Many people out there of course know of today’s current generation of consoles, the Sony Playstation 3, the Microsoft Xbox 360, and the Nintendo Wii. All three systems have had a long life to this point, up to and exceeding 5 years, but just around the corner lurks a possible new generation of consoles for the “Big Three” names in video game home entertainment. What does this mean for the gamers out there? Before answering that, we need to look at the recent history of our beloved consoles.
The Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s Playstation 3 were always the power houses, bringing in the blockbuster games with the flashiest graphics and online network play, with games like Halo, Gears of War, Call of Duty, and even popular fighters like Soul Calibur, Street Fighter, and Tekken. The Wii, however, took a different path, one more available to the masses rather than the core gamer. It introduced motion controls and zany party/multi person games fit for the whole family, not to mention innovative titles like Wii Fit to help people maintain or lose weight with the use of a Wii-centric balance board. This branching path was wildly successful, tapping a market that hadn’t been touched in a while. Instead of pulling in the gamers, Wii reached for Mothers, Brothers, Aunts, and Uncles, heck, even Grandma and Grandpa. Nintendo sought to pull in the casual crowd with attractive and simple games. While successful for a most of its life, Nintendo’s Wii has been seeing a serious drop off in sales. Much like the name suggests, these new casual gamers are just that; casual, no loyalties to the gaming market, just stop in and play for a bit. So while every household needed a Wii, with these new and fun games, the drive wasn’t there to continue purchasing new titles. With a success story comes a downfall, though.
The Hardcore Gamers, otherwise known as those people that enjoy the deep gameplay mechanics, 3D adventures, first person shooters, fighters, and the like, this group of gamers was left fairly high and dry by Nintendo at this point, only offering minimal core games. Even some of their flagship titles disappeared, with others getting a shoddy introduction on the Wii (Mario Kart Wii comes to mind). Loyal Nintendo fans were certainly shocked and hurt, as Nintendo didn’t quite live up to the promises it made to its fans, with games and online services. Worse, with poor sales on third party company games that actually WERE innovative and deep, the market for creativity started to crash, and simpler, less development-heavy games were far outselling games that took years and much manpower to create. The solution to developers became simple…Make cheap and possibly fun games, and wait for the casual market to suck it all up. Lured by Wii’s success, even Playstation and Xbox took the same route with their newest additions to the lineup, the Xbox Kinect, and the Playstation Move. Both are innovative mirrors of the Wii’s motion controls (Xbox using a fairly advanced camera for full body capture), but the point is clear, they are trying to capture the same market the Wii did throughout its casual-centric lifespan.
With creativity being punished with low sales, and casual approaches being rewarded with high profit, it makes it seem as thought there is no hope for the future of in depth gaming. While the future is uncertain, there is hope. As mentioned, the casual market is slowly abandoning the consoles in favor of other things, even the Apple iPod/iPad, for quick and simple games. This is causing a push once again to regain the trust and sales of the hardcore market, now seen by the slow and steady emergence of a new Nintendo console codenamed “Project Cafe”. Reports show that, already, this new console’s design and functionality seem to indicate a focus on the hardcore crowd once again, given its backward compatibility, controller scheme, and graphical output. Though the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 have never quite lost the hardcore route, they too will hopefully either drop their Wii-mimics or release games that really capture the potential of motion capture and 3D technology. The future is unsure, but in my opinion, hopeful. Until then, we’ll sit down with a nice nice soda, a snack, our closest friends and family, and play some timeless classics till we see what this new future of games brings. Game on, readers.