A Look at the Systems That Will Try to Take Down the PlayStation 4
The next console generation will see the PlayStation 4 going up against new consoles from both Microsoft and Nintendo, and though information on these two new consoles is still scarce, we do have some general info.
First up will be Nintendo's new console, a successor to the popular Wii. Unsurprisingly, Nintendo will follow up on the Wii's success with another motion-sensor based console. What is surprising, is that despite Nintendo's large lead in the current console generation, their new system will be the first to market in the next generation, possibly as early as 2010, giving the 50 million plus selling Wii a lifespan of just 4 years. The system is already close to completion, with Nintendo mastermind Shigeru Miyamoto stating that the cost to produce the systems will be very cheap, and that the new system should be quite affordable as a result.
Is Casual Gaming Here to Stay?
It will be interesting to see how the new console fares early on. The Wii has largely dominated the casual games market, a fanbase that isn't necessarily interested in the next new thing, as evidenced by the lagging game sales and attach rate of the Wii. Casual gamers are content to have a few favourite games and play them only occasionally. While the next Wii will sport better graphics, likely on a par with the current Xbox 360, it's hard to imagine that will be a motivating factor for casual gamers to rush out and buy a new console, despite the relatively cheap price.
It's also yet to be seen how long the motion-sensor crowd will stay enamoured before moving on to something else. Critics and many gamers have expressed angst over the popularity of the Wii, a console which is widely regarded as having the worst games of the 3 current consoles. Motion controls are still seen as little more than a gimmick and a fad by many gamers, and it's likely the Wii 2 will either prove them right or wrong once and for all.
The improved motion sensor capabilities in the newest version of the Wii's controller has helped add a needed degree of precision and skill into the equation for current games, something that earlier games were lacking, compensating instead with basic motions that wouldn't overly stretch the capabilities of the controller. This certainly bodes well for a possible Wii 2 if this technology can improve sufficiently to the point where it truly feels like a viable control option and not just a gimmick.
Does Microsoft Have A Console Generation Victory In Them?
With the next Wii being first to release, it's expected the new Xbox console, commonly called the Xbox 720, though that's unlikely to be the name of the new system, will arrive sandwiched between Nintendo and Sony's launches. Microsoft has built up a strong reputation as the gaming machine of choice for hardcore gamers, with a good selection of mature games, and their excellent Xbox Live service. Despite that reputation, both of Microsoft's consoles to date have been crushed by less powerful consoles that were geared towards a more casual audience, first the PlayStation 2, and now the Wii.
Will Microsoft continue to cater to the serious gamers by focusing development on shooters and mature games, or will the company try to stretch a hand out in some way to casual gamers as well, making their console the best of both worlds?
While Microsoft has performed much better with their most recent console, the infamous Red Ring of Death has severely damaged their reputation in the industry, rendering many new consoles useless shortly after purchase. Microsoft's attempts to break into the important Japanese market have also proved unsuccessful this generation, despite an improved performance over the original Xbox's dismal showing in Japan.
The new Xbox is expected at some point around 2011-2012, with Microsoft execs saying the console is in the planning stages, with them analyzing the potential technology which will be available at the time, and how best to make use of it.
Win or Lose, the PS4 Should Be Incredible Fun
The PlayStation 4 meanwhile will likely be the last to market, which is not surprising given Sony's ambition for the PlayStation 3 to have a generous life cycle of as much as 10 years. While the PS4 will come out well before that 10 year cycle is complete, as it's also expected in 2012 at this point, it's certainly true that the PS3 is just hitting its stride, and may yet end up as the most successful console of its generation for the third straight time, especially with the Wii's early departure from the scene.
With the PlayStation 1 and 2 dominating the last two console wars, this generation has seen a much more competitive battle between three industry heavyweights, a battle not seen since the Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis wars of the early 1990's. All expectations are that the next generation will see a similar dogfight, which can only be good news for gamers.