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| A Tale of Three Consoles (5 comments )|
by: E-o-S (2) | Posted in cluster FiringSquad Editors Challenge Round 1 Prelim 2
Posted 75 months ago in category DEFAULT
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. The three great consoles of our time have now arrived (at least in Japan and the USA). The marketing hyperbole of years past has now succumbed to the harsh reality of unreliable hardware and broken promises. Now the question on everyone's lips is "which one will win the great console war?". Which boils down to which one will have the most developer support and hence the best games.
Well today you are in luck as I will answer that question for you, but you will not like the answer. This will not however make the answer wrong; it just means that few truly understand the question that they ask. The answer is that they will all win, but they are all playing different games.
The Xbox 360 was the first and is by far the most balanced console. It seems that Microsoft has done almost everything well. The Xbox 360 is that smarmy kid in school that handed in their work early and got good marks for every subject. Their biggest achievements were to get good developer tools and to extend their Xbox Live online system. I can't emphasis enough how important good developer support is. The step up to high definition has meant a huge increase in game development budgets so anything that can reduce these costs increases the likelihood that a developer will support a particular console. Microsoft with their background in PC gaming has had a focus on online gaming since the original Xbox. Their managed service idea really fits with the mentality of consoles: it just works. It makes Sony and Nintendo's efforts look half-hearted at best.
The Xbox 360 isn't without its faults though. The hardware that runs hot, it is noisy, it dies much more frequently than it should, the hard drive is tiny and there is no hdmi interface. The faults don't however prevent it from being the best all around console of this generation. It is also a winner on the games front with the most games currently available and in development.
Given that the Xbox is the winner as a console and it is likely to have the most games, how can I call the other two consoles winners as well. Letís start with Sony.
Sony, Sony why have you forsaken us Sony. The king of the last generation of consoles has overlooked gamers in the hunt for the multi-media mega console. They wanted to become the entertainment hub of the household and they may have pulled it off if it hadn't been for the strong responses from the other players in the market. It is harder to program for and has less memory than the Xbox 360 which has led many developers to create games for the Xbox 360 and then port them to the PS3. The Blu-ray drive and the big hard disk are great but they don't really make the games any better. Whilst it is a first rate home entertainment system it is a second rate games machine, which arrived too late and was too expensive. The extra time they had could have been spent building a decent batch of launch titles and a great online system. Unfortunately they wasted this opportunity and are they now in real danger of being sidelined by lack of customer and developer interest.
Well how then does Sony end up being a winner in the console war? It is simply because Sony isn't playing the same game a Microsoft. They are primarily a home electronics manufacturer and their main aim is to get Blu-ray accepted as the standard by the Hollywood movie studios. Whilst sales have been underwhelming for a console, the PS3 has put a blu-ray drive in the hands of many more consumers than the rival HD-DVD camp. This should be enough to turn the tide and cement Blu-ray as the winner in the high definition disk stakes and that makes the PS3 a savior for Sony. Unfortunately Sony may have irreparably damaged their console franchise in the process.
What then is left for Nintendo? By their own admission the Wii is little more than a Gamecube on steroids. The real difference is that Nintendo haven't sacrificed their console on the altar of 'eye-candy'. For years games journalists have been going on about how graphics are less important than gameplay whilst simultaneously drooling over the latest graphics wunderkind with one dimensional gameplay. Nintendo has the disadvantage that they don't do anything else except make game systems. Sony has it's electronics, music and movie businesses and they have successfully used the PS3 to leverage their other businesses. Microsoft has the hugely profitable Windows and Office franchises which mean that it doesnít have to make money from the Xbox 360 any time soon. They are looking to create another franchise and can afford to make little or no money I the hopes of putting their competitors out of the business. Realizing that they couldn't complete with Microsoft and Sony on the graphics front Nintendo have taken the journalists at their word and focused on gameplay. In doing so, rather than fight for the existing market they have forged a new market with people who wouldn't have considered buying an Xbox 360 or a PS3.
By accident or design Nintendo have had 3 major things going for them: the console was the store shelves in reasonable quantities in time for Christmas, it is small enough to be easily portable and it had lots of family friendly games. Due to these three factors the Wii became the ultimate party game for family gatherings over Christmas and New Year period. Many people saw the Wii for the first time when it was demonstrated by a friend or relative and after playing for a while they decided that they had to buy one of their own. This sort of feelgood experience is something that advertising dollars can't buy.
I have to admit here that I own a Wii and it is the first console that I have ever owned. I have been a PC gamer since before IBM made PCs. If I want high definition gaming I go to my PC. I bought a Wii because it delivers a gaming experience I canít get anywhere else and I can share it with my five year old daughter. I am a classic example of a new customer Nintendo has added to the console market. The way that sales are going Nintendo will get the win for most consoles sold. They will also get the win for most profit as Nintendo actually makes money from selling consoles.
So there we have it. Three different consoles, three different experiences and three winners. The real winner here is the consumer who now has three companies fiercely competing to deliver the best console experience they can.
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