“He said the Playstation 3, Xbox 360 and Ninetendo Wii all had tremendous innovation – and all three game console makers have signed up to use the new Power-based Cell CPU.”
“They told our reporter Roman that if necessary, they can easily develop a Blu-Ray player that is compatible with the Xbox360.”
With these words, a war has ended and a new war has begun. This now is the dawn of an even more pointless future-gen video gaming console situation.
As much as the X360 has a common-sense advantage of not being lumbered with expensive built-in technology, not forcing the consumer to buy anything they don’t need, left as add-ons, their announcement about Blu-Ray is terrible news for the X360.
If Blu-Ray does beat out HD-DVD and Microsoft decide to bring out a Blu-Ray add-on, it immediately makes the X360 pointless to own. The PS3 will have Blu-Ray built-in which is also being used for games. Whereas, the Microsoft Blu-Ray add-on would only be for movie playback.
There’d be no competition. Microsoft would have to start selling new X360’s that have a built-in Blu-ray, a built-in HDD for core and premium consoles, built-in HDMI, and require games developers to start building games on Blu-Ray.
The problem with this, as you might notice, is that THIS IS WHAT THE PS3 IS!
Microsoft going down this path would have dire consequences for the X360. Especially in light of the other breaking announcement that Microsoft have signed on with IBM and the Cell CPU for future consoles.
A few weeks ago, an MS executive said that Microsoft were not prepared to give up on the console market, that they were here for the long-haul, if the X360 failed. Given the latest news developments regarding Blu-Ray and the Cell, this comment, in hindsight, seems to suggest that even Microsoft are almost resigned to an inevitable defeat.
The X360 has a slew of great games coming, but there’s no point in the X360 ending up offering the same technology as the PS3 but in a more half-assed and less streamlined and functional manner.
Purely the act of Microsoft bringing out a Blu-Ray add-on would be the death of the X360. It wouldn’t be utilizing it as a game disc like the PS3. It wouldn’t be part of a packaged system that includes HDMI and HDD like the PS3. There would be no point doing any of that because it would make the PS3 immediately a stronger consumer product. Microsoft might as well not release a Blu-Ray add-on and it would be the same result. They’d be fighting a losing battle and throwing good money after bad in the process.
If Microsoft bit the bullet and re-designed a “slim-X360” that had built-in Blu-Ray, HDD, and HDMI, it would only anger and alienate all current X360 owners. It would also mean there’d be no difference between the X360 and PS3, therefore what’s the point?
Considering Microsoft have now officially bought into the Cell, their future-gen Xbox would end up being a Cell powered, Blu-Ray playing, built-in HDD console. Sounds like a PS3 and PS4! D’oh!
All this breaking news suggests that Microsoft is on uncertain ground now. They have some great games coming, but they can always end up being cross-platform further reducing its appeal.
However, a course of attack for Microsoft could be in reducing it’s premium console price. The PS3, with all its built-in technology, is $600. Sony are losing roughly $300+ per console. The X360, with the built-in technology that it has, is $400. They might only be losing $100+ per console. The Wii, with even less built-in technology, is $250. They might be profiting roughly $50+ per console.
If Blu-Ray wins the Hi-Def optical media war, and Microsoft intend on releasing a Blu-Ray add-on, dropping the price of their console to a figure around $200 or $250 may well still be an option up their sleeve. That would make Microsoft lose about the same as what Sony are losing, but it would force consumers to reconsider the X360 as a PS3-like system – missing the HDMI, built-in HDD and Hi-Def drive, but whose processing power is right up there with the PS3. That would then put a lot of pressure on the Wii. Consumers would suddenly perceive the Wii as being overpriced for what it’s offering tech-wise, and Microsoft could then take some of the appeal off the PS3. Forcing consumers to be even more tempted to purchase an X360 instead. Beyond that, Microsoft would have to consider offering free XBL services. Whether all this would still be sufficient is hypothetical. The X360 can also be seen as a bits-and-bobs system lacking the overall uniformity of the PS3.
