Picking the winner of the Super bowl? Easy. Guessing when Elysium will break down and buy a game he'll never play? Child's play. Predicting the shape of future consoles before this year's E3? Maybe a little tougher if you ask me, but that's all part of the fun. We're reaching that time of year now where whispers on the wings of news whores begin to take shape into rumors of what the big three are up to for their next-gen consoles.
Today is the day when the real men and women step forward and tender their predictions for the next generation of consoles. It just so happens that I'm one of them. One of the men that is, just so we're clear.
Nintendo's Plans For Potential Fruitiness
I've always liked the Gamecube. That plucky little underdog with big dreams and promises of even bigger games was enough to warm anyone's heart. A couple years into the consoles life has proven once again that Nintendo has good intentions and the ability to make good games but they just can't seem to crawl out of this 12 foot rut they've dug. Good exclusive titles are few and far between and third party support continues to suffer from sloppy ports if they even get one at all. Again, I still love the Gamecube but now it's mostly like someone loves their crazy Uncle Steve who still wears sweat bands and listens to Glass Tiger.
So what does Nintendo plan to do to shake things up? Here's something Satoru Iwata said recently as posted over at 1up:
I was kind of in "benefit of the doubt" mode when the Gamecube launched, I don't know if I have it in me for something that only 1/10th of people at E3 may think is a good idea. So what is it? I think Nintendo sees Sony and MS moving towards more of an all-in-one solution so they're going to veer off into some sort of game device that is more unique to Nintendo and highly interactive. Think Virtual Boy without the sucking... hopefully.
"We want to create a product and an experience that hasn't been experienced before." Whatever it is, Iwata is outwardly very confident in its potential, saying that "this is the year when we'll join the fight in earnest with this new product."
Iwata went on to explain that he doesn't necessarily expect this product to be an immediate hit upon its announcement -- he's prepared to see a lack of applause from some of the audience, is how he puts it. However, if even one-tenth of the audience is interested, he said, that provides a base from which the appeal of this new offering can spread.
Microsoft Looks to do the Tivo
Semus Blackly and Ed Fries, two of the driving forces behind the creation of the original Xbox have moved on but then a console is bigger than just two men. Already "Xbox Next" sounds like it may be able to record TV shows, play DVD's, have built-in wifi access, play windows media files and it may even play video games! I'm all for fancy new features but not if it neglects the game side of things or drives up the price. Remember, most people have DVD players, computers to play media files and surf the internet already. Making them pay extra for features they don't need won't move units.
Will the Next Xbox slice bread and vacuum the floor? I don't know, I think Microsoft will offer more features on the next version but my prediction is that in order to keeps costs down and make a deadline they won't cover all the bases.
Sony Gets More Xboxy
Not that Sony has had a very difficult time this generation but you can bet Microsoft and Nintendo's promises not to give the PS3 a one year head start have been heard by Sony. I believe that the PS3 will feature a built-in hard-drive, broadband adapter and a few other nice things but it won't match what Microsoft may come up with. Will Sony be able to continue their dominance next generation? No, they simply can't. Impossible. Being number one now certainly has its advantages but you can't ignore the amount of market share both Nintendo and Microsoft have gobbled up. Good foot holds for the future I'd say.
One thing I wouldn't look for is any fancy "multi-processor sharing" stuff coming in this generation. Things improve with leaps and bounds but we're just not there yet.
So, When and Where?
I believe initial announcements of some kind will be made by all three console makers this May at E3. When will the consoles actually launch? Not until Christmas 2005 if not sometime in 2006. I predict that Nintendo will beat both Microsoft and Sony to the shelves and to some degree they'll suffer from a lack of titles and people waiting for the Xbox and PS2 successors.
Lay it on the line, what do you think will happen?