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The next generation of console wars is nearly here! Nintendo’s Wii U is already available. Sony is expected to announce the next PlayStation later this month. And Microsoft is expected to announce the next Xbox by E3 2013. In the past, hardware and exclusive games shaped the outcome of console wars. More recently, online services like PlayStation Network and Xbox Live helped determined the outcome. With many people believing that the upcoming batch of hardware will be the end of traditional consoles as we know them, what do you think will determine the next skirmish. More importantly, what features are most important to you?
Some people believe that games will be an afterthought, or at least exclusive games. They believe that all three platforms will have great games, so it’ll be a wash. I somewhat disagree with this stance. While exclusives aren’t as powerful as they used to be, I believe they still shape a console’s identity.
Most pundits agree that pure horsepower isn’t as relevant as it used to be. This is a trend that extends beyond consoles. Generally speaking, consumer electronics have become more about software and services than powerful hardware. One of the reasons that Xbox 360 was more successful than PlayStation 3 was that Xbox Live was much better than PlayStation Network for years. While Sony’s service has improved greatly, some feel that the improvements didn’t come fast enough.
Continuing on the services tip, the social, non-gaming, and premium features of consoles have become hugely important. Many gamers prefer Xbox 360 because that’s the system most of their friends use online. Playing games with friends is almost always more fun than playing with strangers. Some people spend more time using the non-gaming features of consoles more than playing games. Features like streaming video services and video chat are quite popular. Then there are the premium services. Some people feel that PlayStation Plus trounces Xbox Live Gold.
Some journalists are shouting about developer ease-of-use being paramount. That’s certainly an important issue, but some of the writers that are taking this stance have little idea what goes into making a game. Honestly, I’m not sure where this is coming from. It’s one thing for developers to say or write things like this, but journalists that don’t understand game production? Then again, there are a lot of journalists that write long diatribes about what Company X needs to do to turn things around while having no clue about running a business. Personally, I’m going to leave this issue on the table and let smarter people discuss it. Besides, I’m not sure that most gamers care.
So games, hardware power, and online services…. What else is there? What concerns you the most? What features and factors do you think will be most important in the next generation of console wars? Please shout it out in the comments section!