Notice I didn’t mention Wii U? That’s because there is no need to as their strategy to innovate essentially innovated them right out of the market with a strange, radically under-powered console that relied solely on gimmicks to succeed.
At hand are the launches of Xbox One and Playstation 4 and with them two very different strategies. With Xbox we have an emerging all-in-one system that tries to put everyone in the living room first and may, in the end, fail to put anyone first at all. With Playstation you have a system that proclaims to put gamers first but is clocking in as only modestly more powerful than the Xbox and without a large number of quality exclusives this strategy could fail too.
The tech and gaming media are uncertain but equally critical of any move that suggests gaming may take second place to other areas of entertainment.
As a life-long gamer I have a message for the gaming media – putting gamers first in this next generation of consoles could be a sure way of killing the console. With an increasing interest in entertainment technology in the living room a focus on the gaming segment of the market is a focus on a much smaller and increasingly competitive piece of the pie.
New PC technologies such as the Steam platform and forthcoming Steam Box are VERY compelling gaming devices that could cripple a console with a gaming-only focus.
With these things in mind I think the Xbox One strategy is broader and could likely see longer term survival/success as it exploits other market segments should gaming be as competitive as I think it will be.
Some wildcards that could play out include the possibility of Nintendo exclusively unlocking a couple of its super franchises like Mario and Zelda and striking exclusive arrangements with Playstation or Xbox. Given that Sony is a much larger competitor to Nintendo in Japan and the handheld gaming market it would make sense for them to partner with Microsoft in this area.
Another possible partnership would be for either Playstation or Microsoft to give up on their proprietary gaming content delivery system and adopt the Steam platform…unfortunately this seems like a fairly far-fetched option at this point with both Sony and Microsoft clearly having invested a lot in online infrastructure for the next gen.
Price is going to be a significant factor in choice (at least for me) in this next gen…as much as I appreciate the bells and whistles of Microsoft’s next offering if all things are equal it will come down to game offers and price for me.
I want something in the $400 range. Anything significantly higher could see me investigating the Steam Box as an option. If there is too much disparity between the two in terms of price my allegiance to Microsoft could crack. Both consoles have some expensive tech in them – Microsoft has decided to bundle Kinect while Sony has opted to incorporate GDDR5 memory – both costly inclusions that could drive the price of the console too high. Here’s hoping they remember that consoles should be loss leaders to drive an install base for the sale of games and other high margin content.
So what am I saying? At this point I am leaning toward Microsoft but not as heavily as I have in the past. The gaming market is at a very interesting point right now and substantial portions of Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft’s install base could feasibly shift in another direction and they could do it quickly with little warning.