Thoughts on the future of Xbox One, PS4, Wii U after E3

Bill Loguidice's picture

Sony PS4Sony PS4Before the year is out, we'll have the choice of the latest console systems from the three big manufacturers, with three very different value propositions. I'll briefly break each of the three down, one-by-one, then I'd like to continue the discussion in the comments.

First up, there's the Wii U, relying mostly on the same type of technology found in the current generation's Xbox 360 and PS3 consoles, with its primary hook being its tablet controller that allows for touchscreen interactions and off-TV play, priced between $300 - $350. There's a good chance, despite Nintendo's insistence that they won't or can't, that this will drop in price just before the launch of Microsoft's and Sony's new consoles. I base this on the jockeying Nintendo already seems to be doing, for instance with eliminating the $300 BASIC version of their system in favor of the DELUXE (and no doubt different future bundles). The negatives for the Wii U are that, for various reasons, third party support has already dried up, and there's no evidence that their tablet controller hook has resonated (or will) with the public. There's always a chance for things to change, but right now, I don't see how Nintendo recovers a dominant console position, particularly since there's really nothing that reeks of "next gen" in their forthcoming software line-up. Certainly with their first party software they'll continue to appeal to the Nintendo faithful, and that should be enough to help the platform stick it out for the next few years. Beyond that, it's impossible to speculate, particularly since we don't know how Microsoft and Sony will ultimately fare (it could just be the new norm, in light of smartphone, tablet, and PC competition to have a tough time with traditional consoles and gaming handhelds).

Next up is the Xbox One. Partially due to Microsoft's bungling of the message, partially due to overreaction, and partially due to just-the-right-amount of reaction, the Xbox One has proven controversial. Depending on who you talk to, the controversy stems from the Xbox One's always-on feature that allows it to interact with your cable/satellite subscription and do its other activities on-demand, the new Kinect's requirement and that too always being ready for your commands, and Microsoft's DRM policies, which requires the console to check in every 24 hours. The counter-argument is that DRM aside, the connected, always on nature of the Xbox One offers some intriguing possibilities for its functionality. It's also debatable how "angry" anyone should be about the DRM, since it's simply carrying over the same model we use on our smartphones and tablets, and on the PC with services like Steam, but the fact is, people genuinely are angry, no way around it. Whether that anger translates over to the average consumer, who could very well eat up the enhanced television and Kinect interaction, remains to be seen. Certainly Microsoft made a good showing of its next gen gaming line-up, which also made me rather more disappointed in the Wii U given that perspective. I just haven't got the same sense of next level gameplay from Nintendo's platform as of yet, even though it's been on the market for quite a while now. I'm not sure if we ever will. Finally, there's the price, $499, which is rather higher than both the Wii U and PS4, but is not entirely unjustified considered the bundling of the next gen Kinect - which is integral to the experience - and its pass-through features. We'll see if Microsoft's gamble pays off, but right now, there does seem to be a lot of anger out there, which was mitigated somewhat by the announcement of the games.

Finally, there's the PS4, who looks like the big public opinion winner to this point. It won't interact with your TV, and there's no bundled Kinect-like camera (and it's debatable whether the optional next gen camera will be able to offer anything remotely approaching a Kinect-like experience). It also won't place any restrictions or limitations on the sale of used games, like on the Xbox One, which appears to be a big plus according to the most vocal gamers out there. In theory, it should have just a bit more core power than the Xbox One, though both platforms will be enhanced by leveraging Cloud processing, and all things considered, it will likely be a wash in that area. Like the Xbox One, the PS4 is clearly showing next gen experiences, which is again, a knock against Nintendo's core technology in the Wii U. Also like the Xbox One and unlike the Wii U, it's clear that third party support won't be an issue. The kicker - and the factor that I think most endeared the PS4 to gamers to this point - is the fact that it's coming in at $100 less than the Xbox One. While I think the difference in price is justified considering what's in the respective retail packages, $100 cheaper is still $100 cheaper, particularly if those extra Xbox One features don't come across properly to the average consumer.

So, here are my thoughts on how things will go after the Xbox One and PS4 launch. The Wii U will continue to struggle and I consider it (and have considered it so since it failed to catch on even in its home country) a failed experiment, but, as long as Nintendo is able to stop losing money on the manufacture of each console at some point soon, and has a reasonable stream of first party titles at some point, it will able to stick around in its niche thanks to the Nintendo faithful. The Xbox One will have to get across its value proposition to reach out to the wider public that it's clearly going after. If it can do that, the console, in combination with its cable/satellite integration and ubiquitous next gen Kinect functionality, is well positioned for the long-term. Getting that initial traction is going to be the challenge, though. Sony's PS4 appears to have all the momentum going in, with a compelling platform, a reasonable price point, and strong buzz. The launch will be Sony's to screw up, their proverbial ball to drop. If they don't mess it up, they can stay on cruise control as the clear number one favorite indefinitely, particularly since the Xbox One will have no chance of selling well in Japan, where no US console has ever had a good showing.