Of course, a lot still depends on whether even Blu-Ray beats out HD-DVD. If HD-DVD wins hands-down, it would surely spell disaster for the all-purpose, ‘built-in around Blu-Ray’ PS3. However, what adds strength to the PS3 is that the Blu-Ray drive is not only a Hi-Def movie player, but is being used for Hi-Def gaming. If the popularity of the Playstation brand continues, then the sheer volume of gaming content available on Blu-Ray coupled with the movie content available, would almost surely make Blu-Ray a more versatile media for the consumer. HD-DVD not involved in gaming, so no ‘hands-down’ dominance.
Considering the delays, expenses, and manufacturing problems that the Blu-Ray diodes are causing, perhaps a built-in Blu-Ray for a new X360 or a future-gen Xbox would result in all the same problems.
Last-gen consoles basically offer DVD as standard. It was up to the consoles to offer different services, software, and exclusive games to convince the consumer to buy their console instead of a rivals. It’s now feasible that future-gen Xbox and PS consoles will have standard Blu-Ray, with the only thing different about them being the services, software and exclusive games.
It’s also feasible that even Nintendo’s Cell-powered future-gen console will offer built in Blu-Ray. In the end, Microsoft and Sony will end up incorporating the Wii-mote idea. We’ll end up with all three systems being essentially the same as each other! The madness!
It’s now apparent to me that all three companies are like three bachelors living in the same house – all paranoid and fighting each other over the same girl. All getting in each others way, wearing the same clothes, geting on each others nerves, behaving like brats, arguing loudly, and embarrassing themselves to their next-door neighbors.
It’s not their fault, they’re all forced to follow the standards that each of them innovate in their own way. However, competition ends up turning these three distinct companies, with their three distinct core philosophies, and turns them all into the same basic console manufacturer offering the same basic cross-platform games.
Consumers have the power. Consumers will make the Wii-mote a must-have for future-gen consoles. Cell is now officially the same CPU for all three future-gen consoles. Blu-ray, if it too becomes the standard media choice, will become standard for all three future-gen consoles. They all have no choice but to do so.
It’s clearly the potential rewards, the increased stakes, that is in many ways turning into a farce. They’re all clearly desperately greedy to be the King of the ever-increasing multi-billion dollar gaming industry. They’re all not going down without a fight. They’re all setting themselves up for billions of dollars of losses and manufacturing headaches in copying each other.
Now, more than ever, the future-gen picture is becoming clearer. This next-gen cycle is already officially dead before it has even begun. It seems clear now that the war was a cold war of technological ideas only, of three companies jockeying and fighting each other like the Three Stooges. They may as well all just merge and save us, the consumer, all this expense and devisiveness.
Nintendo, in building this secret Wii-mote weapon, and having MS and Sony clamor to discover it, will succeed in positioning the concept of the Wii-mote as a future standard. The Wii itself will probably end up dying out in a handful of years because Nintendo themselves now acknowledge that the Cell CPU is the direction to take with hardware. Microsoft, in building up this streamlined multi-device compatibility of Live Anywhere, will succeed in positioning itself as the mainstay of PC-Console-Handheld compatibiltity and Online services. Sony, in building up the Blu-Ray and with its huge catalog of movie/music, will succeed in positioning itself as the standard for optical media and content download services.
They all warred over the hardware solution, Microsoft offering a powerful PC-compatible architecture. Nintendo offering an efficient but inferior architecture. Sony offering the more powerful Cell. The Cell and the Wii-mote won. All this before an innings has even been completed in next-gen gaming. All this occuring behind the scenes, the jockeying of technological announcements.
What does this mean for the current next-gen? It means, once again, that all three companies focus will be on the future-gen. The developers will hone their skills on games that will in the most part be only enhancements from what we saw last-gen. The graphics, AI, physics, and environment interactivity/destructability will all increase proportionately once again. No wondrous leap. Not yet anyway. The consumer will go along for the ride and be sucked of as much money as possible. Then in 5 years we will see all three consoles offering the same devices and peripherals, the same media, the same online services, the same cross-platform games. Competition and the greed to be king of a multi-billion-dollar industry is resulting in console androgyny that will see all three companies wounding each other like the Three Stooges, and the consumers pining for that promised land.
Perhaps, more than ever, we may be on the threshold of a future-gen where all three companies finally merge resources and learn to share the pie? But not before another pointless round of Cell-powered, motion-sensing, cross-platform gaming.