Summary: It's been a few months since the big launches from Nintendo and Sony. Today we go over where the three console makers stand and how they can improve.
Xbox 360 Battle Report:
In the last console war, Microsoft's original Xbox didn't do badly. It came out a year after Sony's PS2 yet still managed to topple Nintendo's GameCube in the US and Europe. Microsoft accomplished this not just because it developed advanced hardware and had some solid exclusive games like Halo but it also benefited from Nintendo's rather pedestrian attitude towards the GameCube and to third party game developers.
Price Cut To $299 For Main Xbox 360 By Summer 2007
Microsoft has kept the price of $399 for the Xbox 360 main system (the one with the included 20 GB hard drive) for over a year but Nintendo's Wii console has seen solid sales for the past few months, thanks in part to its $249 price point. We think that if Microsoft is to continue to compete with the surging Wii console it must make a price cut, and a fairly drastic one, before the fall buying season. We think that lowering the price by this summer will continue to keep the Xbox 360 competitive at a time when it needs it most. Although the Xbox division is still losing money, Microsoft canít afford to give away huge chunks of the market to Nintendo.
All Future Xboxes Must Come With A Hard Drive
It was a flat out mistake to give consumers the "choice" of a console with either a hard drive or without one when the Xbox 360 was launched, especially when Microsoft was trying to emphasize the Xbox Live features of the console. We think Microsoft should just do away with the Xbox 360 Core system and make all future Xbox 360 consoles with the hard drive.
Lower price of the 20 GB Hard Drive; Offer Bigger Drive
As a corollary to our previous point, we think the $100 price tag for the Xbox 360 hard drive is way too pricey. It's time that the price be lowered by half and that Microsoft offer a 60 or even an 80 GB hard drive for a $100 price. We think this will spur more downloads of Xbox 360 add-ons along with more downloads of movie and TV shows. More microtransactions via Microsoft points means more money for the company.
More Microsoft 360 News Inside The Console
Microsoft has done a bang up job with getting info about their Xbox 360 on various web sites; however we think it would be even more effective if people could fire up their Xbox 360 console and get info about upcoming events in the user interface. Why there isn't a "News" section in the Xbox 360 UI is a question we have had for some time. It certainly would eliminate the middle man.
Keep Quality Control And Customer Service High
There isn't anything worse for an Xbox 360 owner than seeing the dreaded "red ring of light" when he or she boots up the console. Microsoft has taken hits for how they have treated these kinds of problems in the past (especially when a major dashboard update is released) so its imperative that when these issues come up they treat the customer well, fix or replace their console with a minimal of problems and generally keep Xbox 360 gamers happy.
Keep Up Their Solid 2007 Release Schedule
This year, more than any other, is crucial for Microsoft to prove that it can keep up its promising exclusive and semi-exclusive game line-up. 2007 currently has games scheduled like Crackdown, Too Human, Forza Motorsport 2, BioShock, Shadowrun, Mass Effect and of course Halo 3 that will either come out only on the Xbox 360 or between the 360 and PC platforms. These games are all looking like they will be great additions to the console's library.
The launch of the PS3 in the US generated near-panic in many locations in late November (shootings were involved in a couple of towns) and eBay auctions of PS3 consoles were spiking with consoles being sold for many, many times their retail price. Then a funny thing happened. After the speculators got out and the holiday season was over with, people could go to their local Best Buy or Target or Wal-Mart, pick up a PS3, and pay the normal price. Sony stated they have shipped more PS3s than PS2 consoles in the same time period but it's a different world than when the PS2 launched with no competition.
Sure the PS3 had a couple of solid titles; Resistance: Fall of Man is a solid FPS. But it's no Halo or Gears of War. It didn't help that Sony's online features, while free, didn't compare to the Xbox 360's Xbox Live service (and the online network's interface is an HTML page that is hard to navigate). It's still early, however and Sony could still come out on top. We think they need to make these adjustments.
Lower The Price Of The PS3 ASAP
Yep, we know the Cell processor is expensive. Yep, we know the Blu-Ray disk player is expensive. But sometimes you have to take one for the team and if Sony continues to keep the PS3's price at its current levels it will get slammed by the Xbox 360 and Wii in 2007 and it may never recover. Sony may not like it but we think it will be forced to lower the price of the console sooner rather than later. We think they should make a preemptive strike and lower the price by $100 for both versions NOW. That will get more hardware sold and prepare the console for the fall season when the big holiday shopping season begins.
