Every five years or so, the video game community is turned on its head as a new generation of game systems becomes available to the public.
For game players everywhere, this twice-a-decade upheaval means bigger and more impressive games to play on their newly acquired entertainment systems. For those who follow the industry a little more closely, however, the ushering in of a new generation begins an exciting new battle for market dominance.
This upcoming generation appears to be full of more uncertainties than any other generation in the past, and the three systems, Microsoft’s X-Box 360, Sony’s Playstation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii (renamed from Revolution on April 27), all have their upsides as well as their downsides.
“Out of the three systems…it is really hard to say [which will sell the best],” said Yoshi, manager of M&M Video Games in Upland. “We won’t know which one will be the best system until the actual companies release their own games.”
The view that the best system is selected by the quality and quantity of games is a widely shared thought. In the current generation, the best selling system is the Playstation 2, despite it being the least powerful system, due mainly to the fact that the largest selection of good games available for it.
Games such as “Grand Theft Auto 3,” “God of War” and “Jak and Daxter” helped define the system. Without playing the games that will be available for the Playstation 3 and Wii - both of which have a speculated release date of November - it is impossible to say what they will offer. However, the X-Box 360, which was released in November 2005, has games available for it.
The X-Box 360’s head start has allowed it to gain public awareness and have the first “next-gen” games available, but it has also opened them up to be scrutinized.
“A lot of the [X-Box 360] games are just ports of computer games,” said Cameron Vosley, shift leader at Game Crazy in La Verne.
This has been especially true in recent months. Though the system has seen critically acclaimed games such as “Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter” and “Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion,” these games are also available for the PC at a cheaper price.
The pricing brings up another concern for the next generation of games. Most X-Box 360 games, many of which are available on other systems as well, are released with a ten dollar price-hike.
“The prices are just insane,” Yoshi said. “I’m used to paying $49.99 for games, but $59.99 is just too much.”
Game exclusivity and pricing is not the only concern that consumers have with the X-Box 360. When the system was launched late last year, a good portion of the shipments were faulty in one way or another. Such a large amount of systems were sent back to Microsoft for scratching game discs or just plain dying, that whispers of a possible recall made their way through the gaming community.
Aside from system malfunctions, the quality of the system has been brought into question.
“I think they could have worked out the load times; a lot of the games have long load times,” Vosley said. “And graphically, the games look really good, but it is not as detailed as I think it should be…[X-box 360] is cool, but it’s not ‘next-gen,’ I don’t think.”
Despite complaints, the X-Box 360 continues to sell well in most areas of the world. Unfortunately for Microsoft, in Japan, the world’s second largest gaming market, the system is a major failure and even the current generation systems continue to outsell the machine.
This is not likely to be the case with either the Playstation 3 or the Wii because Sony and Nintendo - both Japanese companies - continually have success across the Pacific.
Despite this commonality, however, the two remaining systems in the upcoming “console war” have major differences.
With the Playstation 3, Sony is attempting to create the most powerful system possible, and in doing so, it will also have a very expensive system which is set to include, among other things, a Blu-ray Disc player, which is one of the two possible upgrades for DVD players.
Sony has already made it clear that the Playstation 3 will be expensive, but the company has not said a specific price yet.
“Blu-ray Players alone are supposed to be around a thousand dollars,” Vosley said. “Hopefully [the price] will not be too high.”
For avid Playstation fans, the price will not be a huge deterrent because it will be the most capable system.
“The PS3, as of what they say, will be able to do wonders,” Yoshi said. “The graphics and sound…will be phenomenal.”
Though not too much has been shown in terms of gameplay for the Playstation 3, teaser trailers for games such as “Metal Gear Solid 4” - a futuristic stealth/action game - have impressed game players and convinced them that Sony‘s system is the one to get.
“I’m waiting for the PS3 [and MGS4],” said freshman Psychology major Adrian Laygo. “I’ve always been a PS2 fan; I’m just kind of sticking with [the brand].
Such impressive games have people convinced that, no matter the price, the Playstation 3 will sell well.
“[Sony] is releasing it around Christmas time, so everyone’s going to want to get one,” Vosley said.
Not everyone is so sure about the system, however.
“There is too much uncertainty about PS3 when it comes to price and games,” sophomore business marketing major Adam Elmayan said. “Plus, Sony has low reliability when it comes to launching systems.”
Elmayan, worried about Sony’s track-record with game systems, is also uncertain about the Wii because of past experiences with Nintendo.
“I wasn’t really happy with my Nintendo Gamecube because I felt there wasn’t enough third-party and online support,” Elmayan said.
Nintendo, however, is attempting a major change. Along with gathering support from other developers and creating an online service, it is hoping to change the way video games are played.
By replacing a traditional controller with a motion sensing device more visually reminiscent of a television remote, Nintendo is allowing developers to create brand new ways of playing games.
“I like the fact that Wii is going to be more toward interaction than just sitting down with a controller,” Yoshi said as he explained how it would be fun to swing a sword in-game by actually making the motions with your hand and controller.
However, Nintendo may be taking a step backward by not upgrading the system’s power as significantly as its competitors, but as a result, the Wii is expected to sell for significantly cheaper than the X-Box 360 and the Playstation 3.
The lack of a power upgrade does not appear to phase Nintendo loyalists.
“Nintendo is going with a great strategy,” sophomore Anthropology major Chris Ricapa said. “Every time you buy a Nintendo system you are going to get something you haven’t gotten before. You just know that with Nintendo, there is always something refreshing.”
The Wii is also earning a lot of attention due to what Nintendo calls a “Virtual Console,” which will allow game players to purchase many old titles from past Nintendo consoles. This idea was actually a part of the X-Box 360 in the form of “Live Arcade,” which contained classic and new arcade style games.
For now, it is hard to tell where the video game industry will be in a couple of years. The X-Box 360 certainly has an advantage in launching nearly a year before its competition, but the performances of the PS3 and Wii are yet to be determined. More information about the latter two systems will be unveiled beginning Tuesday at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Until all of the systems launch, however, the eventual winner is anyone’s guess.
Mathew Loriso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.