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

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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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Why?

Bill Loguidice wrote:
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.

Mostly because it's not just the camera. I think I've already pointed out what makes it special in regards to security, but I'll try again.

1) Location - Most of the time my cell phone isn't in position to actually look at people in a room. It's in my pocket, or against my head, or at best on a table with a wonderful view of wood grain or ceiling. My laptop gets closed, so you can see plastic if you somehow manage to turn it on.

The XBox is positioned to look at the room as much as it can for it's best use, all the time.

2) Always on - I can take my phone off my wifi network. Same with my Laptop. They'll keep functioning. I can power them off off and know they're off.

3) Obscurity - With any other system, there's a list of variables that make it harder to just skeleton key open all the devices. Crack an iPhone on the ATT network, and that might not help you on Verizon. Getting into my home laptop will vary depending on what firewall software, hardware I'm using and what ports I have open for it.

With XBox, those are going to be 'factory standard' so to speak. Figure out a weakness for one, figure it out for all of them. Security through obscurity shouldn't be your only option, but it's the variables we're allowed to add to other devices that help with their security.

4) Optional connection (or not) - all of the other things mentioned do not need to be on the internet. They don't need to phone home. Hell, I don't even need to update my iPhone software if I don't want to. The XBox will not share that 'feature'.

5) It's not necessary, but being forced anyway - that it's the ONLY option for XBox is really a carry over from point 4. If owners could say "Yeah, I don't want the always on connection" or "I don't want the Kinekt" it would be less invasive. It's suddenly a choice on how much control I'm willing to give them and the opportunity to take that option away later if I don't like what they've done with it.

But so far no one is pointing out some great game I need to use this for. So I can say "TV On" instead of picking up the remote or pushing a button... yay? That couldn't be optional? Of course it could. See previous statements on patents. They have this thing now, and they're going to try and push it to make money. They feel they'll get more developers to build stuff for it if they make sure every customer has it. But they can't tell either of us what to do with it.

Does my phone 'need' a camera? Honestly... yeah... it kinda does. Not need in the way of "If I miss that pic, I'll die" but walking around with a camera lets us catch those unexpected moments without lugging one more thing. If I'm in my house, odds are an offline camera I own would be nearby.

6) Because there are still alternatives - The time to say "No." is now. Not once everyone else is doing it and we ask them to roll it back. It will be too late then. It's not now. Just buying a PS4, PC, Wii-U or even just saying "No thanks" to all of the above isn't going to accomplish anything if they don't know why they lost our sale. Though to be fair between the reasons in your post, and the other ones we haven't discussed in my first one, there are plenty to choose from.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Since I'm tired of this

Since I'm tired of this discussion, disagree with most of your points, and we're not making any progress, I'll let your statements stand as the last on this topic, Chris. We'll see how much actual outrage there is post launch. As it stands now based on the pre-orders, both Xbox One and PS4 will sell through all their holiday stock, so we really won't know anything until those "magical" post-holiday months when the "new car" shine is off of these things and the early adopters are sated.

n/a
BitWraith
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Marketing

On the camera/spying stuff. I work in marketing - and I can tell you that information like this is super valuable. It's their marketing department that will want to glean any information from this system, and if they think they can do it, then they will do it (even if it's not possible at launch).

Always assume that any interaction you have with a company will be mined for info from a marketing group. The information isn't used by the company for anything more nefarious than tracking how effective their marketing is. They want to know how many people actually spent money off an ad on the XBox main page. If you interact with that ad through Kinect (mainly), then yes, they are tracking you I promise.

Where you have to worry is when their servers get hacked and someone lifts all the information and sells it.

BitWraith
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Nip it in the Bud

Most gamers on the internet (read: not casual gamers) seem to be rejecting the direction console DRM is going. Sony was WISE to avoid all that this cycle, and they will reap the benefits.

The XBox One needs to fail. We have to send a message to these folks that we won't throw money at them at every turn. Restricting my right to sell a physical copy of a game is not something I will ever support.

I'll probably be going full steam ahead with the PC for the foreseeable future. If I dive into the console space, it will be on the PS4.

Bill Loguidice
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Maybe, but...

BitWraith wrote:
Most gamers on the internet (read: not casual gamers) seem to be rejecting the direction console DRM is going. Sony was WISE to avoid all that this cycle, and they will reap the benefits. The XBox One needs to fail. We have to send a message to these folks that we won't throw money at them at every turn. Restricting my right to sell a physical copy of a game is not something I will ever support. I'll probably be going full steam ahead with the PC for the foreseeable future. If I dive into the console space, it will be on the PS4.

Yes, just like they rejected Diablo III, SimCity, etc. Oh wait, there was lots of lip service, but they still couldn't stay away in any appreciable numbers to make a difference.

