In 2010, Nintendo will have the most large installed console base, followed by Sony, and then Microsoft.
PS3 vs. XBox 360
Sadly for Microsoft, the XBox 360 flopped on Japan, and Peter Moore’s talking of a re-lauching there won’t help. The japanese are simply not interested in the offered gaming library. Microsoft needed at least 3 titles with high appeal for that market for Japan to buy its console, and MS has failed to produce them on launch or during the 2006 year. Even if MS launches several more titles for the japanese market in 2007, the 360 will be facing competition from the PS3 and Wii, and our eastern friends will have more options available, with game titles that interest them.
Why is the japanese market so important? Because of its numbers. It’s huge. Third party developers are inclined to develop for the console that has the most installed base. What else favours the PS3?
Sony’s price announcement for the Playstation 3 was a shock at this year’s E3, with a US$ 600,00 tag. It’s too expensive for anyone besides the hardcore gamers to buy it. But make no mistakes, they will. The PS3 hardware is too expensive now, providing little value for the consumer. It’s May, 2006 and the the Blu-ray driver is useless, and the HDMI output, too.
This might change in 2008, if Sony manages to promote the Blu-ray format. Four of the five major Hollywood studios are behind the format, because it offers more content protection options than HD-DVD. If most of the media released after June, 2007 uses the Blu-ray format, consumers will be forced to acquire a player.
Will people fall into this trap? It’s unknown at this time. If the movie studios simply release their products in Blu-ray, consumers will have no choice. But that means giving Sony a huge advantage on consumer eletronics and hardware, not mentioning license fees. If other content providers, specially Apple and its iPod, convince the movie studios to keep releasing media in alternative formats, what might happen in fact is an increase in non-authorized copies, and internet downloads, for Blu-ray exclusive titles.
But the PS3 isn’t only Blu-ray. Its raw power produces games that are a delight to watch. Personally, that’s not what attracts me into a game, but there are millions of people interested in prettier games. Plus, the PS3 processors will allow for enhanced Physics and AI.
In the 360 vs. PS3 battlefield, the PS3 has a clear advantage. By the end of 2008, this will be very obvious to gamer’s eyes. The PS3 is simply a better machine. Beatiful games (Sony dictates that its games output in HD), everything wireless, standard HDD, Wi-fi / Bluetooth / Ethernet, PSP integration, and more.
XBox’s one year headstart helped MS, but it will be a non-factor at the end of 2008. The 360 ages worse than the PS3. In fact, this three year period will make the XBox 360 “old” by there, and gamers had enough time to save money for the PS3.
Is it possible for the XBox 360 to “win” the battle against the PS3?
Yes, it is, and completely ignoring the japanese market. Microsoft has to continue improving its Live services, making consumers buy the console only for it.
Also, MS needs to come with HD-DVD titles that offer more than simply the media printed on its discs. Integration with the PC is crucial here. People will want to stream to their PCs and vice-versa, so they can manipulate their video, encode in different formats, or anything else that gives them more control instead of passive watching movies.
Microsoft has to forget about its plans of being an content producer, and focus on their amazing capabilites of building software plataforms.
Why Wii will win
The Wii will be cheaper. Not only it will be the automatic second console option for most people, but also, it will be affordable in a way that most gamers will want a Wii. They will buy a XBox 360 for Live or a PS3 for its raw power, but with only US$ 200,00 more, they can have a new console.
Nintendo is putting a lot of resources into Wii. Mario, Zelda and Metroid Prime are coming either at launch day or at the launch window period (usually 3 months). There’s plenty of third party support, with more than 20 games already confirmed to be in development.
But more importantly, there’s a mentality permeating Wii’s developement to make the casual, retired or non-gamers to use the plataform. The market answered surprisingly well to the Nintendo DS and its odd selection of games. Some titles are impossible to replicate on other plataforms, or will be an aberration. Who would imagine Trauma Center on the PSP? It’s not as fun as on the DS and its touch-screen.
So, Nintendo has to make games that take advantage of Wiimote’s unique functionalities. Besides Wii Sports, we aren’t seeing many for now, but this will change during the middle of the next year and beyond, when developers finish their titles or come up with new ideas.
But Wii Sports is enough for the initial months of 2007. If the Wii launches at US$ 200,00, do you see someone spending US$ 250,00 to play Wii Tennis and Wii Golf? I do. If the Wii comes with a little bit of online funcionality, only to persist your scores on a central server and manage championships, I see hundreds of thousands of people buying it.
What will happen is the same that we’ve seen on the DS: People will buy it for one game (Nintendogs, for example), but now that they have the console, they will look for one or two more games. By the end of 2008, Nintendo will have its fans playing, hardcore gamers that spent only US$ 400,00 (the 360 price) for Wii and four of its best rated games, and non-gamers playing Sports or whatever developers come with for the Wiimote.