With the release of two new gaming systems in 2013, the next generation console war is beginning to heat up. The Playstation 4 and Xbox One were both launched at the end of 2013 while the Wii U had a head start and launched in late 2012. During last generation’s console war, Nintendo’s Wii prevailed with 100 million units sold worldwide. The Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 failed to match the Wii’s dominance and sold 80 million units each. We’ll take a look at the recent launches of each console and determine the outcome of this new generation of gaming systems.
Sony Playstation 4 (PS4) – $399
Before its launch, industry experts and consumers alike had high expectations for the PS4 as its hardware contains the most powerful specs of the next generation of consoles. The PS4 launched in North America and Europe during November 2013 with much success and fanfare. The PS4 sold over a million units during its first day, making it one of the most successful launches ever. Despite the successful launch, there were reports of defective consoles having overheating and connectivity issues. As these problems continue to arise, some consumers are concerned that their consoles might be susceptible to failure a few years down the road which would render their PS4 warranty (1 year manufacturer warranty) useless.
Even with the news of defective consoles, consumer demand for the PS4 continued its launch-date fervor during the holiday season as Sony recently announced 4.2 million consoles were sold since November. During CES 2014, Sony announced a new streaming gaming service called Playstation Now. The Playstation Now allows users to play games from previous Playstation consoles on your smartphone, tablet, smart TV, PS4, and PS Vita. Think of it as the Netflix of gaming. With the news sending shockwaves across the web, industry experts and consumers have expressed their utmost enthusiasm about the future of the PS4.
Microsoft Xbox One, includes Kinect – $499
The Xbox One generated a lot of concerns during the months leading up to its release when news of heavy DRM (Digital Rights Management) restraints and requirements of constant internet connectivity were planned to be implemented in the console. Microsoft suffered negative backlash as outraged industry experts and consumers believed the incessant DRM and online monitoring processes were unnecessary and invasive. Microsoft responded by relenting its draconian DRM policies.
Many consumers had put the DRM fiasco behind them as the Xbox One console launched one week after the PS4 on Nov 22, 2013. The number of units sold totaled over a million, which was comparable to the PS4 launch. Sales continued to do well over the holiday season as the number of units sold reached 3.2 million to date. In light of the Playstation Now news, Marc Whitten (Xbox Chief Product Officer) reiterated Microsoft’s dedication to the game-streaming functionality with Xbox Live to produce a truly interactive gaming and multimedia experience.
The Wii U was announced in 2011 following the success of its predecessor, known plainly as the Wii. In reaction to the announcement, some consumers had their doubts as they expressed their skepticism about the new touch screen controller. Some felt the innovation (or lack of) in the Wii U would not live up to the bar the original Wii had set.
In November 2012, the Wii U launched worldwide and received a tepid response. After its first week of release, only 400,000 units were sold compared to 600,000 for the original Wii. The sales trend did not improve during 2013 and left many analysts proclaiming the Wii U a dud considering the wild success of the original Wii. After the 2013 holiday season, the number of units sold totaled 5.2 million. Despite launching a year earlier, the Wii U had only sold 1 million more units than the PS4.
Many people believe the Wii U’s disappointing sales numbers were due to the lack of good games and third party support. Popular game franchises like Super Smash Bros. and Zelda have planned release dates in 2014 and 2015. Meanwhile, third party support has been abysmal as many game developers and publishers don’t believe the Wii U platform will be lucrative enough to justify making games for. Another issue associated with the Wii U comes from a branding perspective. Many casual gamers believe the Wii U is just an extension of the Wii as Nintendo has not branded the Wii U as a whole new console. In effect, casual gamers think that they are paying $299 for a new touch screen controller instead of a new console.
With the 2013 season holiday season over, the PS4 has the advantage moving forward. Sony’s focus on harnessing and utilizing the capabilities of the PS4’s hardware seems to resonate with consumers. Given the fact that everything is moving towards cloud-based networks, the Playstation Now game streaming service will surely drive more unit sales in the future. The Xbox One isn’t far behind. Microsoft made some mistakes early with rigid DRM measures, but fans of their Xbox Live online platform seem to be enjoying the service more than ever as it has become a focal point in their gaming experience. For Nintendo, the Wii U appears to be more of a fad than a resilient competitor as the lack of software support has disinterested consumers and misguided product differentiation has confused others. If the Wii U doesn’t turn it around in 2014, it will be relegated to the console graveyard sooner than later.
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