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
1... 2...

Not counting them out yet by a long shot. They've got more than enough money and angles to keep themselves in the running for a long time. But this was a perfect storm for them. Smart companies will take advantage of this stumble, Sony already has. Who else will pile on?

As the chief IT guy at my place, I'm hearing people talk tablets and smart phones for things they want more and more. That's apple/android territory. They could have fought back with a more open platform, but decided to lock it down. Coming into the market saying "I'm doing the same thing, but I'm pretty" isn't enough to win there.

My boss has specifically made sure that we're skipping Windows 8 the way we skipped Vista and ME.

More and more my staff is using Google Drive/Docs for sharing and storage and simple word processing so they don't have to be at their PC when they need something.

And even more to the point, more and more staff are buying Macs for at home. The reason windows does well in corporate environments is cost, but some of that cost consideration is training. If I have to pay a little more, but spend less hours showing them how something works, then I'm probably going to tip that way.

The new office ribbon has had lots of growing pains for the staff having to deal with it, and I don't know anyone who's happy with their choice of Windows 8 on their home computer.

They have given Sony a huge head start this generation of console, and I don't see them regaining it if they don't do a drastic change in direction. Abandoning XNA and telling indies to get a publisher means a lot of talent now looks to places like Unity, which will let me develop for all platforms simultaneously. It's not any harder to build an iPhone game, a Windows game or a Linux game. And steam's on linux now?

Their exclusives? I've heard some of them say in articles that they're considering other options in the future.

Here's a pretty good article I think explains MS's thinking: http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-06-14-the-xbox-one-question-w... .

Any one of those things would have stung, but not really wounded MS. They piled them all into one generation of stuff. They could have picked a fight with customers but not developers, or developers but not customers. They've managed to do both. Recovery is possible, even likely still. But damn I wouldn't want to be in those board meetings right now. They've got to close up those wounds and get something on track fast to convince someone they're on their side, but first they have to realize there's a problem. I think they know they're being hit, but haven't figured out why yet.

Bill Loguidice
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Visuals

Matt Barton wrote:

I think Sony has a real chance here to win back gamers, particularly if their system does eventually offer "prettier" graphics anyway. I was planning to go for both systems this iteration, but if it comes down to one or the other, I've gotta say Sony is really getting to be attractive to me.

It will be interesting how that plays out. In theory, the PS3 should have had better looking games than the Xbox 360, but, due to various reasons, that wasn't always the case (and in some cases, it was the opposite). Here, there may be a bit more of a chance for differences to become apparent, but we'll have to see which platform is the lead on multi-platform games, if indeed there's a way to leverage cloud power like Microsoft (and Sony) claims (which could actually make a real difference), and how well the inherent power can actually be tapped, among other things. Lots of factors. It should be fun, though, however it plays out.

n/a
BitWraith
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As much as I hate it, the "no

As much as I hate it, the "no used games" DRM tech they're running is going to be appetizing to third party developers. If the machine sells well at launch (it will), Xbox may land more exclusives than Sony.

Bill Loguidice
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Used games

BitWraith wrote:
As much as I hate it, the "no used games" DRM tech they're running is going to be appetizing to third party developers. If the machine sells well at launch (it will), Xbox may land more exclusives than Sony.

The thing is, third parties will have the same option on the PS4. I don't think anyone will take advantage early on on either platform, but I imagine they'll try to sneak it in over time. In the Xbox One's case, I think early on they'll just match Microsoft's default option.

n/a
Chris
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Oddworld

BitWraith wrote:
As much as I hate it, the "no used games" DRM tech they're running is going to be appetizing to third party developers. If the machine sells well at launch (it will), Xbox may land more exclusives than Sony.

It would... but Microsoft is making 3rd party developers partner with a publisher if they want to be on the XB1.

Hence the new Oddworld will be on everything BUT the XB1.

Bill Loguidice
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Fuzzy outlook

Chris wrote:

It would... but Microsoft is making 3rd party developers partner with a publisher if they want to be on the XB1.
Hence the new Oddworld will be on everything BUT the XB1.

I have a feeling the upcoming developer's conference may shed more light on how Microsoft will work with indies on the Xbox One. Maybe not, of course, but I'd be shocked if they totally ignored a segment that they were the first to embrace (in consoles) on the Xbox 360...

n/a
Nathaniel Tolbert
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Joined: 11/06/2010
I was surprised as well, but...

They stated in an interview that there would be no changes to their XBox live store terms and requirements including those directed towards indie developers. They have to go through an actual publisher or Microsoft. Here's an article regarding it. http://www.gamenguide.com/articles/7232/20130611/microsoft-pimp-xbox-one...

This is another thing that Microsoft should consider changing their policies on.

n/a
Bill Loguidice
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And the message bungling translates to...

PS4 Outpacing Xbox One Pre-Orders: http://www.ign.com/articles/2013/06/14/e3-2013-ps4-outpacing-xbox-one-pr...

