So it's that time again. A console generation comes to an end and everything starts at zero. But this time seems to be different and I will tell you why.
Let's start with Nintendo. Trying to recreate the Wii's success with the WiiU somehow failed ...but why exactly?
To wrap it up in one sentence - core gamers can't be fooled twice and casual gamers are still happy (or had enough) with their WiiSports & WiiFit. But that's just half of the truth.
Of course there's the big Nintendo-only audience who primarily cares about Mario and Zelda and buys Nintendo consoles for that, and only that reason, but - is it really worth getting a console for 1 or 2 games per year? It's each to their own I guess.
What's left is the JRPG audience who's probably hoping that the WiiU will host worthy sequels to most of this gen's best JRPG's. Dragon Quest, Monster Hunter, Fire Emblem, Xenoblade Chronicles, just to name a few. There's definately a lot of potential here but will it be enough to make Nintendo relevant in the next generation?
Personally, I don't think it will. The low hardware specs combined with the missing impact the WiiU iniatlly made due to lack of launch titles will prevent the console from reaching the heights of it's predecessor. But that are just my thoughts based on the current situation, who knows what Nintendo has left in store, especially for this years E3 - the first E3 since the WiiU's launch and an important one for the WiiU's future.
Then there's Microsoft. Taking a first step into the japanese dominated video game industry with the first Xbox was a success - even though not much of a commercial one. Competing with the PS2 was impossible at that time, but much more important than that was the foundation it build for its successor - the Xbox 360.
Instead of focussing on substantial hardware upgrades, Microsoft set it's priorities in the software department - mainly building and expanding it's online network Xbox Live to great success.
In fact, this network was so well designed that gamers didn't bother paying for it. Xbox Live took gaming with friends to a whole new level, lowering the barrier of entry to online gaming to a minimum while maintaining the uncomplicated gaming experience with friends that you know from local multiplayer games.
But of course, it wasn't all sunshine and roses. The console started with some high quality IP's but throughout the years, those IP's either lost it's exclusivity or dropped in quality, Mass Effect or Fable being good examples. Halo and Gears Of War delivered as always, Kinect on the other hand turned out to be rather a gimmick than a revolutionary feature. What was left, was a console that stood out because of it's online experience - while charging for features that should be free on a ~300$ console.
So what about the next Xbox? All kinds of rumors are floating around the internet right now - most of them not overly positive. From requiring a constant online/Kinect connection to blocking used games - even if all of them turn out to be false, what in my opinion will happen, they're all bad publicity that makes former Xbox gamers look for alternatives right now. And until Microsoft can prove them wrong (probably at this years E3), those gamers could've already made a decision - because the lately announced PS4 comes with almost all the features the Xbox360 had - and even more.
Which brings us to Sony. Dominating the console market with the PS2 but struggling to keep up that pace with the PS3 has different reasons. One definately being to costly at launch while simultaneously not bringing enough good purchasing reasons in the form of high quality launch titles. Another surely being the fact, that especially multiplatform developers struggled in handling the PS3's cell processor which resulted in a lot of technically inferior games. The late launch could also be blamed for the PS3's initial failure. At that time, most gamers probably already got either the Wii or the Xbox360.
But with time, developers learned to use the PS3's architecture to their advantage and showed the gaming community, what the PS3 is capable of. Especially Sony-exclusive developers like Naughty Dog or Sony Santa Monica constantly outdone each other with each game and showed, how important it is for a console to have strong first party support.
But even Sony realized, that the times when great exclusives were enough to win the console war were over. And so, Playstation Plus got introduced. Costing the same amount that gamers need to pay for a yearly Xbox Live subscription, Playstation Plus not only brought discounts for all sorts of games and DLC's - it also featured an adequate supply of free games to download and exclusive early access to all sorts of content including betas.
So what's left is a company and a console that somehow managed to take the throne back this generation by having the most consistent supply of exclusive games quantity and quality wise, a free online gaming experience with the possibility to expand it even more by paying for a service that clearly outweighs it's costs, and by being the only console able to playback BluRay-discs making a separate BluRay player needless.
So how did Sony win the next gen system war already?
Simply by showing the world that the PS4 is basically just more of the same, only better. Not only did big developers all around the gaming industry praise the PS4 for being much easier to develop games for - small, independant developers also reported that Sony now actively suppports them by giving them royalties up front so that they can fund their games. In return, Sony get's some form of exclusivity for that specific game.
And on top of that, social gaming will have a whole new meaning thanks to the new share button which could even turn out to be a big system seller. By sharing your best moments with all your friends on social networking sites, non-gamers could be persuaded into getting a PS4 for themselves. And of course, there's a cross game chat available this time which combined with the overhauled PSN (or is it now called SEN?) should please everyone who's in the need of a Xbox Live-like online environment.
So this was my first english blog post. The main idea behind it was to improve my language skills since this is not my first language and because of this, I'd really appreciate every feedback, but especially on my spelling and grammar! :)