Cathode Tan - Games, Media and Geek Stuff
logo design by man bytes blog

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Big Questions

Gaming is rolling into new turf now - we've got the Wii, 360 and PlayStation 3 all out and running. Each of them pose some interesting questions for their specific manufacturers, gamers and the future of gaming. And it's odd - I know nobody personally who actually started to join this generation yet. Perhaps post holidays, I or The Brother may be a Wii owner. Or maybe we just get my Dad one and let him be a guinea pig. It's odd - most of my friends are young, affluent and tech-savvy ... several dinks with plenty of disposable income. Most own at least one "current gen" console or will at least play if you shove a controller in their hand. But for the most part, they're unconcerned with Blu-Ray and some didn't even get the memo that Nintendo was mounting a "revolution". A few have shown interest in getting a new console - but other worries like HDTV's, impending babies and paving driveways take precedent.

So I'm definately in trouble of becoming a complete armchair commentator here. Play Gears Of War? I don't have a 360, HDTV or anyone I know to play with Xbox Live. About three degrees of seperation from the current frontline of the next generation.

But I like my armchair. It's warm and comfy. So here's a bit of pondering to go with your Monday coffee.

Will the Wii be a revolution or a novelty?
Most people would brush this off as near buffonry ... only non-gamers would question the Wii right now. Right? The mainstream media has been hugging the Wii like a big stuffed bunny. It's the fan friendly alternative to a launch - meaning a launch unlike Sony's and Microsoft's where fans actually get to buy the product instead of be part of some media hype about they're so hard to get.

Who wouldn't love the Wii? It's just too darn cute to hate, right?

Except that reports from people who have bought the thing have just been bizarre. A small fraction of people have ruined their televisions by flinging the wiimote into them. People are finding that - even though I'm pretty certain you don't have to play the Wii this way - they are getting quite the workout. And not everyone powers up that game to get a workout - I played Marvel Alliance for much of yesterday basically because I was too tired to move. Would I want to play the same game using hand motions to activate the powers that I can currently do with two buttons?

The DS is clearly a triumph of Nintendo design. Right now the Wii, though, is getting headlines because of being so different than anything else. Will the Wii survive after it's honeymoon period has worn off?

Will the real PlayStation 3 please stand up?
The only person I've been able actually hear talk about the PS3 firsthand was one of the guys around the office who declared, "It's not worth the $600" and "pretty much looks like the 360" and "of the four games I got, one was good." That game, of course, was Resistance, which he called, "a pretty fun shooter." The PS3's lack of true next-gen appeal isn't going to escape the notice of eagle-eyed early adopters. While the aftermarket crowd has been cashing in hand over fist (despite some blogs declaring it's ... ahem ... tanked) ... the people who really want to actually play the thing are beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about.

The PS3 is the polar opposite of the Wii. Luke warm media reception (except the gameblogs which outright hate it) with a high cost ... it's not the best guidepost for success. Worse - as I've been saying for months now - Sony is doing nothing to smooth over the situation. They refuse to talk details about the console to trumpet any kind of feature set that Microsoft and Nintendo don't already have an answer. On the flip side - Sony's MSRP gives them an instant talking point ... cost ... that Sony can't beat.

Resistance may be a great game ... but it's clearly no Halo. It's not going to be the game that launches 1 million PS3's. Sony will have to carry that water themselves ... and they better start hauling.

Can The 360 Keep Pace?
Microsoft's biggest concern must be that when the field was clear ... the 360 still didn't sell that great. Not that it sold terribly, but the launch lacked that glean of success the original Xbox carried. Microsoft won't admit this publically, of course, and they even have fudged numbers to back themselve up. Fact remains - the PlayStation 2 continued to rock the 360's world pretty much since the day it launched. Despite their MTV style launch specials and game blog hugging ways ... the 360 isn't taking the world by storm.

Now that they aren't the only toy in the next-gen toychest ... will they sell the numbers they want to reduce the bleeding dollars Microsoft saw with the first Xbox? Microsoft lost loads of cash on the original release - a fact that they can write off as both a tax relief and marketshare investment. If the 360 doesn't improve those margins ... what will that mean for the Xbox III 720++? (or whatever they call it ... Xbox Vista? who knows).

A rumor was floated around the Microsoft might go beyond simply revamping the 360 into a cooler, smaller and cheaper version of it's current self (with probably more hard drive options to boot). A more powerful 360 II might be in the works at the same price point instead. I scoffed at the notion then and I scoff at it now ... but if the Wii and PS3 eat into the 360's lackluster sales ... I might start thinking otherwise.

Where will we high def from here?
High Definition continues to be a scary sea of components and standards ... and let's face - the HDTV proponents aren't helping. Sony released the PS3 with some 1080i unfriendliness. Microsoft had issues with their 1080P upscaling. Most consumers don't know what HDMI is and I'm willing to bet that several aren't aware of the current format war.

Eventually, high definition will take hold. The industry won't let it go any other way. It's proving to a long and bump road, however, and it's hard to underscore how central this is for the next generation living room. Largely - next gen is high def. Even Nintendo shows the Wii off with fancy widescreen TV's ... and it's merely a child of "EDTV" design. Sony might be stumbling with PS3 details ... but until HDTV becomes common - that can probably ride on PS2 sales for a while.

tagged: ,

No comments: