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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Joined: 07/27/2011
Should also be noted that

Should also be noted that Sony does intend to re-re-release some of their games in their store for digital download. Not exactly backwards compatibility, but worth noting on the subject.

I haven't heard inf Microsoft is, or isn't, doing the same.

Bill Loguidice
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Yeah

Chris wrote:
Should also be noted that Sony does intend to re-re-release some of their games in their store for digital download. Not exactly backwards compatibility, but worth noting on the subject.
I haven't heard inf Microsoft is, or isn't, doing the same.

I'm sure MS will do the same on a certain level too since they have the same type of streaming back end. The point is, though, neither one, unfortunately, is letting you carry over previous purchases. It really is a clean break. Unfortunate in that regard to be sure.

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Bill Loguidice
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Sony just confirmed that

Sony just confirmed that they'll leave used game DRM up to the individual publisher, just like on the PS3. So that means we'll still likely have to deal with online passes and what-not for certain used games. On the plus side, I like how the PS4's hard drive will be removable. I definitely took advantage of that with my PS3 systems.

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gilgamesh
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Joined: 03/02/2012
in other news

With PRISM making headlines every day people will be extra sensitive concerning privacy, especially when Microsoft is involved. The federal German commissioner for data protection called Xbox One a surveillance device. Surveillance is a touchy subject in the world's fifth biggest games economy. Number four (UK) on the other hand seems to be obsessed with installing cameras everywhere.

I clearly expect Sony to win this round with Wii U being strangely absent. At least in Europe.

Nathaniel Tolbert
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As it stands?

As it stands at this point, the internet momentum is strongly behind the PS4. The worst part of this whole debacle with the erosion of consumer ownership is that people will blindly purchase the XBox One without considering that once the machine has passed its usefulness there will be no legal way of playing your games once the servers are shut down. All of the decisions in the XBox One that everyone are complaining about are very anti-consumer except for the Kinect. People are complaining about that because they don't want it. All evidence from the 360 version of Kinect is that it worked poorly. And if you don't think that the new kinect cannot be used to data mine or possibly listen in, look at the fact that Microsoft is trying to push in on the computer now as well. Motion controls for a computer seems useless, so why would you need a microphone and camera always on while using your computer? Yes they tell you that the data collected won't be sent on without your permission. What if your permission is given in one of the EULA's that everybody loves to just accept? Or what if it's like the 360 where it states you accept the terms and conditions of the EULA by just turning the console on for the first time? And remember this caveat, 'Microsoft reserves the right to make changes to the End User License Agreement at any time without prior notice.' You think that can't be used to their advantage? How about when they updated the EULA so you couldn't sue them in a Class Action Lawsuit? Either agree or you won't be allowed to play anymore, you seriously cannot see them doing that with data collection? I do not understand why or how people can have blind faith in a company to do the right thing. Business ethics is as follows: You do what it takes to make the money you want, and the Lawyers are there to protect you if you go too far. Even Forbes is questioning the DRM in the XBox One. Yes it's up to the Publishers on whether they will implement a lock down on Used games. It only takes one to test it, and no matter what the outcome is, the other companies will slowly follow suite if just for the reason that they don't want to be the odd duck out. As it stands the XBox One looks like a rental system. You don't own the Hardware that you paid $500 for, you don't own the games that you paid $60 for, and if a game you buy sucks, you may have no ability to sell it off. Why stick yourself with this kind of system when the competition doesn't do this? I should point out if you watched EA's presentation a significant portion games shown were XBox exclusive, either for both the 360 and the One or just the One. I think that right there can be seen as telling in regards to why there is this Used Games DRM at all in the console. But I'm just being paranoid at this point. I don't have to have it and I won't be buying it. The whole patent on facial recognition for restriction of media is disconcerting, and Sony has a very similar patent as well. The PS4 comes with a camera too, remember? I think people need to be proactive about this. If you have a problem deal with it before it really becomes a problem. I keep hearing people say we'll deal with it when it happens. Why? Once it's established and entrenched it will be that much more difficult to remove it. And when there is money involved, it will more than likely never change. At the very least stand up for your rights of ownership. The computer is bad enough with no true ownership.

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BitWraith
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Joined: 12/11/2012
While the Kinect is

While the Kinect is troubling, any information they're going to get will be for marketing purposes only. I seriously doubt that Microsoft cares what gamers are doing in their living rooms. If this thing fails, it will still sell millions of units - who's going to sit and watch all that boring footage of people cutting their toe-nails? Why would the care?

Nathaniel Tolbert
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Microsoft doesn't care, but the US Government might. PRISM?

BitWraith wrote:
While the Kinect is troubling, any information they're going to get will be for marketing purposes only. I seriously doubt that Microsoft cares what gamers are doing in their living rooms. If this thing fails, it will still sell millions of units - who's going to sit and watch all that boring footage of people cutting their toe-nails? Why would the care?

It's not Microsoft wanting information about what we are doing in our living rooms that concerns us. With the leaked information regarding PRISM the idea that you would willingly put a camera and microphone in your living room where most conversations in a home occur strikes me as dangerous. Microsoft was the first company to agree to PRISM and allows the government access to your information. If the government could get audio and video data as well? Well now, they can see you said that the government needs to fall and that all people should riot. What's to stop them from making you quietly disappear? Thousands of people go missing every day, where do they go? I know this is in the area of pure paranoia but I just wouldn't put anything past our government any more. And regarding the watching the footage, no one will be watching it. They will use the same algorithm that they use to snoop through e-mail. They will have key words, or languages that they will flag and when a file containing that is spotted then it will be sent for further investigation.

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gilgamesh
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Joined: 03/02/2012
paranoid android

Microsoft already sifts your private skype conversations. I find all this deeply troubling.

Imagine your friend's cousin's neighbor once met Julian Assange. The authorities can make the connection by following the respective digital trails. Next they find out you have an Xbox One sitting in your living room. Maybe, just maybe they will be interested in what you are saying and record it. And film you while doing so.

Unlikely? Sure. Paranoid? Maybe. Technically feasible? Quite likely.

Matt Barton
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I definitely think there's

I definitely think there's something sinister about PRISM and the apparent blank check the Obama administration is willing to give to the NSA to violate our privacy in the name of fighting "The Global War on Terror." Can you imagine the reaction if Bush was in office and was so brazen about this? We have a guy who has already leveraged the IRS to go after PACs he didn't like. It's looking to me like he's Nixon on steroids. I bet we'll end up with something that'll make Watergate look positively innocent by comparison.

That said, I do think Bill is right that folks are jumping the gun a bit on the whole Xbox thing. Just because a new tech offers some dark possibilities doesn't mean that they WILL be used for evil. I'd like to think Microsoft will do whatever they need to ensure that perverts or others can break into the camera and watch us playing games in our underwear.

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Chris
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Joined: 07/27/2011
He did

Trying to defuse any political lopsidedness here:

Bush did more than his share of warrant wire taps. There was a pretty big push to "Not debate the president in a time of war" angle on the whole thing. *cough* patriot act *cough*

He also did stuff with the IRS a lot more openly: http://www.salon.com/2013/05/14/on_scandals_obama_held_to_higher_standar...

If you believe Echelon worked as advertised we can even go back to the Bush Sr. /Clinton era.

I'm not defending Obama on any of this by a long shot, just saying that the whole thing sucks and has for a long time.

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