Every three months or so we have taken a look at the current battle between Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony as they all try to win the next-gen game console war with their Xbox 360, Wii and PS3 devices, respectively. With the fall/holiday shopping season now in full force its time to give our third report on the front lines of the war in 2007. It's been an interesting campaign on the front lines since our last report on May 22. Some things have gone as we have expected and some things have happened that came out of left field. However this current console war is still not over and this fall still looks to be the crux point of the war between the gaming console juggernauts. We will now look at what each console has done in the last few months and predict what might happen this fall.
Let's face facts; on the surface the Nintendo Wii should have been blown away by the Xbox 360 and the PS3 by now. It's not like the console has the most powerful hardware (it doesn't). It's not like the games made for the console are so much better than the other two devices (they aren't). It's not like their online multiplayer is the best of the three consoles (the Wii is so far behind in this area it almost hurts). It can't play DVD or Blu-Ray movies. You can't download demos of Wii games. There are so many factors that make the Wii inferior to its competition.
And yet people in the US are still clamoring for the Wii nearly a year after its launch. Sellouts are still the norm for the console; put an ad in the Sunday paper saying that the local Best Buy or Circuit City will get a shipment that day and a huge line forms up that Sunday morning before the store opens. Even with the short supply the Wii still manages to sell two and three times as many consoles per month as the PS3 and the Xbox 360. Make no mistake; the Wii is no longer a "fad". People still want the console. In fact it's very close to pulling ahead of the Xbox 360 in terms of total amount of next-gen consoles in the US.
And why do people still want the Wii? The Nintendo name still holds a lot of sway among regular non-hardcore gamer consumers. The $250 price (with Wii Sports included) makes the console the most affordable to buy, despite some recent Xbox 360 price cuts. And Nintendo's strategy of appealing to the casual and non-gamer seems to have worked out. The influx of party and mini-games like WiiPlay, Mario Party 8 and others stay on the best seller lists.
And the best may be yet to come for the console in terms of its upcoming game line-up this fall. Metroid Prime 3 has garnered impressive reviews as a first person action game made for the hardcore crowd and upcoming first party titles like Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Brothers Brawl look like they will appeal to both long time Nintendo fans and the casual gamer alike. There's even a few hardcore third party games due out for the console like Bully, Medal of Honor Heroes 2, Ghost Squad and most importantly Manhunt 2 (which may actually generate some negative publicity for the Wii for the first time).
So can Nintendo still blow this momentum and lose the console war? Actually yes. Let's look at what Nintendo needs to do to maintain their dominance of the console war.
Get more consoles in stores
This may be the single biggest issue Nintendo has to face for the Wii. As we said, sell-outs are still the norm; its a very rare thing to just walk into a retailer and see an unsold Wii sitting on the shelve. If Nintendo can't get enough consoles on store shelves to meet demand they will likely turn to the Xbox 360 and (less likely) the PS3 if they haven't purchased one of the two already.
Stick with release dates for major games
Super Mario Galaxy and Super Smash Brothers Brawl are the two big first party games that Nintendo has planned for this fall for the Wii. However it worries us that so far no one in the press has actually seen Super Smash Brothers Brawl actually being played and to us that means that a delay for its early December release date is more and more likely. Nintendo needs to have both games come out this fall if it has a chance to beat the sales of the heavily hyped Xbox 360 and PS3 games coming out in that same time period.
Deal with the Manhunt 2 issue
Nintendo has marketed the Wii for the family and casual masses but as the Oct. 31 release date for Manhunt 2 comes up many law makers and moral crusaders will attack Nintendo for allowing a game like Rockstar's stealth action game sequel to be released for the Wii. Nintendo will likely try to hide from the controversy, saying it has no say in the content of third party games. However we think Nintendo needs to come out full force to support all types of games for the Wii, not just the mini and party titles.
It's going to take a lot to stop the sales success of the Wii and quite frankly the only real enemy Nintendo has in this case is itself. Despite price cuts on both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 and highly anticipated games for both the Wii's competitors we think the Wii will continue to sell well this fall but the difference between the Wii and the competition will be tighter than the sales differences for earlier this year.