Next-Gen Fears - Part 3: The Conclusion
But to conclude this three part article, here's my final take on each system:
XBox 360 - Things are looking good for the 360. Gamers seem to be turning against Sony for (what they believe to be) copying the ideas of everyone else and for creating such a ridiculous price point for the PS3. It has to mean something that I, a self-admitted Microsoft hater, have been tempted to buy a 360 right now despite the fact that the system has no games I really care about. That's how affected I am by the price of the PS3. So if I need a platform to play stunningly beautiful games, the XBox 360 is the best choice by far price-wise.
And it's available now. And everything that it already does, it does really well. With the PS3 shrouded in so many unknowns and potential empty promises, it almost feels better to just go with what is tangible and known. The smartest move Mirosoft made was to release the console a year earlier than their competitors. Already, it feels like the norm. With all the strange and unknown gaming systems arriving in the future, the 360 feels like the safe, basic choice for gamers. I firmly expect the 360, at least in the American market, to cut sharply into Sony's market share this next generation. In fact, I wouldn't be shocked if Microsoft overtakes Sony.
PlayStation 3 - I am almost insulted by the price point. I don't want to buy the PlayStation 3 out of principle more than any strain it'll put on me financially. I don't care how you shake it, justify it, or spin it: $600 is ridiculous. I can buy a pretty decent PC from Dell with a flat screen monitor for that much. The advantage consoles had over PCs was that they were a more affordable and reasonable gaming option. Sony has just about destroyed that argument.
Game-makers can't even consider making PlayStation 3 exclusive games a good option any more. They just can't because not everyone will be able to play their games and their sales numbers are going to be drastically lower in the next-generation. I can't see it playing out any other way. Right now, everyone plays video games -- from the rich gamers who buy every system to the gamers who manage to play games by renting them from the local video store. But at $600, low income families won't buy this thing, are you kidding me? Even middle income families won't want to buy it. Who wants a Blu-Ray player / Game Console combo when you don't even own a TV that can output in HD? How does a family justify such a purchase? And the college gamers have to be the core audience for video games. But they aren't gonna be buying this thing. College students are famous for being poor. I mean, if they buy the PS3, they'd better eat ramen and McDonald's for the rest of the year. And given the fact that I personally have bought three PS2's in my life (my first one broke and my second one started to act wonky), I am fearful of buying the PS3 because I don't know if I can trust it to last! If that thing breaks, I will not even remotely consider buying a replacement. Sony had better offer up some phat warranties on these suckers.
Sony had a choice. They could make a gaming system. Or they could try to promote their own proprietary Blu-Ray format. And because of that hidden agenda, they chose the second route. As a result, I honestly think they will come out the losers of this next generation and lose a huge share of the market. The only thing that can carry them through is copying Nintendo's old strategy: reliable franchises. If these franchises, which everyone knows and loves already, can be as impressive as possible, perhaps they can convince people to buy this machine. If these games, however, do not help sell the console well and experience dismal sales, I expect to get ports of Metal Gear Solid 4, Final Fantasy XIII, and Devil May Cry 4 on the XBox 360.
Wii - Nintendo is going for something different. And because everyone is eager for something different, because the DS has maybe tricked us into believing that different is good, and because this will be the only option for casual gamers who don't have a huge budget for games, I think the Wii is going to be a resounding success... at its launch. The console will sell like hotcakes at first, but I question its longevity more than its initial performance. No matter what Nintendo says, the Wii is a gimmick. And, as with all gimmicks, the success of such a thing is unpredictable. Some great gimmicks fail, and some stupid gimmicks succeed. It's just too unpredictable. I mean, if you ever told anyone that you could get away with selling rocks to people, they'd say you were crazy.
A gimmick is a gimmick. And Nintendo's attempted rise back to the top is going to fall squarely on how well the gimmick is received and how well it is pulled off. Admittedly with the DS, they hit pay dirt. But the Wii and the Wii-mote are challenging the way we play games and challenging the concept of gaming being a relaxing pastime. I simply can't predict how people are gonna react to this. I do believe, though, that the Wii will be some people's primary console and many people's secondary console. If that happens, Nintendo could be poised for a big resurrection due to the quantity of console sales.
And so the stage is set. This is how I view it: right now, the PlayStation 2 is your current girlfriend. You've known her for years and like a lot of things about her. But your girlfriend, while extremely attractive, has just turned very high-maintenance. She's started becoming very demanding and you'd better be willing to spend a lot of money to keep her around. But then there is this other girl who is also very attractive and is showing some interest in you. And she's not as high-maintenance. But... you really don't know what kind of games this other girl is gonna play. The one you are currently with... well, you know her already. You can expect what sorts of games she'll play and you kinda like those games. Do you take the risk and lose the familiarity? And then there is this third girl. While not as attractive, she's kooky and her personality shines through. She's fun and very different and unlike any girl you've ever been with. And not high-maintenance at all! There's something very refreshing about her attitude.
So... who do you choose?