As we are all aware of by now, unless you have been living in a cave for the past 2 years, Nintendo currently “lead” the console race, the sprint to be number one. They have the best selling games console and the pride of being officially at the top.
What a turn around it was too, going from 3rd behind Microsoft and Sony last generation, to becoming the leader and all thanks, say some, to those innovative motion controls. But, as Sony keeps ramming down our throats, it is a marathon, not a sprint and they would like us to believe that the PlayStation 3 has a 10 year lifecycle. They are trying to convince us (in a slightly nervous manner) that the PS3 will eventually overtake the Wii.
New head of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Andrew House, recently said to Edge Online; “If you look back at previous lifecycles, we have lots of data that suggests that lots of people bought into N64 as their entry level gaming device, and were happy to upgrade to a more powerful machine later in the lifecycle when the price point was right for them. I think we’re going to see this later on PS3”.
This was backed this up to a certain extent by Kaz Hirai (Chief Executive of Sony Computer Entertainment), in a recent interview with the Guardian newspaper, stating “A console always needs a solid core of games that appeal to gamers. If you go mainstream too quickly and don’t support the core gaming audience then you lack the pillar to support your platform. Without this pillar you end up with a fickle audience that might be big but will probably move on.” Some wise words indeed. So while Nintendo trail-blaze the social, family friendly, party games and aiming their console firmly at pregnant mothers (If their latest Wii Fit advert is anything to go by), the real computer gamers stick with either Sony or Microsoft.
This is the real “console war” (If there is indeed actually such a thing) and it’s a two horse race. Nintendo have walked all over Microsoft and Sony, but not by selling a games console, by selling an electronics icon for the masses that is universally loved by all. The majority of Wii buyers don’t care about high scores, online play or a slick cover system. They never have, they never will. My mum plays Wii Fit every day, but does she play others games? No. Will she ever play Grand Theft Auto? No. Wii Fit and Wii Sports for her and Mario for my younger brother will do nicely thanks Nintendo.
The sort of person who bought a PS2 for Pro Evolution Soccer, Gran Turismo or Final Fantasy does not play on the Wii. The same person who bought an Xbox for Halo does not play Wii. If they have one, it’s currently sitting at the bottom of a cupboard and being the most expensive dust gatherer since your dad bought that, well, Nintendo Wii. Ok, so there are obvious exceptions, as there are to any rule, but this is largely true for the majority of Wii owners.
As mentioned before, the real battle is between Sony and Microsoft, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. But wait. Here comes Project Natal and it’s bearing its family-friendly teeth for all to see. Thanks to a well scripted launch at E3, Steven Spielberg and a typically smooth Microsoft PR spin, Project Natal has been on the lips of pretty much every form of mass media possible. Be it newspapers, glossy magazines or the television, it has been everywhere. Celebrity endorsements, cringe worthy US TV appearances and ill-informed Daily Mail reader comments (“It’s like Big Brother in your living room”). Project Natal has it all.
So, now, poor old Sony looks left behind breathing in the fumes of motion control that even your grandad can enjoy: “Yes, it really is that easy!” While Sony did show some rather impressive motion control tech at E3, they did not follow it up with any publicity stunts or celebrity endorsements. It didn’t even have a name for crying out loud! For a gamer, it looks much more precise, responsive and ultimately more appealing than Wii Motion Plus or Project Natal. Yet, where’s the promotion Sony?
Well, as bad as it seems, it might yet be the cleverest thing Sony has done in a while. They obviously have a very clearly defined target market, people who play games. Microsoft does not. They are aiming anyone and everyone. They want a slice of Nintendo pie and are going head to head with an already established brand and gaming experience. It is going to be tough and even with Microsoft’s seemingly endless supply of marketing budget, I do not think they will get close to Nintendo. It will sell well, but beat the Wii? No way, it has one of the biggest leads in a race since Michael Schumacher first set his eyes upon a Ferrari.
With Microsoft chasing Nintendo like a wide-eyed puppy dog, the door has been left open for Sony and the PS3. Sony has an amazing line-up of first party games on the way that really appeal to the core audience. People like you and me. The motion technology will also be directly squarely at people like us. “You can’t have a shooting game without button” said the Sony guy demoing the PS3 motion-control-wand-thing at E3.
Well, how very true. Maybe Kaz was right about pillars all along.