PS3, Xbox 360, And Wii Console Analysis
Ever since the explosion of the PS1, Nintendo’s long-running position as the industry frontrunner has disappeared. Perhaps it was inevitable, given the financial and political influence of mega-global corporations like Sony and Microsoft. But at the same time, Nintendo has somehow survived and even flourished...in some ways. The GameCube did well in Japan, but after a heated battle with the Xbox for a few years, the results soon became clearer and clearer in the U.S.- Americans favored the Xbox, and with the PS2 already out to a 38-lap lead, the GameCube fell into a disappointing third place.
The first-party classics continued to drive the Cube forward, however, and with the new Mario, Metroid, and Zelda cementing the library, the system still held some appeal. Factor in a surprising list of wonderfully solid – and unique – RPGs; Tales of Symphonia, Baten Kaitos, etc, and the 2005 Game of the Year in Resident Evil 4, and the GameCube was able to finish out the generation on a relative high note. Still, with the massive hardware specs on tap for Microsoft and Sony in the next generation, we all wondered if it was the end of the road for Nintendo in the console game.
At first, what was initially named the Revolution became shrouded in mystery and doubt. Then they changed the name, dropped a few intriguing hints regarding a new interaction scheme, and blew people away at E3 2006. The Wii-mote continues to get positive reviews from critics who’ve been able to go hands-on, and somehow, Nintendo has managed to provide the only truly new video game experience for the new generation. They’ve gone out of their way to say the hardware won’t compete with either the 360 or PS3, and throw their whole weight behind that nifty idea. Toss in that awfully accessible $250 price tag, and the Wii is shaping up nicely.
Their acquired status of being associated with a younger gaming demographic isn’t hurting the company, either. With so many adult-oriented high-profile titles helping to push the 360 and PS3, Nintendo is perfectly content with providing what they’ve called “family-friendly” entertainment for the masses, and with the Wii, they’re giving everyone a new way to experience a fantasy world. We’re not entirely sure if that new scheme will present limitations to the gameplay, and we’re not sure if the Wii will experience the same low-frequency-of-quality-titles problem the GC had, but so far, everything looks rosy for the Wii.
When a survey was given to attendees at the Tokyo Game Show, asking numerous questions regarding the three consoles, the Wii had a spectacular showing. It turns out that gamers in Japan are wildly excited about the system’s potential, and even here in the U.S., Wii preorders have disappeared just as quickly as PS3 preorders. And take a look at that launch lineup- no, it’s not overwhelmingly special, but that one title, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a darn good sign. Do we recall what happened with the last system that launched with such a landmark game (‘cough’ Halo ‘cough’)? That’s right, things turned out pretty well. Early impressions of the new Zelda? Nothing but glowing.
Lastly, unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo always turns a profit with their gaming division. A big one. So they’re set, right? Well, not so fast. Because the system can’t compete on a visual level with the other two systems, regardless of whether this impacts actual gameplay, it will certainly have an impact on the gaming populace. It’s a mite depressing, but that’s the way things are. And what if, God forbid, that Wii-mote loses its appeal? What if the novelty – if that’s indeed what it is – wears off? Then unfortunately, you’re left with a system that can play some old classics (for a price), and still retains those loveable mascots. But that’s it. And that, my friends, could be disastrous.
If there’s one thing Nintendo can’t afford this time around, it’s a slip-up. If the Wii-mote works from front to back and consistently offers a new way of playing games, than the console is a definite success. But while they’re not exactly putting all their eggs in one basket, it’s darn close. The biggest, and perhaps the only, question we have to ask is- Can the Wii-mote sustain a five-year reign of innovation and freshness, or will the appeal die out in a few short years? If we had the answer to that, we’d have the answer to “success” or “failure,” but for now, we’ll just have to go with what we have. And so far, the majority of the evidence points to…
Nintendo Wii- SUCCESS*
* Pending the answer to that last question.
So there you have it. It’s our belief that there is enough room for all three consoles to be successful in the new generation, and at this point, we have no reason to believe otherwise. Perhaps the launches in a few weeks time will change the situation, but it’s unlikely. There are a several big questions that each company needs to address, and we probably won’t have even a glimmer of an answer for quite some time, but at this moment, everything appears to be on the correct track. In the end, it’s all about the games, and if the entertainment is there, success is imminent and even inevitable.
And the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii should have that entertainment we all crave. Nothing wrong with that, is there?
11/3/2006 Ben Dutka