Well then. This is an interesting question.
The starting of the next generation of home video game consoles has just launched (in North America anyways), so now with the Wii U taking it’s first steps, what do you want or expect the future of gameing to be?
Personally, I don’t think that the Wii U is really “revolutionary.” It certainly does lend itself as evidence of the progression in the video game console industry, but I don’t think there’s anything particularly important about it in that it’s so special that it is “revolutionary.” It supports high-definition graphics, which is good, and something that I think Nintendo should have gotten to a long time ago. Unfortunately for Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft have both had high-definition capability in their consoles for a while. So, in that respect, I don’t think Nintendo has moved ahead in universal standards so much as they have arrived. The GamePad seems a little bit like a novelty, and reminds me of typical handheld gaming devices. It’s also got the Pro Controller, which features a much more traditional design. It feels too much unlike what Nintendo had led its consumers to expect with the Wii though, so I’m not sure how to feel about that. I was never involved really with my Wii, though, so take that as you will.
Sony and Microsoft should arrive to the party around 2013, and I’m quite looking forward to seeing what they have to release. There are plenty of rumors floating around about the Xbox 720 and the PlayStation 4, more than enough to keep things interesting while we wait. The downside, of course, is that there are too many stories making their way across the Internet to be able to tell, or make an intelligent guess as to, which things to believe and which ones to ignore, so I’m currently in the camp of “nothing is true until announced as true.” So I can’t give much in the way of those two consoles in terms of factuality, but I can give my best guesses:
I saw on IGN that the Xbox 720 would also be releasing two versions, just like the Wii U did. But the two versions will be different. One is supposed to be more or less what one would expect from Microsoft’s Xbox line of consoles, while the other one is for the more casual market, and is projected to be more affordable. In addition, the second one is supposedly not going to be able to “play the latest titles.” But it will have Xbox Live capability, of course.
Of course, keep in mind that there has been no official announcement about the Xbox 720. I don’t like to believe third-party sources unless they have a history of credibility and their reasoning makes sense to me. IGN has never been really off the base before, at least as far as I know. But their two-console-release plan seems a little bit radical to me, considering that they don’t know how successful the Wii U will be in the long run, assuming they want to conform to standards now set by Nintendo. Consumers base their product choices on those of other humans; the same is true for a very large amount of things. So let’s say that the Wii U doesn’t do well in the long run. Microsoft wouldn’t be able to expect the long-term profitability that the Xbox 360 has managed to provide them over the years, possibly because of the brand (I think that Nintendo’s Wii appeals more to the general public than Microsoft’s Xbox 360 does), but because of the idea. Nintendo’s idea was original enough, I think. If that product does poorly, it could be because it was made poorly, or it could be because the idea was bad. I don’t think that this will be the case, though. I was never really impressed with the Wii to begin with, but knowing Nintendo, they have creative ideas (most of the time), and their products are generally well-made, knowing to whom they are supposed to appeal.
Does the name “Nintendo” sound better to the consumer body than “Microsoft”? Could be. Nintendo does have a prominent reputation in the video game industry, after all, and they’re veterans in comparison to their competitors. Don’t disregard this argument, for people will do something if they like the idea of what they’re doing, or see something as a benefit. In fact, they’ll do something if they approve of any part of it, leading back to what I said I like to analyze in my introductory posts: things exactly like that. In other words, people trust the brand they’re buying. Do you only buy one brand of milk or bread or whatever, because you trust that brand or have heard good things about it? In the video game industry, that’s both oftentimes the case and quite important to sales, much more important than I would have thought it to be.
All in all, I’m willing to trust IGN to a certain extent about what they say about the Xbox 720. I haven’t been following the PS4 rumors as much recently, because there is a dizzying amount of noise circling the video game consumer body involving the PS4. Keep in mind that we don’t have much to go on regarding the 720 either, so I couldn’t have less of a clue that it might be similar to the Wii U. They could be planning to break new mold and start an entirely new market; a business choice that is always risky, but can be very rewarding. I think if they choose to go the path of the Wii U, it would be plausible for the PS4 to do the same or something similar, because being the black sheep in the video game industry has a history of not working out.
Let’s say that the PS4 decides to do something totally different. All things considered, I think that the PS3 is a fine system. Sony has high standards to live up to with their new release, and the heat surrounding the new generation of consoles only adds pressure. I don’t think any of the three are going away anytime soon, but as we (hopefully) advance further down the road in the industry, it can’t be expected for everybody to keep with the curve. More often than not, that does not happen.
I think that Sony will try something new with the PS4. They sort of have to. The PS3 has made them a good amount of money, but they’re quite behind the 360 (or, they were, the last time I checked) in sales terms. It won’t help them to see their competitors marketing their products as being “all new” or the like, while they have a more hollow advertising campaign to run on. Once a few websites report about that kind of thing (it’s bound to happen), the PS4 becomes viewed as obsolete in the eyes of the Internet.
Just like with music, television, film and a wide variety of things, the Internet plays a massive role in shaping the mainstream outlook on video game consoles and releases. Bad press from the Internet means bad mainstream press for Sony. So they’re pressured to come up with something good, and they realize that. This is why I think they might take their chances with something new.
Now, Sony isn’t AS big a name in video games as Nintendo or Microsoft in the modern era (by “modern”, I mean from the release of the current console generation to the present day). So they don’t have that massive reputation to fall back on. Actually, I revise that statement. They do have quite the reputation to fall back on, but not enough name recognition for people to care. If Nintendo makes a shit console, it doesn’t matter as much because people know Nintendo well enough to like them anyway, and it will still sell. This isn’t the case with Sony. That’s sort of a flawed argument, because I haven’t done my research on sales and development, so do not quote me on that.
In terms of upcoming releases, I think that things will continue to trend the way they have been going. Successful franchises will continue making games like they do now, because it’s what sells. A few developers will be willing to try new things, some games will sell and get good reviews, some will get bad reviews and not sell as well. I have no credibility to get into specifics about that.
In consoles, I think that the companies will progress forward (maybe some more than others), and that sales will likely not spike drastically when the new consoles are released. I think that the companies will experience around the same sales, just with an updated generation of consoles, because how different can you get?
This is probably not going to be my final word on the subject. I need to look into sales and development of past generations and games so that I can revise any incorrect assessments I may have made.