So we’re beginning to enter an age again where the next generation of consoles are starting to be talked about. Wii2/Project Cafe is already being talked about being revealed by Nintendo at E3. 3Ds is already out with the NGP/PSP2 right on its heels. Also, OnLive, a completely new console, hit the market recently. This brought on a very interesting topic in my mind. What does it take to be competitive in the console market? First, a little history lesson…
I can begin to think WAY back to the Atari and Intellevision. These two consoles had it out for each other for a long time. Then the new comer, Nintendo, came on the scene offering 8-bit graphics, full music, and definable atmospheres. Then what happens? Sega happens, with their Master System to compete in the 8-bit market. Nintendo ultimately came out on top, but Sega had enough flavor on the market to pique people’s interest.
Now the 16-bit market hits. Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis hit the markets hard with strong advertising and boasting things such as “Blast Processing” and “Mode 7 graphics”. Sega’s campaign of “Sega Does what Ninten-don’t.” was extremely popular. It was Mario vs. Sonic for years! Super Nintendo ultimately came out on top and remained popular even through the 32-bit era.
The 32-bit era is where it began to get interesting. Newcomer, Sony, reveals they are going to release a system known as the Playstation. Meanwhile Sega nearly released its, unfortunately failed, Sega Saturn system at the same time. Playstation had offered something new to the market that hadn’t been seen before. A fully interactive disc based system that had a line-up of games that gamers had been waiting for, for years. The Saturn’s ultimate demise was Sega’s inability to adapt to its market. They tried to keep the Genesis alive by offering upgrades such as the SegaCD and 32X. As James Rolfe once said, they tried to keep the Genesis alive so long with peripherals that it was basically on life support and just made the Saturn effort look too late. People just wanted something new…even me. Not to mention on top of this 32-bit war, Nintendo had released its N64, which boasted 64 bits on a faster loading cartridge. People loved it and it was competing on the same level as its 32-bit competition.
Next in line was the PS2, Dreamcast, GameCube and the next newcomer Microsoft with its Xbox. At this point, the market was looking saturated. The war was on and someone had to die. People had dug the Playstation from the get-go. The pricing was marked high but Playstation offered very versatile use of their system boasting a function DVD player. Xbox offered a whole new experience for the hardcore gamer, offering many exclusives only to their system, including the game that re-revolutionized First Person Shooters on the console, Halo. Also it later boasted broadband connectivity to its new Xbox Live service. Today, people would come back and argue that the Dreamcast was ahead of its time. It even offered a modem connectivity option allowing you to play online with your friends before anyone else. I believe this is the same fate the 3DO and New Geo consoles felt during the 16-bit era. They were way ahead of their time and the price wasn’t right for the competition. Game Cube remained extremely competitive with its strong and dedicated fan base. In the end, Sega tapped out and made a very profitable move on their part. Sega now develops games for what was once their competition.
And here we are now. The market has trimmed its fat and the strong have survived. We now have PS3, Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Wii. I believe the majority of our current gaming world understands the competition as it stands now, so I will keep this short. Xbox 360 remained with its loyal and dedicated fans. With its paid online Xbox Live service, it remained strong with people and knew it had a way to remain dedicated to its fans. PS3 offered full 1080p High Definition with its successful Blu-Ray drive. At the time it also offered full customization, allowing you to even install a separate operating system. It was later taken away though do to the reasons most people were using it for, emulation and pirating. Its online access remains free, but later allowed a premium subscription called PSN+ which offers free and discounted content to its users, as well exclusives to Beta’s and full demos. The Wii came from left field and offered a completely new gaming experience through motion controllers and a low price point. It remained popular with kids and adults looking for a way to become a little more active for a gamer lifestyle.
Now that we’ve had a brief history of the console wars, what would it take for another company to break into the gaming market? There have been false rumors of a Dreamcast 2 floating around for about a year now. Keith Apicary has been on a personal mission trying to discover if it true or not. The OnLive service is allowing its users to play PC based games right on their televisions through a high speed connection. Also recently announced was a new console in China that will just be exclusive to them. These are all fine, but they are not true competitors in my mind. Let’s put it this way, if Sega has been developing a console on the side, what would it need to offer to compete against Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Nintendo is already saying their new console is more powerful than any console on the market right now, including PS3. The competition is fierce and the rumors are strong. I don’t have any huge opinions on what the next console may be, but I know they will all come in with fists flying. Unreal has shown a recent graphics demo showing some very impressive motion and textures, all rumored to be ACTUAL game play, and if that is the direction we are headed, I am all for it. What are your thoughts? What do you think the next console should be like? Comment below and let’s get this conversation rolling!
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