It’s about that time in the games industry again, when PC enthusiasts start fearing the demise of their beloved gaming platform, when irrational arguments are had between loyal ‘fanbois’ (and girls) of every age, race and creed regarding which flashy new piece of gaming hardware best deserves to grace their living rooms (despite never having played on any of these machines). Yes, it’s time for the ‘next gen’ of game consoles to hit the market and become the ‘current gen’. The truly ridiculous thing about these argument is that they tend to be extremely subjective, and based mostly on the individuals’ experience with currently available systems from the same manufacturers. I am in the same boat as most of these gamers, having not had the privilege of playing on an Xbox 360 or on a PS3 or Revolution mockup or devkit, so in many way’s I am in no better position to argue than they are, however I like to think I’m a little bit more objective. Whatever the case, I feel like ranting about the impending next gen, which is partially current gen, since Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has now been on the market and available (in theory) since November last year. I will look at it from a uniquely South African view, since that is what I know and what affects me.
The Here and Now
First off, let me summarize my experience of the current generation of consoles in
Having owned both a PS2 and Xbox, played quite a bit on a GameCube, and having developed for all three, I would personally choose the Xbox as my favorite machine of this generation. The limited library on the GameCube, as well as a controller that I don’t enjoy and the absolute lack of any multimedia capabilities would put it on the bottom of my list. There have certainly been some sterling titles for the machine, such as Zelda: Wind Walker and Super Smash Brothers: Melee, but not enough to win me over. The PlayStation 2 offers a much wider variety of games, including a massive number of platform exclusives, and has (in my opinion) a very good design in the Dual Shock controller. The fact that the system doubles as a DVD player, and has some great peripheral titles such as the EyeToy and SingStar series really do add to the appeal, especially if the machine will be used by children as well. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I do not have to share my console with children, and the only peripheral gaming I really enjoy is that involving dance mats-ie titles such as Dance Dance Revolution. As such the library of games offered by the Xbox (which very obviously aimed at an older audience and is short on ‘younger’ titles) suits me just fine, and the technical superiority of the machine appeals to me with generally better graphical and audio quality. I also find the S Controller to be the most comfortable controller device of the three. I have unfortunately not experienced Xbox Live, since I do not have a broadband connection, so I can’t let that influence my choice, but the Xbox’s additional media capabilities such as recording CDs direct to the hard-drive and using them in some games is great, and the incredible simplicity of setting up multiplayer LAN sessions is great! The machine obviously also offers great additional functionality, if you are willing to ‘chip’ it.
On to the next generation of consoles, and what I think about them, and their chance for success in this country. I will discuss elements I consider important in the discussion, and mention my guess for a ‘winner’ for each element. I will not discuss hardware or games at this point, since it is futile to discuss either before all three systems are on the market.
First to market
One of Microsoft’s trump cards in this generation has been their massive head-start on the competition (this was also one of the things that worked to Sony’s advantage in the previous generation), with the Xbox 360 almost simultaneously released in all three major regions, and projections of the PS3’s release estimating that it may appear as late as 2007 in some major regions, there is a huge amount of time in which Microsoft can push it’s product to consumers, and weaken the PlayStation brand. The Revolution is rumored to be due for release as early as the second quarter of 2006, and this may further help to loosen the grip that the magic PS logo has on consumers’ minds. How will
This is an easy one to call. As far as the majority of South Africans are concerned, gaming is synonymous with PlayStation. There simply is no other console that has an established marketing presence in this country. What little reputation Nintendo has is marred by stories of bad after-sale service, difficult to get hold of software and ridiculously expensive game pricing. Unfortunately the big ‘N’ is a big ‘No’ in SA. Microsoft on the other hand is unknown to the broader public as a console gaming competitor, but extremely well known as a PC brand. Just as PlayStation has a hold on console gaming here, Microsoft has an almost absolute monopoly on home and business computing, with Mac being all but unknown here. This brand could be built on to push the 360, much as it was to push the original Xbox in other territories.
South Africans are underpaid, that is to say they earn far less relative to their peers in developed countries. Basic necessities in
While this is difficult to discuss, since the multimedia functionality for the unreleased Revolution and PlayStation 3 are uncertain, it’s worth trying. Microsoft has ushered in a new era of living room integration for consoles with the multimedia and networked interaction of the Xbox 360. Besides compatibility with just about any media gadget on the market as well as Windows XP Media Centre Edition, the Xbox brings with it an easy-to-use online service that allows users to communicate, compete and buy services and additional items. Unfortunately,
While the above may seem to indicate that the PS3 will be the loser in this war, one must realize that the strength of the PlayStation brand in this country is incredible, and I personally believe that while the other two systems will make a massive dent in it’s market share (more so than in other territories) it will remain the king of the hill for the next generation.