As with the Wii U last holiday, this holiday will not necessarily be a good indicator of how either the Xbox One or PS4 will do. Both will likely sell out. It's what happens from roughly January 2014 on that will give us better insight into their future, and the future of consoles in general.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off below in the comments. It's on!

Comments

Chris
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I think you've forgotten some

I think you've forgotten some of the negatives of Microsoft's system.

They're pulling support for Indie developers. Both through discontinuing support of XNA and not allowing indies in their store without a publisher. PS4 is welcoming them with open arms.

My connection is fine, how is Microsoft's? It seems like a silly question to ask, but SimCity showed us that the corps can screw this up. If I have a brick sitting on my cabinet for days because they can't get their server to work? It's a hypothetical, but one worth considering.

They recently patented software that will count people in the room and charge you per viewer: http://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2012-11/kinect-watching-you-watch-... . Just let that sink in for a bit. No seriously, don't skip to the next point yet. Just understand that you'd be giving money to people who want to do that.

DRM compared to smartphones and steam. I could be wrong, but I can put my smart phone apps on up to 5 devices. Most music is now sold in MP3 form, so that's lost the DRM battle, and even if we want to argue that model, we're talking about purchases in the 99 cents range. It's a whole nother argument at $50, $60 dollars.

As for Steam, there is an offline mode, a way to copy and move your stuff around, and if you don't like that model, you can purchase it in another way like GoG, or just get the disk. These are all available for the same platform. If Microsoft wanted to offer a store that sold DRM loaded software at a cheaper price, or other markets could open there, you'd have a fair comparison.

I'm not normally a Microsoft hater, but they tagged so many negatives on this XBox that it's hard to see why you'd want one past exclusive games. And with them making it hard on indies, I'd expect the PS4 to have a bigger exclusive market just because they can't afford to go to the XBox. It'll be interesting, but this one is going to hurt Microsoft. A lot.

Bill Loguidice
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That patent

Chris wrote:

They recently patented software that will count people in the room and charge you per viewer: http://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2012-11/kinect-watching-you-watch-... . Just let that sink in for a bit. No seriously, don't skip to the next point yet. Just understand that you'd be giving money to people who want to do that.

We've discussed this elsewhere on the site. A patent and actual application are two different things. There are way too many technical issues and logistical hurdles to work out for that to be implemented this generation. That's one of those issues that people like to focus on that have no bearing on anything.

As for your other points, the DRM is comparable, not 1:1. While most smartphone/tablet ecosystems limit the number of devices, there are no practical limits on the Xbox One, a la Steam. As long as you can log into any console, you have access to your stuff. Again, there are some pluses mixed in with the minuses. I also have a hard time believing the connection thing is going to be a major issue, but it certainly can be.

The indie stuff will remain to be seen. Certainly, with a Windows 8 core, there could be an easy path for indies that way. E3 is not really the place for the indie love, it's not where you get the most mileage out of it. Considering Microsoft's support for the Indie scene on their other platforms, I'd be shocked if their stance was one of indifference. Hold onto that thought for possible future announcements.

By the way, it looks like the PS4 is supposed to be region-free. That's another cool plus for the PS4.

One last point, both Xbox One and PS4 are HDMI only. I find that awesome, but I'm sure a few people will complain about that as well.

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Chris
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Bill Loguidice wrote:We've

Bill Loguidice wrote:
We've discussed this elsewhere on the site. A patent and actual application are two different things. There are way too many technical issues and logistical hurdles to work out for that to be implemented this generation.

Going to have to agree to disagree here. I'd like to buy a 5 person license to watch Star Wars seems pretty doable. Especially with the upgrade in tech of the Kinect.

Bill Loguidice wrote:
That's one of those issues that people like to focus on that have no bearing on anything.

Yeah... going to go ahead and disagree there too. Even if you're right that they can't do it 'yet'. This is an indication of this companies view on how the product it delivers should be controlled. They are taking steps forward with the always on, with a camera and mic that work even when the system is "off". It's a company philosophy that we should probably try to avoid supporting.

