Summary: Another 6 months have passed and JCal sums up the state of the console war. How do things look? Read on!
Wii Battle Report
The Wii may be hard to find in stores but that hasn't stopped the console from still becoming the hottest home electronics product since Apple's original iPod. Whenever a retail store like Best Buy or Circuit City advertise in their Sunday papers about having Wii consoles on sale, the lines of people tend to be massive as they wait for the doors to open. It's clear that if Nintendo had more Wii consoles to sell they would quickly vanish from shelves.
Solve Wii Supply Problems
We are, quite frankly, wondering why Nintendo doesn't seem able to make more of the console. The hardware isn't exactly state-of-the-art compared to the PS3 and Xbox 360 so making more shouldn't be an issue. Some have even speculated that Nintendo is deliberately trying to keep supple scarce but that doesn't make much sense either. Nintendo needs to fix these supply problems and soon. If they don't have consoles ready to pick up in stores by the start of the holiday buying season in September people who are still waiting to get a new console may turn to the Xbox 360 and PS3.
Make Sure First Party Titles Come Out This Year
The Nintendo fans are waiting for Super Mario Galaxy and hardcore gamers are waiting for Metroid Prime 3. Nintendo has stated that they expect Super Mario Galaxy to be released before the end of the year and today they announced that Metroid Prime 3 will be coming out on August 20.. However, Nintendo does have a tendency to make some unexpected announcements for delays in their games. With games like Halo 3, GTA IV and more coming down the pike Nintendo cannot afford to have nothing less than at least these two major titles in stores this fall.
More Online Multiplayer Gaming Support
The Wii online service certainly has features that make it stand out from the other two consoles; from offering tons of classic games to news and weather support and more. However, we are still waiting for more news on how the console will handle online gaming. According to online rumors third party publishers might have to wait until after the end of the year to offer support for online multiplayer games for the console (Nintendo execs have been quoted as saying that they do expect third party games to offer Wii online multiplayer this year). As multiplayer gaming continues to grow among consumers, Nintendo might have to accelerate their support of these features. Having Wii parties is one thing but not everyone who buys the console will have access to that kind of social scene. Making online multiplayer a priority would seem to be a great way to extend that kind of fan support for the Wii
Offer Original Virtual Console Games
We mentioned this in our last console war report and it bears repeating here. Having access to a bunch of classic games from the NES, SNES, and N64 from your Wii downloadable Virtual Console channel is terrific but quite frankly most of these games show their age quickly. Both Microsoft and Sony are accelerating their efforts to offer original downloadable only games. It's something that Nintendo needs to do as well.
Xbox 360 Battle Report
Microsoft's next-gen console continues to lose money for the company and the amount of consoles it currently sells doesn't compare to the Wii but the Xbox 360 is still holding its own in the next-gen console war thanks to a number of best selling exclusive titles like Lost Planet and Crackdown. Even non exclusives like Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and Guitar Hero II have sold well. The console has been on sale for 18 months now and despite the surge of interest in the Wii it looks like it will continue to generate sales for games like Forza Motorsport 2 and Bioshock. Oh and Halo 3, their biggest first party game, is due out on September 25, much earlier than anticipated.
Lower Price Of Xbox 360 Core System
We are getting close to the two year anniversary of the launch of the Xbox 360 with no price cut. Microsoft could push people to purchase more consoles if they lowered their Core system down by at least $50 to put it on a par with the current price of the Wii console. Let's face it; Microsoft's console pretty much blows away the Wii in terms of technology and there is certainly a lot of games to play.
Rebate-Exchange Program for Xbox 360 Owners
If Microsoft keeps to their plan to put in 120 GB hard drives and the HDMI port for the main Xbox 360 model this fall, it certainly will upset all those owners who thought they were purchasing the highest end model. We suggest Microsoft offer a rebate for all those people who want to exchange their current model for the new one in order to make the transition a little better.
Make Sure Halo 3 Is The Best Game In The Series
We are quite frankly a little worried that the September 25 release date of Halo 3, while great for a marketing coup, might make things a little tight for Bungie in the development side. Microsoft is putting a lot of eggs in their basket with the release of Halo 3, much like they did last year with Gears of War. As it turned out, the gamble paid off in 2006; Gears of War was a critcal and commerical hit and took some of the thunder away from the PS3 and Wii launches. Microsoft needs to ensure that Halo 3 will have the same reception. If it means delaying the game slightly from September to a more traditional November release, that will be OK by us.
