Baseball, philosophy, video games, snarky anti-Bush rants, and all other various and sundry topics. Not necessarily in that order.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dispatches from the frontline of the "console war"

There's almost nothing gamer fanboys love more than railing against the video game system they did not choose to buy and jingoistically defending their choice of purchase. Generally, these people are idiots.

I, on the other hand, am not an idiot, nor am I a fanboy. I happen to own an Xbox360 and a PS3. I purchased the 360 because I had several original Xbox games I wanted to finish, and I recently purchased a PS3 because I wanted a Blu-Ray player for my super-spectacular HDTV. I have not purchased a Wii because I already own a Gamecube and don't really see a lot of games begging for me to play them just now (and, given the console's apparent popularity, I wouldn't be able to find one if I tried.) I have, however, played it at friends' homes and my sister owns one, so I am not inexperienced in all things Wii.

So here's my take on the current "console war."

First off, I don't see why a "war" is necessary. The video game market is expanding, as are the incomes of the generational cohort (mine) that grew up with video games as a primary means of entertainment. Many of us own 2 or more of the choices out there. And even if we didn't all own multiple systems, there are enough consumers around the world to purchase, say, 30-50 million of each brand. While that is far short of the PS2's 115-million worldwide sales mark, it seems like more than enough to build a profitable hardware and software sales business (As of right now, the 360 has sold 10 million since 11/22/05, the Wii 9 million since 11/19/06, and the PS3 about 4 million since 11/11/06).

My predictions for console sales when all is said and done are: Xbox360-40 million; Wii-50 million; PS3-60 million. Here are my reasons:

-As far as the Xbox goes, I'd imagine a lifespan of 4-5 years from today for the console. I don't think sales will spike at any given time, outside of periodic price drops. Microsoft's recent woes with warranty issues will slow sales over the next year until they finally come clean with a good explanation for their high failure rates. They do, however, have strong software support and a well developed online content delivery system. Sales should steady and stay even throughout the projected life of the system.

-The Wii will probably last a bit longer on the market, maybe 5-6 years. I think Nintendo is banking on their formidable software library from 1980-present and their "Virtual Console" store. They don't seem as interested in driving hardware improvement, given their lack of HDTV support and next-gen DVD capability. On the other hand, if Nintendo captures the "casual" market as they did with their GBA and DS businesses, they could move 75-100 million Wiis. I doubt it though - I just don't see a rash of compelling software which can ONLY be done on the Wii sustaining itself for 5 years. I see sales topping out after the initial buzz/fad stage wears off this Christmas, and going on a slow, steady burn from there on forward.

- Sony is in it for the long haul with the PS3, I think, and this is why, though sales will not eclipse the yearly marks of the other consoles for a year or two, they will likely tally the most when all is said and done. They have stated a 10-year lifespan for the console - quite a bit, compared to past systems (although the NES and PS2 come close.) Sony has the resources and the brand name power to do it - especially if they get hardware down to $300, push Blu-Ray to a competitive level (i.e. Blu-Ray discs which cost the same as Standard DVD), and have a big glut of quality gaming content. I think the chances of at least 2 of these 3 are quite good, and so, despite an initial slow sales build, Sony will start pumping consoles out into the market and get software into the hands of their users.

All told, I do not think there will be a PS2 of this generation (i.e. a console which doubles the competitions' sales combined). And frankly, I think this can be a good thing for the consumer. When you have three systems with competitive install bases, manufacturers will try their darnedest to create and add value to their product in order to lure consumers. Price drops, pack ins, upgrades, etc. A consumer who buys one console will not have to worry that their system will dwindle and die with a whimper (Such as the wonderful Dreamcast, and even Gamecube arguably). Third party developers may put out fewer games total, but they will be distributed more evenly, and, given the smaller numbers and the online demo capability f all three systems, they will probably be of higher quality in general.

So let's declare a cease fire in the console war. The New World Order of the seventh console generation looks pretty nice to these eyes.


Anonymous Ketara said...

Good words.

6:04 PM

Blogger wrightak said...

Two years after your post, the Wii has already hit 50 million:

6:06 PM


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