Console Wars Part I

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Console WarsOK, E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) just got finished about a week and a half ago.  I have since been glued to sites such as GameSpot, GameSpy, and IGN.  The reason? Console Wars.  The seventh generation of video game consoles is shaping up to be a heated battle between current market leader Sony, relative newcomer Microsoft, and the old veteran Nintendo.  Apparently, the old dog has some life in it yet, as Nintendo was the clear consensus victor of the E3 2006 battle.  I will endeavor to break down the war as it stands right now.

Sony and Microsoft, with the PS3 and Xbox360 respectively have taken the show "Pimp my Ride" to heart, especially Sony.  These two systems are loaded with super powered processors (IBM is the clear winner here being the maker of both chips) that are more powerful than many PC's on the market.  When you compare the systems they are pretty much the same, with PS3 being just a little more powerful in every category.  I don't know whether that will add up to much, but there it is.  The problem?  Sony has priced the PS3 at $499 for the toned down version and $599 for the better one.  And since getting the $499 one means 40GB less hard drive space plus no wireless internet connection and no HMDI output that pretty much means $599 if you want to get the most out of the PS3 (especially since it may become necessary to have HMDI in order to view Blu-Ray movies at their best).  Sony is trying to pull an electronics coup by including Blu-Ray drives in their system.  Since Sony owns Blu-Ray, if it takes off as the next storage medium Sony will make an incomprehensible amount of money and will probably take over the world.  By force feeding us Blu-Ray Sony can guarantee that a large number of Blu-Ray players are out there.  I don't know how many it would take to be successful, but I am guessing if even half of the number of PS3's get sold as PS2's were then they would be in great shape.  Maybe it would take even less.  (As an aside it would appear at this moment that Blu-Ray is the favorite to win the storage wars, but that is another article).

I actually like Microsoft's approach, they have made a console that is a little less powerful, got it out to the market a year before the competition and did not make the price too high.  Now, the reason they have a lower price is because they do not have an HD-DVD drive included in the system like PS3 does with Blu-Ray.  I expect that when the peripheral drive comes out later this year it will push the price of buying a 360 and the drive to close to what the PS3 is.  They were wise to give the consumers a choice in the matter though, and I think it will pay off dividends for them in the long run.  They will definitely pick up more of the market this time around, the question is how much.

Ultimately, this war will be decided by the games, who has what exclusive killer app for their system, which series will defect and join the other side.  We have already seen some signs of this.  One of the biggest announcements at E3 was that GTA4 would be released on both PS3 and 360 simultaneously.  While San Andreas, the latest game of the series was released for both PS2 and Xbox, PS2 received months in advance.  I don't know how big of a deal this is actually going to be.  The analysts seemed to think it was a big blow to Sony.  Apparently they think that a bunch of people would go buy PS3 just to get GTA4 a couple months ahead of time. I'm not sure I buy into that thinking, but we'll see.  At first I thought that 360 had a better line up of games at E3, but I am not so sure now.  It turns out that Bioshock, the consensus best game of the show and spiritual secret to the classic System Shock 2, is not exclusive to 360 and PC as I had thought, but will in fact be on PS3 as well.  Gears of War (360) is impressive, but I don't think any more so than Assassin's Creed (PS3).  Obviously, 360 will have more a lot more games than PS3 when it comes out, but that is to be expected considering the head start it got.  So here we have Gears of War, Halo 3, ES4: Oblivion, and some other not so big titles vs. Metal Gear Solid 4, FF13, Assassin's Creed, and some others.  I think I'll call that a wash for now.

In the next installment, I'll look at the Wii and then tell you what I'm planning to do for my next gen console.

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10 Responses to “Console Wars Part I”

  1. Jason Says:

    First comment! It’s exciting to be posting here at the Team Lift blog. Kevin’s analysis is spot on. I will comment on one point. I believe that history suggests that releasing the first console in a generation can be a detriment. The advantage of additional development time can make a significant difference in the available hardware. Look at Dreamcast, or the comparisons that were made between SNES and Sega. Certianly not a hard and fast rule, but as someone who craves power, the relase order is a factor in Sony’s favor for me.

  2. Maverick Says:

    I agree that there are certain parallels between Dreamcast and 360. But the buzz seems a little different this time. Maybe its because PS3’s price is so high. My main problem is that Sony delayed the system because of Blu-Ray. Though their reasons are clear for doing so (Money), they may have inadvertantly allowed an opening for Microsoft to make a dent in the marketshare because they have tried to force feed us Blu-Ray.

  3. PatDay Says:

    Raw power has not won a single console war. If the only thing people cared about when buying a video game system were specs, then the original XBox would have won last generation.

    In the end in comes down to games. People want to have fun and whichever system has the most fun games will win. Is the PS3 going to have more fun games than the 360 or Wii? It looks to me a lot of “exclusive” titles are going to be multi-platform. If the only difference is console price, the PS3 is at a disadvantage even with Blu-Ray technology.

  4. Jason Says:

    I don’t know about that. The blu-ray capability with PS3 will allow consumers to add a blu-ray player to their home setup in addition to a gaming system. Assuming that the interface for playing movies on PS3 is well done, this combo factor could easily offset the price difference for many buyers. Granted, the cost might deter some, but it also might make the decision for others seeking to minimize their component count, especially when so many of the “exclusive” titles will be available on many platforms anyway.

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