking up a 360 I reckon.

That's a good point. Maybe Microsoft's early push to market will make them the leader. Couple that with huge upswing in sales that will almost certainly accompany the release of Halo 3 in '07 and it looks pretty good for MS.

Though the Mum and Dad out shopping with knowledge that their child would like a video game console this christmas, assuming they're not waiting till the last moment, can probably still get their hands on A wii, and maybe even a PS3. Though the PS3 costs are still far too high for me to justify. I could buy my computer over again for the same price and I'll take the games for it any day over the PS3. The real Ace in the hole in Sony's camp for me is that they've openly said (source needed here) that they're okay with linux distributions being created for the hardware. That could be pretty sweet.

- Tom

heavyfeul:
That's a good point. Maybe Microsoft's early push to market will make them the leader. Couple that with huge upswing in sales that will almost certainly accompany the release of Halo 3 in '07 and it looks pretty good for MS.

Anyone got exact numbers? I wonder how much money MS made already (and how much do they lose with every piece of hardware sold).

TomBeraha:
The real Ace in the hole in Sony's camp for me is that they've openly said (source needed here) that they're okay with linux distributions being created for the hardware. That could be pretty sweet.

I don't know about "created". Ken Kutaragi went so far as to say that it might actually ship with Linux! (Source: IGN article.)

But before we all get too excited, it seems very unlikely to me that Sony will really allow everyone to just use the PS3 freely without paying any kind of developer license fee. The machine itself is loss-making. They need their revenue streams.

I just haven't quite figured out how they'll spoil all our fun yet!

UCRC:

heavyfeul:
That's a good point. Maybe Microsoft's early push to market will make them the leader. Couple that with huge upswing in sales that will almost certainly accompany the release of Halo 3 in '07 and it looks pretty good for MS.

Anyone got exact numbers? I wonder how much money MS made already (and how much do they lose with every piece of hardware sold).

Well sony has said 400,000 in the US and zero in Pal territories this christmas. I'm pretty sure that is about how many 360's microsoft originally put out there and we all saw what happened with that launch. Plain and simple, there are not going to be enough PS3's to go around this year and its going to be months before you start seeing them sitting on shelves, so to speak.

Nintendo has said they will have a million consoles in the US for launch, all of which will be sold out in the first day or two no doubt. They have issued statements here in aus saying that they can't garuntee that they won't sell out and suggest people pre-order if they don't want to miss out. Despite this possibly being a marketing ploy to increase pre-orders I suspect that in a small market like Australia they are likely to alter the amount of units shipped based on pre-order numbers. Fortunately nintendo has promised many millions more units by years end and the news going round at the moment suggests that production is well ahead of schedule with potentially 7 - 9 million units worldwide before new year.

Microsft on the other hand has now had a year to iron out the kinks in their system and get production going great guns. If there are any xbox shortages this christmas it will be as a result of people buying one when they can't get their hands on a PS3, which is only a good thing for MS at this point. I don't think anyone is going to buy a wii when they can't find a PS3, not when the 360 is a much more similar system and the core kit is not that much more expensive than the wii. That said, nintendo is going to sell a LOT of consoles over the next few months.

 

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