Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Console Wars: Part One(?)

Last Thursday, just before the release of Sony's Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii, I was gearing up to prognosticate the "winner". I wrote a few paragraphs, then promptly quit. I was creeping toward genuine analysis, and when I realized going further would require some basic groundrules, or even (*gasp*) a little research, I headed for the exit.

I could not, for the life of me, see the appeal of the new Playstation, and simply assumed this was true across the board. I've always maintained that "realistic" graphics do not make for better games, and that the game industry has, with precious exception, become moribund and unimaginative. Any console focussing on graphics and sound was focussing on bells and whistles, and fated to limited success. Because Nintendo seemed to be pushing its console just outside the envelope, while Microsoft and Sony were keeping their's tucked safely in its folds, I picked Nintendo as the winner.

It's still too early to declare a fast winner, but my instincts re: Sony were a tad off the mark. The first round of PS3s disappeared like so many Tickle Me Elmos, and it's likely to sell in decent numbers until Microsoft releases its next generation of xBox. When I asked my 18-year-old nephew about this consumer response, he acknowledged the craziness of it all. He figured his current PC could be upgraded to PS3 status with less than $300 worth of new hardware, while the PS3 pricetag is nearly $800 before taxes. Still, he had to admit his first instinct was to line up with his buddies and shell out the extra bucks.

That urge is not altogether foreign to me. But when it comes to spending money on digital entertainment, I'll sit out the "wars" and wait for a clear winner -- or, more likely, reluctantly choose a platform that appeals to my current life parameters. I'm too old and too happily married and much too pleased with family life to waste time charting possible trends in the wi-fi world. Based on this, this and this, it's possible Nintendo will score a little more cash from our family budget in the next few years.

Or maybe it's just a matter of which customer line I'd prefer to join (cartoon link from the bro).


Trent Reimer said...

My hat is off to Sony and my plate is full of crow. It appears Sony had the judgement to make sure their limited initial release of the PS3 was indeed VERY limited. So much so that they could artificially create a huge deficit between supply and demand. By severely restricting the number of initial units they were guaranteed to more than "sell out" at product release despite the price tag. I would suggest the rarity of the product has made it something of an enigma. So the rest, as they say, is history; they managed to transform a bad situation into "positive" hysteria.

What will be interesting to watch now is if they can retain enough interest to actually sell an appreciable quantity of the units. i.e. How much of their current user base can they retain since they are losing some ground to both Microsoft and Nintendo? And finally, will the Blu-ray media gamble pay off? (which is responsible for the ridiculous price tag) Will they be able to transform the Playstation brand into the next generation video media lock-in or will this be Betamax Jr.?

I'm afraid my understanding of market forces is much too limited to speculate with any confidence. Anyone with more courage care to make some predictions?

Whisky Prajer said...

What will be interesting to watch now is if they can retain enough interest to actually sell an appreciable quantity of the units - indeed: interesting and crucial. This a.m. I talked to a local tech-guy (connected with Ubi Soft) who thinks Sony and Microsoft's approach is incredibly wrong-headed. Like many others, he's convinced portable tech will have the next (last?) big word on all things tech, including games. We shall see, we shall see...