My own thoughts are this 3:2 ratio is not solely due to the E3 showing, but also the price differential. Certainly all the positive chatter for the PS4 versus the negative chatter for the Xbox One helps too. Nevertheless, I almost think this gap should have been more dramatic considering, so that probably bodes well for Microsoft...

n/a
Rowdy Rob
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Joined: 09/04/2006
Price difference, technological parity? And WE ARE OLD, FACE IT

Bill Loguidice wrote:
My own thoughts are this 3:2 ratio is not solely due to the E3 showing, but also the price differential

It might be both "negative publicity" and price difference, but the specs of both machines, at least on paper, seems to indicate technological parity, with perhaps some aspects seeming to favor the PS4. (Faster memory, for one.) If I can purchase a machine capable of equal gaming performance for a hundred dollars less, why wouldn't I? But some things are not just about "specs." Apple would long have disappeared if it were just about specs, and Commodore would rule the world.

****

Part of our generation's "resistance" to the XBox1 (and PS4?) might be due to a lack of "foresight" on our part. Both companies (and Nintendo, to a lesser extent) seem to be pushing for something much more than a mere "game" machine, and perhaps we just can't get our "old" minds around that concept.

I want to emphasize that *WE* are the old guard; we are the old, ancient geeks. Let me type that again, so it sinks in:

YOU ARE OLD!

You played the Atari 2600, Odyssey2, the Colecovision, and the Intellivision. You put quarters into this thing called "arcade machines." You have this concept of "ownership of games." You had an 8-bit computer. You had an Amiga.

YOU ARE OLD!

You rode a horse and buggy. You washed your clothes in a river, and hung them up on clotheslines. You are excited about this new thing called the "steam engine." You think giving women and minorities the right to vote is a good thing, if such a thing were to ever happen.

YOU ARE OLD!

Okay, the above paragraph just sets the scene. That's how we come across to the current generation, it seems! Tech generations move fast, and we've lived through many of them.

This was brought home to me recently when I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's office. A young couple (college age) was sitting across from me, having a very loud, foul-mouthed, and (probably to most people) obnoxious conversation. I was secretly entertained by it, however, because I could hear intelligence and wit in their banter, and plenty of geekiness. I looked at the young man, and I noticed a "Star Trek" insignia on his shirt, with some sci-fi/comics convention ad written on it. The girl was actually not conventionally geeky-looking, with "Goth" clothes, a nasal piercing, and a rather wild ("punk?") hairdo. I'm not sure I recall correctly, but I woudn't be surprised if they both had tatoos. Even in my sickened state (doctor's office, remember?), I had to find a way to strike up a conversation.

It turned out that there was a sci-fi/comix convention in my area that weekend, and they were promoting it. They handed me a brochure about it, and I was tempted to go. Several TV/movie stars from "geek" shows were going to be there, as well as comics artists, Magic:the Gathering tournament, costumes, and so forth.

I sensed a vast generational gap, though. The couple was loud, brazen, and openly "out" as geeks. They'd have gotten their asses kicked in my generation. Part of me was attracted to the open geekiness, but part of me was held back by the brazen attention-getting. It was like a "Big Bang Theory" live performance. I quite enjoyed talking to them, but I felt like the old, wrinkled granny telling the young lovers "yeah, I like sex too!" Kind of a weird picture, I know. Their geeks aren't like our geeks. There was a strange, tonal, generational shift that I didn't expect to ever experience. A geek is a geek is a geek, right? Nope, there was something different. YOU ARE NOT GEEKS anymore. YOU ARE YOUR PARENTS. In a way, this was unsettling for me, but in a larger way, this was very reassuring. I actually smile about it, actually. Whatever geek insecurities you had in your youth, I don't think they will have to go through that. That means they will take it forward!

All this NSA/Prism controversy aside, I don't think this geek generation cares about privacy. I think they LIKE being on display, being watched, being part of "the show." The more people catolguing their every move, the better! They are the stars of their own reality show! So "Oh my god, they're invading my privacy" is out as a long-term concern. They don't care. XBox One/Kinect/camera-watching-them is NOT going to be an issue, I don't believe.

*****

Everyone is giving Sony credit as being the "winner" of "round one," based on their support of "used games" and "no internet checkup." They are actually signalling their surrender!!! They have actually sealed their fate!

How so? If I were "Electronic Arts," who am I going to support? The one who is going to make me money, or the one who is going to give control to the consumers? Of course, I'm going to support the console that forces people to spend more money on me! It's a no-brainer. XBox One wins! If people want to play my games in the future, do you expect me to let them boot up an old disc on and old system? No! They better pay me to play their "old" games on my "new" system! Win win win (for me!).

BitWraith
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Joined: 12/11/2012
Microsoft should have hired

Microsoft should have hired you to do their E3 presentation. You'e right on all counts.

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