Summary: JCal gives us a rundown of the current state of the console war, and what each platform must do to succeed.
Get buzz going on upcoming titles: We have an idea on what Sony and Microsoft might release for their consoles this fall but little to nothing has come from the Nintendo camp. Nintendo needs to let its audience know now that they aren't going to run out of games for the ultra-important fall season. Yes, Super Smash Bros. Brawl and Wii Fit will likely be huge hits this spring but so will Grand Theft Auto 4. It's always been the fall season that's been crucial to the industry (well over half the sales in the US come between September and December) and Nintendo needs to get going or they might loose audience share.
Appeal more to hardcore gamers: No matter how much attention the media gives to the Wii's capture of the casual gamer market, the truth is that the best selling game of the fall season was the Xbox 360 version of Call of Duty 4. That means Nintendo is missing out on an equally huge market for their games. There have been some hardcore game titles for the Wii but none of them have appealed to that market quite like Call of Duty 4 or Halo 3, for example. If Nintendo continues to ignore hardcore gamers, that audience will continue to prop up the Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles, allowing both of them a chance to catch up to the Wii in the US.
Some pundits are already saying this represents a comeback for the PS3. We wouldn't go that far just yet but it does show that Sony's console can be helped if supplies of the Wii and the Xbox 360 are lacking. However, Sony isn't out of the woods just yet. For the most part their console is still the most expensive to pay for (thanks in part to that Blu-Ray disk player) and as we mentioned first part support for their games hasn't been embraced by gamers.
Things could change this fall, however, if Sony keeps its schedule and releases two major hardcore games and one other title that could be the casual game that could compete with the Wii's line-up. Resistance 2 and Killzone 2 are looking pretty sweet and with no real counter from Microsoft or Nintendo those two games could get the Halo 3-Call of Duty 4 crowd excited. LittleBigPlanet's user created content could be massive for the PS3 as well. Oh, and there's even a huge third party exclusive title, Metal Gear Solid 4, that should be out by the end of June (fingers crossed).
However, it will take more than a good game line-up to get people interested in buying the PS3. We think that these ideas could improve their chances:
Keep major games on fall 2008 schedule: Sony threw a ton of first party PS3 titles at consumers last fall (Warhawk, Lair, Heavenly Sword, Folklore, Eye of Judgment, Ratchet and Clank Future, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune) but none of them got close to becoming the huge hits that Halo 3, Super Mario Galaxy, Assassin's Creed, Guitar Hero III or Call of Duty 4 became. Resistance 2, Killzone 2 and LittleBigPlanet look like they will appeal to more gamers (and let's not forget Infamous, that mysterious Crackdown-looking game that was shown briefly at E3 2007) and if Sony can stick to their schedules they should come out looking much better than last fall.
Have Movie and TV Downloads Available: Sony keeps saying they will have their movies, TV shows and even music available for download for the PS3 but the truth is that Microsoft has been the clear leader in making the Xbox 360 the true multimedia console that Sony claims the PS3 is supposed to be. Sony CEO Howard Stringer keeps hinting that major announcements are coming in relation to those issues; we hope those plans are announced soon and that they are as impressive as the Xbox 360's current set up.
The Xbox 360 had something of an issue just as Christmas started as its Xbox Live online service suffered some major slowdowns and outages, likely as a result of a ton more consoles being sold and being placed online than Microsoft previously predicted (a class action lawsuit has been filed accusing Microsoft of not preparing well enough to anticipate such a surge in sales and its effects on Xbox Live). Those issues got solved just after the New Year but there are still reports of hardware issues and large amounts of Xbox 360 failure rates (Microsoft has dismissed those reports, however).
Even with the Xbox Live and hardware issues, the Xbox 360 console seems to be the favorite for the hardcore gamer market thanks to huge sales of Halo 3, Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty 4 and Rock Band. Microsoft will get another boost on April 29 with the release of Grand Theft Auto 4 which will have support for future downloadable content, something the PS3 version won't have (Microsoft reportedly paid GTA publishers Rockstar Games $50 million for this exclusive).
It's going to be hard, however, for Microsoft to find a game in 2008 that will have as big of an impact as Halo 3. Yes we are expecting Halo Wars to be released sometime this year but we question whether or not the fans of Bungie's shooter will gravitate to an RTS title. Fable 2, Too Human and Alan Wake are also waiting in the wings but we still don't have a clear idea if those titles will be embraced by the gamer audience. Microsoft execs have hinted that big announcements are due at this week's Game Developers Conference so hopefully we will have a better idea of their plans afterwards.
So can the Xbox 360 keep up the pace? Sure, if it follows our advice:
Solve hardware issues: Microsoft might not like it but there are still a lot of Xbox 360s that get that "red ring of death" sign. They spent $1 billion to improve future versions of the console as well as expanding their warranty to three years specifically for the "red rings of death" issue. The truth, however, is that even with the better warranty, Xbox 360 owners are still frustrated when their fourth or fifth console fails on them. Microsoft needs to make sure that future consoles that are manufactured are as problem free as they can.
Get a solid line-up of games for the fall: Again Microsoft has hinted that there are a bunch of games that we don't know anything about that will be coming in 2008. Let's hope they are of a level like Halo 3 and Mass Effect and not like Vampire Rain (ugh). Halo 3 was a huge reason the console sold as well as it did this past fall and Microsoft knows that kind of game comes once in a blue moon. Let's hope that moon remains blue for them in 2008.
|© Copyright 2003 FS Media, Inc.|