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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