Game Over: Why the Console Wars Have Ended
The Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U.
CREDIT: TechNewsDaily composite
In George Orwell's dystopian novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four," the world is divided into three megacountries that are constantly at war with one another.
The book later reveals that the perpetual war is just a pretext to keep the countries' citizens in a state of constant patriotic fervor and to distract them from the real problems plaguing their governments.
This is the point we've reached with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo — makers of the PlayStation, Xbox and Wii consoles, respectively.
All three companies appear to be at war with one another, but with the release of their next-gen systems — the Xbox One, the PlayStation 4 and the Wii U — it's become clear that if Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo were ever competing for the same demographic, they've now given up.
The Big Three console makers are focusing their efforts on defending their established territories instead of broadening their reach to other types of consumers.
One box to rule them all
At its Xbox One unveiling on Tuesday (May 21), Microsoft came out swinging — but not at other next-gen game consoles.
Instead, Microsoft has set its sights on becoming every family's one-stop entertainment system — hence the "One" in the name. (It’s obviously not the first Xbox system.)
Microsoft received a lot of negative press coverage in the days after the Xbox One announcement , but the criticism came mostly from video-game journalists disappointed by the Xbox One press event's lack of actual game news.
That doesn’t mean the Xbox One won't be a game console. Microsoft has said there will be eight new franchises available for the system. The company will probably reveal more details at the Electronic Entertainment Expo next month.
But gaming is just one of the functionalities that Microsoft wants to enable on the Xbox One. The mix of smart TV, sports, social networking and generic shooter games suggests that Microsoft doesn't want its newest device to be considered a mere gaming console.
4 the love of the game
The PlayStation 4, on the other hand, is all about gaming. When Sony unveiled the console last February, the company devoted most of the event to announcing new video games and expanding on previously revealed titles.
That's not to say Sony isn't emphasizing the PS4's multipurpose entertainment capabilities — the box can play DVDs and Blu-ray discs, supports Netflix and Hulu, and even has a Share button right on the controller.
Sony also emphasized its commitment to bringing indie titles to the PS4. Indies, or independently developed video games, have been getting increased attention from both the mainstream games industry and consumers, particularly as creation and dissemination of original games becomes easier and cheaper.
Sony has been working hard to attract indie developers to its console-based distribution system, the PlayStation Network, and says its goal is to bring a diverse range of innovative and artistic gaming experiences to the brand.
So far, indie developers have seen great success, both commercially and critically, with titles like "Journey" and "The Unfinished Swan," both released exclusively on the PlayStation Network in 2012. [See also: 5 Hit Games Made on a Shoestring]
Wii are all connected
Then there's the Wii U.
Nintendo's newest console, released in 2012, has so far been a commercial disappointment. But Nintendo’s Wii, its previous-generation console — as well as its handheld gaming device, the 3DS — are still huge hits.
Nintendo's strategy is twofold: First, it creates a low barrier of entry for gamers, and second, it appeals to people’s nostalgic tendencies.
Instead of dazzling consumers with all-in-one functionality (as Microsoft is attempting to do), or with creative ambition (which is Sony’s goal), Nintendo is keeping it simple with rehashes of tried-and-true franchises such as "Mario," "The Legend of Zelda" and "Pokemon."
Other titles, like "Wii Sports" and "Just Dance," combine catchy motion-control play with a simple premise. Nintendo keeps longtime fans happy by making older titles available on the 3DS and Wii online stores, and by ensuring that the Wii U is compatible with Wii games and Wii controllers.
The significantly lower price point and the lack of often-exclusionary "hardcore" communities also make Nintendo's systems attractive to people who are simply looking to play a fun game. [See also: A Wii U Beginners Guide]
Side by side, the Xbox One, the PS4 and the Wii U are hardly recognizable as the same type of device. They may still be considered "gaming consoles," but only because they're descendants of the "Big Three." Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo have clearly set their sights on different markets.