Bill Loguidice
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Ugh, what a thing for us to discuss

Chris wrote:

Yeah... going to go ahead and disagree there too. Even if you're right that they can't do it 'yet'. This is an indication of this companies view on how the product it delivers should be controlled. They are taking steps forward with the always on, with a camera and mic that work even when the system is "off". It's a company philosophy that we should probably try to avoid supporting.

Look, I'm not going to rehash the discussion that we've already had on this, but companies patent anything and everything they think they can, whether they will implement it or not, or whether they think a competitor will implement it or not. Every company. Until our system changes, it's about building a patent portfolio that covers as many scenarios as possible. While it does seem like a logical extension of Kinect's capabilities, sometimes we have to look at a patent for what it is. We can agree to disagree, of course, but it's easy to extrapolate how this is one of those non-implementation patents. It's certainly not reflective of a company philosophy, either, it's just their job. You have an idea, you think someone else might have an idea, you patent it first. Plain and simple. History shows this. It's fine to bash Microsoft or any other companies for bone-headed decisions, but a patent filing such as this is the furthest thing worthy of discussion or debate.

By the way, again, misinformation about Kinect. It's always listening for two words to activate it, and that's it. It's not looking at anything. That listening for the two words can be turned off. It's that simple. False gross invasion of our privacy for the new Kinect solved.

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Chris
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Then don't?

Bill Loguidice wrote:
Every company. Until our system changes, it's about building a patent portfolio that covers as many scenarios as possible.

Now finish the sentence. Let me help you out... "And using those scenerios to make money." That they've done that means they're going to try and figure out a way to make money on it. I don't fault them for it. I just don't want to help them with it. They're putting the tech in place to do it. It's not out of line for the customers to say "We'd rather you didn't." Because that will ultimately be the difference between whether you're right or not and whether it will ever see the light of day.

And it's not like this is a narrative being woven completely from my imagination. All their other DRM and windows store stuff, both on this and Win 8 RT, is showing a company tightening it's grasp on control of what is considered 'owned'. Normally I'd say "all the companies are" but Sony has definitely taken a different tact in this war.

If you don't want to discuss it, no one is making you. I think it's important enough to say "these are the same guys who are looking for an angle to profit on this." We don't have to share the value of that thought.

Bill Loguidice wrote:
By the way, again, misinformation about Kinect. It's always listening for two words to activate it, and that's it. It's not looking at anything. That listening for the two words can be turned off. It's that simple. False gross invasion of our privacy for the new Kinect solved.

There is a machine, that requires a camera hooked up to it, that can't be taken off line, or completely turned off without unplugging it, but don't worry. No one is using the camera. Trust us.

Seriously?

This isn't a matter of "Do I think Microsoft is recording my conversations?" I don't think they care that much. There's probably some meta data about consumers they could get through it, but mostly not worth the work. They get just as good info elsewhere.

But I think it will be about 2 months before somebody figures out a way to go through a neighbor's wifi connection and look through the camera.

I think about the 'rent to own' company that was using the laptops they rented to record through the camera and send it back to the owner.

I think, in light of recent news, the NSA is already writing up orders to require them to be able to listen into certain houses. And what makes me maddest about that is I'm generally the guy who laughs at conspiracy theorists. 6 months ago I probably would have agreed with you, but because of what's been coming out lately, I really can't.

Bill Loguidice
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Kinect, Google Glass, supposed privacy and rights

Chris wrote:

But I think it will be about 2 months before somebody figures out a way to go through a neighbor's wifi connection and look through the camera.

This, in my opinion, is the one of the more ridiculous arguments against Kinect or any similar technology. Are you concerned about the Webcam on your computer? Are you concerned about the camera on your phone (sorry cameras, front and back)? The ones on your tablet? The one in the Wii U tablet? Cameras are everywhere and, like any technology, they can be hacked. If you're afraid, put a cover on the camera. Some people like to use tape.

Just like with the Google Glass privacy nonsense, we either embrace new technology and deal with the real issues, or we make up fake issues and be afraid of it all before it's actually used. That's not the world I want to live in. There's nothing worse than the false sense of security some people have. We've long since crossed that line to being monitored everywhere.

Let's embrace and understand the technology and put real protections in place, understanding that we can't put the technology genie back into the bottle.

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Chris
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yes?

Bill Loguidice wrote:
Chris wrote:

But I think it will be about 2 months before somebody figures out a way to go through a neighbor's wifi connection and look through the camera.

