Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Next Generation Console War

I thought that I’d spend a few minutes to post my thoughts on the next generation console war between Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft.

Microsoft X-Box 360

First of all – What a daft name. Why 360 (apart from the fear that calling it X-Box 2 would potentially give customers the impression that it is a generation behind Playstation 3).

Now, I must first admit that I’m no fan of Microsoft, but even I have to admit that the X-Box did surprisingly well (apart from in Japan). It certainly served its purpose and managed to grab a fair percentage of the gaming market, even if it did lose several million pounds on hardware sales.

On an aesthetic level, the X-Box 360 does look extremely appealing and I’m sure that the fact that you can swap face panels will appeal to many people. It certainly seems like a powerful beast as well, but to me at least, it feels as if it isn’t a significant jump from the X-Box and in reality seems more like an X-Box 1.5 than a significant generation jump. The games also echo this, really only seeming marginally better than current X-Box games.

It’s good to see HD supported, both 720p and 1080i. Also I believe that the X-Box 360 will continue to be the platform of choice for online gaming, following on from the relative success of X-Box Live.

Sony Playstation 3

Well the technical demonstrations at E3 as well as some of the trailers certainly pushed this platform as the “true” next generation. Certainly they were keen to demonstrate that this was a far more powerful machine than the X-Box 360. I’m not entirely convinced that this will be that apparent when playing the games released on the console, but time will tell.

Of the 3 consoles this is by far the ugliest, although it is far from hideous, it lacks the sleekness of the X-Box 360 and Nintendo Revolution. However, this has the potential to be a true multimedia hub, boasting BluRay support, various memory stick inputs and wireless from the box. It’s a shame that Sony have not provided any details of the online structure, as at present it is hard to judge how this will compare against the X-Box 360 and Revolution. The Playstation 3 also supports HD, being capable of outputting 2 1080p – although I seriously doubt that many games will make use of this function.

The launch date for this is Spring 2006. Although it has not been specified whether this was worldwide or not, judging by past Sony consoles, I’d imagine that this would be for Japan only. In order for the Playstation 3 to succeed in Europe and the States, it would really need to launch by Christmas 2006. Giving the X-Box 360 not just 1 but 2 Christmas seasons, could be disastrous.

I’m hoping that the Tokyo Game Show in September may give some actual feedback from the actual games on the console, as at present there is no indication of how these perform.

Nintendo Revolution

I have always been a fan of Nintendo and have owned every single home and handheld console produced by them (with the exception – surprisingly – of the NES).

Of the 3 companies, they have been the vaguest in releasing details and specs, but this is typical of Nintendo, they prefer to let the games do the talking. Unfortunately, at present, there is no footage of anything running on the Revolution to compare. It has been indicated that this will likely be the least powerful console of the next generation, the fact that it has no HD output only emphasises this.

I’m glad that Nintendo have decided to jump on the online bandwagon (about time), as a large proportion of Nintendo games have great potential for online gaming (Mario Kart, Tennis etc). It’s also good to know that the Revolution will be fully backwards compatible with the Gamecube and also past consoles (via downloads).

The real secret with the Nintendo Revolution is the controller. They are yet to reveal this for fear of it being copied by the competition, I just hope that they don’t hold onto this too long, as Nintendo desperately need to distract people from the Playstation 3 and X-Box 360.

I really do think that Nintendo will continue to be a niche console, appealing to Nintendo fans and a younger audience predominantly and not the mass market. However, if they also launch at a low price point, the revolution could become an appealing second console for many, especially if they are able to offer something unique when compare to the Playstation 3 and X-Box 360.

Well there you go… My thoughts and views on the matter.

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