Ultimately, I think if the games are there, gamers, as is their nature, won't be able to stay away. The key though is not necessarily us, it's reaching the broader audience. The Wii was able to do that and dominate. The Wii U has not and is struggling mightily. Microsoft is counting on picking up that same audience with their strategy. It may or may not be the best strategy for gamers, but it's a strategy, a plan. Certainly it's clear that from a gamer standpoint, PS4 is well in the positive at this point over the others for a variety of reasons. A lot can change, though. Again, we won't know anything really until early in 2014. It will be clear what strategy is paying off.

n/a
Chris
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Launch vs. Post Launch

http://www.strategyinformer.com/news/22855/simcity-sales-plummeted-after...

This SimCity was the first SimCity I didn't buy.

These were the first two games to make a seriously, large scale go at always on connections for DRM purposes. They probably didn't hurt their sales as much as they'll hurt the next game that tries it, because gamers are generally trusting and willing to give a company the benefit of the doubt. But not forever...

Hence you're seeing "No DRM" more and more as a sales feature.

BitWraith
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Diablo sold a lot of units

Diablo sold a lot of units out of the gate, but I'm not sure that they retained the folks they thought they would. A big part of their profit strat. was the auction house. I'm just speculating here - but I think the Playstation expansion they're pushing is a grab at profits they thought they would get on the PC.

The last number I saw for Sim City was 1.6 Mil. That's a pretty good number for a sim game, but not exactly a block-buster either.

clok1966
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Joined: 01/21/2009
who knows

BitWraith wrote:
Diablo sold a lot of units out of the gate, but I'm not sure that they retained the folks they thought they would. A big part of their profit strat. was the auction house. I'm just speculating here - but I think the Playstation expansion they're pushing is a grab at profits they thought they would get on the PC.

The last number I saw for Sim City was 1.6 Mil. That's a pretty good number for a sim game, but not exactly a block-buster either.

i have been trying to just wait on all this till we have "real" info.. i have been real vocal earlier and have decided to just wait.

but i do want to chime in.. Diablo 3 and Sim City both sold well, but Blizzard has public stated its tanking now and they are making mass changes to it to draw back players. Sim City is also said to be losing users by the boatload.. (but i must confess, i dont think either is to the DRM) Diablo simply requires a always on connection.. SIm City there has been alot of grumbling that its just not good online and has issues.. real or imagined..

but you want a real number.. Preorders.. xbox had a days head start.. sony in less then a day has trippled it.. much on the "we wont stop used games" problem is .. MS inst stopping used games either.. both have said its up to the Dev.. but the sony machine showing several games played OFFLINE did seem to get some thunderous applause..

still a no buy on either for me till SONY and devs clearify how it will work.. none of the "we wont require".. BS!!!!! wont require.. but 99% will have is what I worry about..

T. Ryan (not verified)
backwards compatibility.

Not to interrupt here, but something that I felt really burned on was backwards compatibility. Now, I know WHY that is because of the move from Power PC to X86. But as a consumer, I don't really care. I can accept it with packaged goods. The lack of backwards compatibility for new systems is a long established fact (even more so in the old days than in recent generations). But I do NOT give them a pass for digital games. I have spent so much money on XBLA. Every time I did I would think to myself. "Well, now I never need to buy galaga again." I'm not sure why I thought that. I just assumed that XBLA games would move from machine to machine. I mean I had Midway Arcade Classics on teh PSOne, is it really so crazy to think that some of those old arcade ports can't work on Xbox One as well? When you put it into the perspective of the average consumer it is even worse. When I buy plants vs zombies on the iOS store I expect to be able to download it on my next iPhone because I didn't buy it on my IPhone 4, I bought from the iTunes store. Much like steam, the assumption is that if I have a machine that runs the IOS store or STeam or Google Play and i can log into my account I can downlaod and install my apps. Why should XBLA games be any different. I bought into the XBox eco system BIG time. I have paid for zune music since 2009. I mean I am a serious MSoft fan boy. But I have to say after e3 I really don't see anything about Xbox that is compelling me to stay. Now, if I knew that all my hundreds of dollars worth of XBLA games would port over to the new box, then the choice would be clear. But when you add in the higher price and all the DRM stuff (which honestly I don't really care about, it hasn't stopped me from loving Steam) it just seems like PS4 is edging out the Xbox One. For me anyway. And I am an AVID xbox fan boy.

Bill Loguidice
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Comments

T. Ryan wrote:
Not to interrupt here, but something that I felt really burned on was backwards compatibility.

Please interrupt all you want. It's an open discussion. I agree I would have greatly preferred an ownership path from PS3 to PS4 and Xbox 360 to Xbox One, but I think that change in architecture that affected disc-based games probably represented a hurdle with downloadable games. After all, they run on the same platform, the only major difference being downloadable games were generally a bit smaller. Who knows, since both of these consoles are cloud powered, there should be a way to stream games from the older platforms, albeit there will no doubt be a cost of entry. Sony has already expressed interest in that idea, though they've also confirmed that previous purchases won't carry over.

Honestly, for as long as this past generation lasted, I'm OK with a clean technological break. We need more power for these to last at least as long as this generation did. There may very well have been limits to incorporate backwards compatibility. The good news is that our existing hardware won't stop working, so we can still use all the old stuff same as always. It's maybe not as convenient as doing it all from one box, but it is an option.

n/a

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