Monday, January 29, 2007

The Next Generation: What Do Gamers Want?

The Nintendo Wii, the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 comprise the next generation gaming platforms; all are equipped with cutting edge technology, and are ready to compete for the title of "top dog". According to BrandIntel, a marketing intelligence firm, a system should be assessed on its, “purchase intent, general appeal, game lineup, brand image, graphics and innovation.” Hardware, game titles, creativity and cost are generally considered the foremost qualities that the gaming culture scrutinizes in a system. While innovation and low cost can draw in attention initially and are essential to success to a degree, longevity is determined by hardware, titles and also fan base. Despite current trends and what analysts, gamers and even clueless friends of both, the Playstation 3 has the greatest potential and is the superior system.

Hardware is the base of a gaming console. Much of the functionality and the rendering capabilities of a system is a product of the hardware's quality. The Playstation 3 owns the hardware race with authority. To
begin with the Cell Broadband Engine CPU is far more powerful than the Xbox 360’s three symmetrical PowerPC chips and to the Wii’s PowerPC chip. In addition to a superior core processor, the RSX graphics processor, also boasts a higher clock speed and greater bandwidth than the Xbox 360’s ATI GPU and the ATI chip in the Wii. This advantage in sheer processing power gives the Playstation 3 a tremendous long term upper hand. Once there are games written to utilize the hardware within these three systems, the Wii and the Xbox 360’s graphics, physics and Artificial Intelligence will be lacking in comparison to the capabilities of the Playstation 3. The importance of graphics are not to be underestimated. Gamers live for the cutting edge and want the most aesthetically stunning games and the Playstation 3 has the greatest potential to deliver. Lastly the Playstation 3 is the only system that offers a true HD experience with an HDMI input and a Blu-ray DVD drive, again granting it another benefit over its competitors, fully asserting its dominance in the hardware arena.

For all things console related the hardware plays a factor even if the focus lies in another facet of the system. For example, in order for innovation to be possible there needs to be changes in hardware. The Play
station 3 is not a revolutionary console in that it does not introduce anything completely unheard of, though it attempted to match the Wii-mote capability with its six-degree motion sensor controller. Currently, the Wii “continues to be the most-discussed console,” giving it the edge on the competition, as the study done by BrandIntel informs consumers; this lead is only a manifestation of the Wii-mote phenomenon. It’s innovative gameplay allows for a completely new console experience instantly inspiring millions of gamers to camp in front of their local Best Buy. The huge upsurge of Wii followers due to this phenomenon, although impressive, is not enough to sustain the lead for long. The Wii is innovative to a degree that the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 cannot match but the Wii-mote can only carry the system to a certain point. Once the novelty fades, the lesser graphics and inability to keep up with the HD revolution will push gamers to a platform that can bring them the latest graphics and is equipped with the newest technology.

The Playstation 3 not only has the hardware advantage Sony has a tremendous head start in terms of fanbase because of the pervasive nature of the Playstation 3's predecessor: the Playstation 2. The Playstation 2 is a six year old system that still outsold all next generation systems this December, this popularity instantly lends an enormous fan base and title selection to the Playstation 3. When considering the success of hardware systems one always has to seek the “killer app”, the application, in this case the game, that will make the system not only desirable but also necessary. The game will come; most likely as one of the many Playstation 3 titles listed under the most anticipated games of 2007. This is not substantial enough to clinche the game title race however, currently Microsoft has that lead with Gears of War. Nevertheless, the Playstation 3 has yet to release its most prominent titles which leaves huge potential due to the strength of its existing fan base anticipating sequels on the new platform.

Next generation consoles aim to deliver the best experience possible to the gamer. Currently the Playstation 3 does not meet this standard as it lags behind the Xbox 360 and the Wii in terms of sales and consumer interest. However it holds the most potential for the future. Innovation and low cost create excitement, and great titles make systems popular easily, as the Wii-mote and Gears of War, respectively, have done for the Wii and the Xbox 360. Sony, in contrast, has invested the Playstation 3 in the long term, putting resources into the processing power, and HD capability, and depending on the consumers patience and waiting for the big titles to reap the benefits of superior hardware.

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