This, in my opinion, is the one of the more ridiculous arguments against Kinect or any similar technology. Are you concerned about the Webcam on your computer? Are you concerned about the camera on your phone (sorry cameras, front and back)? The ones on your tablet? The one in the Wii U tablet? Cameras are everywhere and, like any technology, they can be hacked. If you're afraid, put a cover on the camera. Some people like to use tape.
Just like with the Google Glass privacy nonsense, we either embrace new technology and deal with the real issues, or we make up fake issues and be afraid of it all before it's actually used. That's not the world I want to live in. There's nothing worse than the false sense of security some people have. We've long since crossed that line to being monitored everywhere.
Let's embrace and understand the technology and put real protections in place, understanding that we can't put the technology genie back into the bottle.t

Yeah... kinda... except here's the thing.

Which kind of camera am I using on which OS on my computer? Which network is my phone hooked up to and which model phone is it? Is my laptop open? Or closed? My wifi, or my neighbors? It's not perfect, but one corporation hasn't built a singular lock that opens every one of it's cameras up to exploitation.

Only recently have phone cameras moved on to video. Computers when off are OFF. And laptops in sleep mode usually get the case closed so that they cover themselves.

Small devices can be anywhere, and on different networks. I can disconnect them from the network and they'll keep on doing their thing. Or put them in a pocket. Or whatever. I have some control over it.

On top of that, I gave an example: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/25/business/la-fi-tn-designerware-p... Of this very thing happening. Again, it's not some vivid dream I decided to say "What if?" about.

But if you take a mass user base using the same hardware and same network protocols and no means of installing your own firewalls, etc. you're asking for trouble. Because cracking one, cracks them all.

So, yeah, I have a little more lenience towards Google glass, cell phones, etc. but for the most part, they're too fragmented to exploit as efficiently as that kind of monolithic system.

As for being monitored everywhere, I see your answer is "So lay back and accept it, and if you ignore what's happening you can convince yourself it's not." I'm more of the "let's be aware how it's happening, and talk about how to head it off." Like you said, we can't put some of these things back into the bottle, but here's a chance to stop one from getting out.

Bill Loguidice
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Privacy

Chris wrote:
As for being monitored everywhere, I see your answer is "So lay back and accept it, and if you ignore what's happening you can convince yourself it's not." I'm more of the "let's be aware how it's happening, and talk about how to head it off." Like you said, we can't put some of these things back into the bottle, but here's a chance to stop one from getting out.

That is the opposite of what I said. I said, the reality - I like reality - is that there are cameras everywhere, even those that we happily carry with us - so adding another one into the mix doesn't make one bit of difference. We can't stop cameras from popping up everywhere and being put in everything. We can, however, deal with the real issues when they pop up. By all means, put protections in place, expect reasonable privacy, etc., but also expect that there are failure points in all of this and some bad things will happen. The only "deal with it" part is the fact that we can't do anything about the specific technology. It's too useful to make them all go away. Let's have real discussions about the real implications of the reality. That's all. Banning Kinect will change nothing, and the fact that it may or may be more ubiquitous at some point than some of the other options, really doesn't mean much.

By the way, I don't really care much about this discussion, because again, it's going to happen anyway. I'd rather discuss the platforms themselves. Potential privacy issues with any of the three platforms won't amount to much in the end.

n/a
Chris
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Joined: 07/27/2011
Are you listening to you?

Bill Loguidice wrote:
That is the opposite of what I said. I said, the reality - I like reality - is that there are cameras everywhere, even those that we happily carry with us - so adding another one into the mix doesn't make one bit of difference.

So just accept this one too. Lay back and take it, and we'll deal with any problems that come up if you hear about them. But you won't, so there isn't. Shhh... shh.... it's fine.

Bill Loguidice wrote:
We can't stop cameras from popping up everywhere and being put in everything. We can, however, deal with the real issues when they pop up.

And we do that by....? Figuring out what the concerns and issues are and talking about solutions. So saying that:

Bill Loguidice wrote:
That's one of those issues that people like to focus on that have no bearing on anything.

I think you can agree is untrue. Which was how this conversation you don't want to have but keep jumping back into originally started.

Bill Loguidice wrote:
By the way, I don't really care much about this discussion, because again, it's going to happen anyway. I'd rather discuss the platforms themselves. Potential privacy issues with any of the three platforms won't amount to much in the end.

Define "happen". That they're going to offer it for sale? Yep. Going to happen. That it will sell well because of this 'feature'? Unlikely. Privacy issues are gaining more and more traction with the population in whole. Don't underestimate it's influence on something that last generation most people would have thought fantastic without even a blip on the radar.

Bill Loguidice
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So you're saying we should

So you're saying we should single out the new Kinect in particular, even though we're already swimming in a sea of cameras? Why? In the end, it's just another camera with no special standing in regards to security, or lack thereof. It's all the same issue.

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