All Future Xbox 360 Must Come With A Hard Drive
Microsoft actually followed our earlier advice and released a 120 GB hard drive. Now it needs to make sure all Xbox 360 consoles have at least some kind of hard drive, even if its the now much smaller 20 GB version. Having a Core system with such a drive and the main model with a 120 GB version will let everyone experience Xbox Live and all of the services it offers. Xbox Live is by far the best feature the console has and it's a shame that some owners don't have access to it.
Keep Quality Control And Customer Service High
The "red light of death" seems to continue to be a problem for the console. While Microsoft will not officially comment on numbers, it seems clear from various message board posts that the Xbox 360 continues to have a higher amount of hardware failures than it should. Microsoft needs to get this problem fixed and also needs to make sure that if a console does break within the hardware warranty period that customers get a quick and free replacement.
PS3 Battle Report
Sony's $599 console has not fared well at all six months after the console's worldwide launch. Current estimates state that only 3 million or so consoles have been sold worldwide and last week the NPD Group said only 81,000 PS3 consoles were sold in the US during the month of April. Sony in an official statement attributed the low sales to lack of PS3 software but we believe the real problem is one word; price. People just don't want to purchase a $599 console right now. It doesn't help that the company has lost a lot of third party frachises to the Xbox 360 that used to be Playstation exclusives. The only third party PS3 exclusive that Sony has retained so far is Konami's Metal Gear Solid 4 and that game won't likely be released until after 2007.
Lower The Price Of The PS3 Console ASAP
Even UbiSoft's CEO agrees with us. The $599 price tag for the console needs to come down and soon. Sony is losing market share to the Wii and Xbox 360 rapidly and most of it can be attributed to the high price of the only remaining model of the PS3. We recommend at least a $100 price cut before the end of the summer and it might not hurt to cut it down to $399 to match the price of the main Xbox 360 model. Will Sony lose some money in the short term in hardware? Yep. But it's sure to lose even more if it keeps its current price through the end of this year.
Have A Solid First Party Line-Up
Sony seems to be trying to push a lot of first party games out the door for the holiday shopping season. With games like Lair, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, Warhawk, SOCOM Confrontation, Heavenly Sword, Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools Of Destruction among other slated to be released this fall the company is aiming to improve upon the quite frankly lousy PS3 launch line-up of 2006. The big question: Will all of these games be released before the end of the year? We think we might see one or two not make it but if that happens Sony will likely still have a pretty good game release schedule.
Where Are the Movie, TV And Music Downloads?
Sony owns a movie studio, makes TV shows and owns one of the major recording companies as well. It would seem to be a natural that the PS3, touted before its launch as not just a game console but a multimedia device, would be a great way to get downloadable access to these other Sony entertainment companies. Yet Microsoft was first out of the gate offering movie and TV downloads and while Sony execs have stated they also have similar plans, its been all talk and no action so far as Sony seems to be concentrating on promoting its upcoming Playstation Home service. Sony's had similar issues in the past; their Sony Connect music download service bombed as Apple's iTunes took over the market. Will something similar happen in this area? Sony had better learn from its mistakes in the past and offer movie, TV and music downloads sooner rather than later.
Six months after the next-gen console wars began, Nintendo's Wii has emerged on top with high sales but Microsoft's Xbox 360 continues to be a popular console with a number of best selling games and a solid install base so far. Right now the company with the most to lose is Sony as its launch of the PS3 has been curtailed due to the high cost of the console itself as well as a lack of quality titles. However even Nintendo has dents in its armor right now. Will it continue its momentum it has gained via the launches of titles like Metroid Prime 3 and Super Mario Galaxy? Will Microsoft's Halo 3 and other titles be enough to continue to sell consoles? Most important can Sony come out of the deep hole it has dug itself in and make the moves it needs to make before the PS3 becomes the Dreamcast of this current console cycle? We will post up another report from the front lines after E3 in July to give our continued opinions and advice as the console war heads into its critical fall 2007 battle engagement.
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