Thursday, 28 February 2013

PS4 - Its biggest innovation isn't the hardware

This time last week, we were all glued to our screens, drooling over some next-gen hardware we can really get our teeth into. The PS4 was announced to great fanfare and this blogger was impressed with what he saw. It wasn't the hardware that impressed but more, the software.

Look at that logo!

Hardware that kicks Nintendo while they're down

Early on during the reveal  Sony made sure they had answers to their competitors. Firstly, showing you can stream the PS4 onto the PSVita whilst spending time on the loo. So effectively, Nintendo's big innovation and a possible system seller can now be done of the Playstation 4. Everyone at Nintendo took a big gulp. It's all about  the great exclusive titles now for Nintendo. Other reveals include a sensor on the controller which seemed somewhat tacked on, but it will be interesting to see if that can be used in a way that really enhances gameplay. How about that share button? I think for certain games, it's a great addition.  Think of sharing something whilst playing Fifa. Scoring a stunner or seeing a funny glitch always makes me chuckle but I can't usually bothered to record it and post it on Youtube. The instantaneous aspect of the share button is a welcome addition,

In terms of the system specs, they were pretty decent but that's not what excited me about the console reveal.

The Networked Gaming Society

It's clear that Sony are looking to create a console that will be considered the perfect device for gamers who are part of the community - a powerful console with a tailored experience. Being able to see what your friends are playing and actually watching them play is a good idea. The idea of helping them and giving support is not so great. I personally find watching other people playing video games as extremely tedious. I think a lot of people will shun that idea, but most of all creating this tailored experience is very interesting. During the presentation it was announced that Playstation will learn and show things that are tailored to your tastes. Amazon have done this a while now for their tailored hompage and Sony can do this by creating tailored product and offerings. Sports fan? you're homepage will show special offers, videos and games relating to sport titles

All that data

With all that data coming in Sony can sell the data to second parties or offer developers the chance to learn how gamers experience their games. The second point is crucial as Sony are looking to create a much easier console to develop for. Sony can provide developers with videos of how gamers play that certain game which will allow developers to see things that wouldn't previously be able to see. The Playstation console could be the developer's console as well as the gamer's

The Gamer's Console

All I could think of is this could be the console for gamers. The online service will, in my opinion remain free which is key because the WiiU's online service is unspectacular and Xbox Live remains a paid service. I expect the new Xbox to be focussed around the living room and being the main box for families. That's fine, but Sony have picked up on this and addressed it by stating, 'if Microsoft want to have the living room, lets have the gamers.' It will be interesting to see what Microsoft reveal, but I expect to be a much more casual console. Sony don't have the same financial power so it makes sense for them to target the core rather than the family hub.

And Then, The Games

In terms of graphics and innovation, most of the game reveals were pretty unspectacular. Knack was the first game showcased on the PS4 and it didn't really inspire. Killzone Shadow Fall certainly looks good but my jaw wasn't quite reaching the floor. I'm not worried though. The first next-gen games always don't look that jaw-dropping and we normally have to wait a year or two to really see the console flex it's muscles. Capcom's new IP, Deep Down, was the only 'game' to look truly next-gen but I think we all knew that the video shown wasn't actual gameplay.

Deep Down (Capcom)
The stunning looking 'Deep Down'

A Fresh Start

Sony wanted to start fresh with the Playstation 4. They chose the right time to announce it whilst giving them time to drip feed the gaming community with news all the way up to its release. The main concern is the price. It won't cost $599 which the PS3 debuted at, but a price similar could prove problematic. I think we can all say, over to you Microsoft.

A thing about GTA

Is it just me, or does GTA5 look like a next-gen game?  All the videos and screenshots look far too good to be on current gen consoles. That's not to say it won't be out on current-gen consoles, but all the media about the game, screams next-gen.

Can current-gen consoles really produce something this good?

Friday, 15 February 2013

Wii U in Dire Straights.

This article kicks off the beginning of a 3-part article looking at the three new consoles. With the PS4 being announced next week, Nintendo are in trouble. The Wii U hasn't taken off as they would have liked and with new consoles coming, Nintendo should be seriously worried. In fact, latest reports indicates that Nintendo sold less than 100,000 units with a figure of 59,000 being mooted. This is shocking for a new console and Nintendo should seriously be worried. The Wii U is already being sold at a loss, presumably because of the high cost of the controller.

This is a graph for Nintendo fanboys so that you can somewhat grasp what kind of shape the company is in. I know you go on Nintendo fan pages and see the upbeat version of a press release about the Wii U sales but they just aren’t great. There also isn’t much to indicate they will get better any time soon. The above graph is what the net sales & net income (in Yen) looks like for Nintendo over the last 4 years. 
Iwata (Nintendo’s CEO) has said there will not be a price mark down. That almost goes without saying. A price markdown in the 1st year or even 2 is likely a sign of collapse with any console. Nintendo lost almost a half of a billion last year and it looks like they will make a slight profit this (fiscal) year. If they don’t, who knows what the future holds. I understand the profits were really high in the past which makes the incline even sharper.  I know you might not want to think it but what you are seeing is a near catastrophic collapse of a company. 

This graph courtesy of Ron Workmans blog, ( highlights the trouble Nintendo are in. in the past 4 years sales and income has plummeted. The 3DS has taken a battering due to smartphone's and Nintendo's hope that the Wii U's innovative controller would lead them to the heights of the orginal Wii has not come to fruition.

The Big Worry

Some might say the Wii U has been out for a matter of months and therefore, they should be given more time to sort things out. It's clear to see now though, that Wii U will never reach the same popularity as the Wii did. The Wii did so well because of the innovative motion controller. Nintendo have gone for the same strategy but this time the casual gamers are nowhere near as excited as before and this,for me, provides the killer blow for Nintendo.

One year advantage?

The reason I really worry for Nintendo is that they have blown that year advantage. An opportunity that Microsoft used for the Xbox 360 to get some sort of foothold. Nintendo should have had a number of stellar games out during this year, yet Wii U owners have very little games to shout about.

The Position

What perplexes me is that they have a console that can't really be called next-gen or current-gen. Yes, it's slightly more powerful than the Xbox 360 and Ps3 but what about when the PS4 and next Xbox arrive? These devices will technically wipe the floor with the Wii U and will provide Nintendo with the same problem the Wii had once the hype died down. 3rd parties will be reluctant to release games on it while they focus development on the more powerful Sony and Microsoft consoles. The casual market is open to all now and Microsoft and Sony will make sure they take advantage of that market from the beginning.


Sony are going to hit next-gen hard with the PS4 and my next article examines this. That being said, Nintendo have got it all wrong. They never wanted to compete with Sony and Microsoft directly in technical terms, but the level of innovation doesn't catch the markets attention as it did with the Wii.

My Prediction

  • Nintendo start a big marketing push to combat the release of new consoles. Expect big games with a big marketing budget. Don't expect a price drop.

  • The next Xbox will pick up where the Wii left off and target the causal market leaving Nintendo in its wake.

  • The future looks bleak with both the Wii U and 3ds struggling too find a position in the market which appeals.

The next few years will be bleak for Nintendo. They might have already reached the point of no return. Will they be the next Sega? Leave your opinions on the comment section.