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!

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Bill Loguidice
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Microsoft's Xbox One

Microsoft's Xbox One requirements reversal is now official: http://t.co/Aw3Zbw8E4o

No region lock now, either.

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Rob Daviau
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Good
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Microsoft's Xbox One requirements reversal is now official: http://t.co/Aw3Zbw8E4o

No region lock now, either.

Huh, must of been all that over reacting by gamers. ;)

Some say it was all planned form the start, I wont fall that far down the conspiracy path, it is good to see gamer's are getting what they want and deserve whatever the reasons. Gee, how ever will Microsoft deliver the next gen experience and provide gamer's with what is best WITHOUT DRM, checking in etc? HOW IS IT POSSIBLE??????

Score one for the people.

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Bill Loguidice
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Agreed

Rob Daviau wrote:

Huh, must of been all that over reacting by gamers. ;)
Some say it was all planned form the start, I wont fall that far down the conspiracy path, it is good to see gamer's are getting what they want and deserve whatever the reasons. Gee, how ever will Microsoft deliver the next gen experience and provide gamer's with what is best WITHOUT DRM, checking in etc? HOW IS IT POSSIBLE??????
Score one for the people.

It absolutely was a response to the over-reaction. What's unfortunate with Xbox One now is that the benefits of digital game portability have been lost as a concession to this business-as-usual reversal. Still, you have to ultimately give even the most outspoken minority what they want if you want to ultimately succeed. Legitimate or not, Microsoft was clearly losing the perception war to Sony. Now the argument can be less ideological.

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Bill Loguidice
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A better solution for

A better solution for Microsoft would have been to make the Xbox One DRM optional. This way you could choose to have the benefits or not. Of course, that would clearly introduce too many variables and headaches, so it probably had to be one or the other, sadly.

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Chris
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Define 'over reaction'

It was an erosion of what we consider ownership of what we purchase with the promise that someday, maybe, we'll be given other rights in exchange. I've seen far to many companies say "trust me, give us this now, and we'll catch you on the back end" and have it never pan out. That we as consumers pushed back isn't an over reaction.

Microsoft isn't new to the game. This magnitude of slip up, and how they doubled down on it, doesn't lend any trust or credibility that things would be better for me as a customer in the long run. It's the customers responsibility to let them know that means they either have to make with the benefits now, or keep things as they were.

That they chose to roll back rather than push forward and release benefits we wouldn't have gotten otherwise. That really makes me believe there was no intent to actually deliver as promised with all those innovations. Or that they couldn't because they honestly can't speak for developers. They could make it available, but they couldn't force that as a choice.

Ultimately, if they really were shooting for that, all the code and tech are still there. They can repackage it, re brand it, and sell it again next generation.

Rob Daviau
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lol

Bill Loguidice wrote:

It absolutely was a response to the over-reaction.

Yes I know I was being facetious.

Anyway, the people have spoken and are getting what they demand AS IT SHOULD BE. Bill, I am happy to trade all of the so called "benefits" to be rid of the DRM, checking in, convoluted used games system etc. Glad to see the vocal can make a difference in decisions regarding the products they are trying to sell us.

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Matt Barton
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I don't see this as an

I don't see this as an "over-reaction." It simply was a reaction, and a sensible one given the furor. If anything, it shows how Microsoft has continued to retain its dominance with so much competition--they know when to fold. A lesser company would have maintained a "my way or the highway" attitude and lost marketshare.

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Mark Vergeer
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Indeed

Matt Barton wrote:
I don't see this as an "over-reaction." It simply was a reaction, and a sensible one given the furor. If anything, it shows how Microsoft has continued to retain its dominance with so much competition--they know when to fold. A lesser company would have maintained a "my way or the highway" attitude and lost marketshare.

I think it does show character if you dare to admit having made a mistake and say you listened to your audience. It does sometimes happen when touch with what people need and want is lost - just look at work and what sometimes transpires between management and the work force on the floor. Often there is no ill intend but a lack of knowledge. It would be strange if that was the case but focus groups aren't always as representative. And it would also be interesting to see the demographics of the outcry against the former DRM measures.

And some say it is just a new stage in how big companies compete. One never knows what transpires between those two big companies and how much misinformation is shared between the two. Perhaps this was a ploy and the one coming out worst actually fell for it and did the DRM dance. Remember Microsoft came out first on E3. If that is the case I fear the worst for information the public is given at shows like E3 as it will really be nothing more than a rumor mill with gossip fodder. Hollowing out the importance of such venues.

Digital downloads that somehow are watermarked with the signature or account name will make people think twice about illegally sharing the content. Tie those to an account - that is the downloaded games will only work when the account of the original downloaded is present either through login or by having the account offline on disk or USB thumb drive. That would work. Lending out a digital download is not possible with this old 360 style of things. We'll see if Microsoft can still introduce some options for digital downloads - 360 style, one style, social style which allows users to have various ways to deal with their media. In Europe there seems to be strong movement towards getting rid of restrictive DRM but somehow watermarking the media so that it is identifiable who the original purchaser was. Of course there is a downside to that as well as if your computer is hacked and a Trojan is uploading all your digitally downloaded files then that could pose some serious issues for the consumer who is a victim here.

Interesting times. I am not anti Microsoft or anti XBox One but I am very pro consumer rights and freedom and a good definition of ownership. Microsoft could still have an optional subscription based service with those initial DRM rules in place for a price that is less than the full games on disc. That way consumers will show what they are willing to put up with given a choice. Now that would be interesting to see.

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Joel McCoy (not verified)
The truth is they have very

The truth is they have very real sales numbers they can reference. Those numbers must have been poor.

It will be interesting to see if this helps. The Kinect thing couldn't have been timed worse. I mean there's no way they could have foreseen an NSA scandal that would be in the news. Sucks for them on that one, and it's probably something they can't reverse ship on so easily.

Bill Loguidice
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Kinect

Joel McCoy wrote:

It will be interesting to see if this helps. The Kinect thing couldn't have been timed worse. I mean there's no way they could have foreseen an NSA scandal that would be in the news. Sucks for them on that one, and it's probably something they can't reverse ship on so easily.

I still maintain that even though many gamers think they "won," it's not a clear cut victory. I for one wanted to see how it played out as Microsoft envisioned it, as for my particular usage, having complete portability would have been a benefit for me (no longer needing the disc, unrestricted access to my games from any other console, etc.). Now, it's the same business model as always, with all the same benefits and limitations.

As for the Kinect thing, much like this uproar over DRM, it's mostly a case of Microsoft not communicating the benefits properly and the protections they have in place for the paranoid. You can in fact disable Kinect's ability to always listen (though again, that ruins most of the fun and functionality), and, like any other camera, it's not going to suddenly turn on and start spying on you. If that's a concern, you simply block its field of vision like you do all cameras.

Now the argument can be made, well "I want Kinect to be OPTIONAL." Those of us who know our videogame history know full well that OPTIONAL add-ons are never supported the same way packed in accessories are. I think it's a smart move by Microsoft to include this, because if developers can count on it, we may finally truly see some of the promise that was hinted at with Kinect on Xbox 360 (and to a lesser degree on PC) be fulfilled, particularly with the enhanced resolution. In any case, it's up to Microsoft now to stop fumbling the message and make a real case for why this stuff is the way it is. Sometimes people really don't know what they want until they actually use something...

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