A preview of the new console war

We’re on the verge of the 8th generation video game console war!

Console-War

Maybe it could be I’ve been paying closer attention to it. But I really think this generation will be a turning point with video games. We are looking at new business models, new ways to interface with the systems, and news ways of thinking about video game systems! We’re seeing companies exploring online distribution models that may replace traditional models of distribution. We’re seeing consoles shifting away from controllers toward motion-capture technologies. Heck, we are seeing consoles position themselves as home entertainment systems rather than a video game system!

Wii-U

Strengths

  • The Nintendo name brand is easily the most recognized throughout the video game industry.
  • There are several big name releases on the horizon which may increase console sales.
  • Nintendo won the last generation’s console war and are dominating the hand-held console market.
  • Nintendo has consistently innovated video game controllers for almost every generation, creating new experiences for the player.

Weaknesses

  • The Wii U has not sold well at all.
    • Barely 3.5 million sold worldwide after being out for 10 months.
    • The Wii has outsold the Wii U for months!
  • There is little 3rd party support.
  • 3rd party companies have gone on the record to say they will not develop for the Wii U unless it starts selling better.
  • Many analysts believe Nintendo should get out of the video game console war and stick to making video games.

Nintendo has taken a beating, there’s no way around that. We’ve already done an article examining Nintendo and asked if it was possible that Nintendo will get out of the console industry. I still stand by that article. I don’t believe Nintendo will stop making consoles, but they will probably not do as well during this generation as I would hope.

Nintendo focuses on making quality games and consoles rather than making a profit. They aren’t trying to innovate their business model, but innovate the way gamers play video games. In my opinion, Nintendo is probably the last company that wants to make video games consoles for the enjoyment of the gamers!

I hate the idea that Sony and Microsoft are claiming they are innovating the video game industry. They aren’t the innovators. They are innovating  business models to try to increase profit. What they are doing could easily be applied to the video industry (streaming videos, downloading videos) or even the music industry. There is nothing about what they are doing that’s video game industry specific like Nintendo is doing.

If Nintendo somehow manages to turn themselves around and duplicates the success they had with the Wii, the NES ,and SNES, they could really shape the future of the industry. It would show that consoles that focus on innovation and video games are what sells best.

xbox-one

Strengths

  • 15 Xbox One exclusive titles!
  • 23 games will be launched the same day as the Xbox One release with several games to follow.
  • 63 games announces so far for the Xbox One.
  • EA has closely aligned themselves with the Xbox One.
  • Positioning themselves as a home entertainment console rather than a video game console.

Weaknesses

  • Xbox One team made several mistakes when they announced the Xbox One, tarnishing the name brand.
  • This console is the most expensive on the market.
  • Xbox Live requires a membership fee.

The Xbox One is easily one of the top two consoles in the video game console war, and they haven’t debuted yet! They’ve had strong pre-orders and word of mouth on them is surprising good, all things considered. Some gamers are still hesitant over purchasing them, and for good reason.  It’s not known if these gamers are the minority or majority, though time will tell on that one.

Xbox One’s missteps and praises was already covered by hundreds of news articles and bloggers, so I don’t see any need to go over them. You probably already know them. Rather, let’s look at what could it mean if Xbox One wins the console war. It would mean the triumph of a new business model that pushes the industry further towards the online market. It wouldn’t be the same as what Valve offers, as there’s no indication Xbox Live’s games will be as inexpensive as they are through Steam. It will also be a validation that consoles aren’t for gamers anymore but are more for general entertainment purposes.

sony-playstation-4-xlStrengths

  • 28 games to launch the same day as the PS4.
  • $100 cheaper compared to the Xbox One.
  • 131 games announced for the PS4.
  • 21 exclusive PS4 games.
  • Over a million pre-orders for the PS4!

Weaknesses

  • Outside of cosmetic differences, the hardware isn’t too different from the Xbox One.
  • PSN is no longer free.

I know I’m going to get flak for that weakness. But really, both Xbox One and PS4 have similar motion sensors. Both use controllers that handle almost the same ways. Both of them have similar games. Strictly focusing on the hardware, there’s not too much difference. And yes, I know that the PS4 is far more powerful than the Xbox One. I think we’ve progressed so far with raw power with consoles that it’s far more impressive if systems had something new to offer rather than just raw power.

Business wise, Sony’s blown Microsoft clear out of the water. They have done everything they could to show themselves as gamer friendly. This has been written about over and over again, so I don’t see any need to revisit this either. Rather, what would it mean if the PS4 won this console war? It would mean that marketing towards gamers rather than the general audience is the way to go. It shows respect towards the gaming community. It also means online networks that are free to access is far more preferable to ones that require a membership fee to access.

As for business models, it isn’t clear how much PSN will push online purchases as Sony didn’t make the same disastrous assertions Microsoft made at the debut of the Xbox One. It’s safe to say that the industry will continue moving towards an online model. Just not as rapidly as we would see with Microsoft.

valve_logoStrengths

  • Cheap, quality games.
  • There will be a variety of Steam Machines consoles: differing in cost, hardware specs, and manufacturers.
  • Established brand among PC gamers.
  • Independent video game developer friendly

Weaknesses

  • Not established among console gamers.

I honestly believe Valve will change the face of the console war. More than Amazon.com making their own console. Valve is using a highly unique approach, inviting people to use their Steam OS to play Steam games on the TV as well as using multiple manufacturers to develop Steam Machines.

Can you imagine it? The gamer will have access to a huge library of games, and they have their choice of console! Gamers will have real choices on how much money they want to spend. They have their choice of low and and high end consoles…. and they will be able to select from the same pool of games! As business models go, this is the most customer friendly of them all. And if the Steam Machine wins the console war, it will be this sort of friendly business model that’ll help shape the industry.

On the downside, it doesn’t sound like Valve will attempt to innovate consoles themselves like Nintendo will. But with Valve innovating the business model… I think that’ll be more than enough!

So…..

I know a lot of this is speculation. We all have our favorites. Mine are, in case you couldn’t tell, the Wii U and the Steam Machine. I’m a believer in real innovation. I want to see video game consoles that will push the boundaries of what can be done with video games. I also want to see business models that are profitable and will offer gamers better services than they had in previous generations. I truly believe Nintendo and Valve can do that.

Will they? I don’t know. But I can hope! And if this console war is as competitive as I’m hoping it will be, maybe that competition will force all the companies to develop friendlier business models for their customers as well as truly innovative console additions. Let’s all keep our fingers crossed for that!

But that’s my opinion. What’s yours?

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