Improve the PS3 Online Interface
The current HTML interface for the online network is clumsy and even hard to read. We think that Sony should dump it entirely and adapt its media bar UI for the network. Integrating the PS3 online store and network with the media bar will make it seamless to the user, much like the interface of the Xbox 360 handles downloads of demos, games and videos.
Make Third Party PS3 Demos Available
At the moment, only first party game demos for the console are available for download but the Xbox 360 and even the Wii allow for other publishers to offer games for their console. If the PS3 is to survive they need to embrace third party games and offering PS3 demos to download from other publishers will be a great way to handle that.
Get More Community Involvement
Again, Microsoft has been the best in offering ways for Xbox 360 owners to get info about the console quickly but there is a definite sense of detachment for PS3 owners. Sony needs to do more than just send out press releases to members of the media. They need to launch their own blog sites and podcasts and really get PS3 players involved in the console.
Keep Their PS3 Exclusive Titles
It's no secret that previous Sony exclusives for the PS2 have been lost in the transition to the PS3. Franchises like Tomb Raider, Grand Theft Auto, Virtua Fighter and more have appeared or will appear on Microsoft's Xbox 360 console. Sony needs to keep the pace up with their own first party titles like Lair, Motorstorm, Heavenly Sword and others along with keeping exclusive third party titles like Devil May Cry 4, Final Fantasy XIII and Metal Gear Solid 4 to be competitive.
Offer Sony Movies And TV Shows For Download
Here is a feature that Sony may be able to beat the Xbox 360 at its own game. With the included hard drive on all of the consoles as well as the ability to upgrade the hard drive to something even larger, Sony is in an excellent position to offer high-def downloads of its movies and TV shows on the PS3. They need to do it soon, though, before Microsoft moves forward with its future plans for the same feature.
Sooner or later there will be enough Wii consoles to go around for everyone. That's when the final battle will truly begin. Nintendo is without a doubt the most secretive of the three console makers when it comes to the future plans for its machine so there is nothing but speculation about when upcoming games and services will be offered. They also have a tendency to miss projected release dates for games (Metroid Prime 3 was supposed to be a launch title for the Wii). While the Wii has had a great start, will it have a great finish? We offer these humble suggestions for Nintendo to keep up its current pace.
Offer Online Multiplayer Support ASAP
Nintendo clearly is still intimidated in entering the online space for its consoles. Sure, the Wii offers things like downloadable classic games and friends codes to link to other person's Wii. But let's face it; it's 2007 and people want to play online games against others and that's something that the Wii (at least in the US) just doesn't have. Nintendo needs to at least announce a timeline for getting the Wii online multiplayer network up and running along with a list of compatible games (Metorid Prime 3, anyone)? If they wait too long (say by fall 2007) it will be way too late to compete with games like the Xbox 360's Halo 3.
Don't Wait For Fall To Release New Wii Games
Nintendo has promised there will not be a drought of games for the Wii between now and this Fall, but at the moment it looks like a rather barren release schedule until the holiday season. This is certainly not the case with the Xbox 360 which looks like it will have a very aggressive schedule of games coming out. If there are enough titles for the Wii between now and this Fall it could get flattened in the face of major PS3 and Xbox 360 releases.
Offer Original Virtual Console Games
It's fantastic that the Wii allows you to download great and even not-so-great classic games from Nintendo's library of titles (along with Sega and Hudson games) but these are very simple ports; no added content or features like Microsoft offers for ports of classic games for the Xbox 360. Most importantly there are no original titles currently available for download.We know that there are some in development (indeed, IGN's Wii editors have admitted they are helping to develop an original Wii Virtual Console game) and we think that will go a long way in turning the Wii console from a retro machine into a real rival for the Xbox Live Arcade.
Get More Community Involvement
Like Sony, Nintendo tends to shy away from involving its fans in its business, preferring to release press notes to members of the media. We think Nintendo should embrace blogs, podcasts and more outreach programs to inform its Wii owners on upcoming news and releases for the console. Nintendo had some odd ways to promote its products (the Wii launch was preceded by an series of small invite only parties) and has relied on its long time fans to spread the word. But using the resources of the Internet could be an even better way to keep the Wii's buzz growing.
Again, its still too early to declare a winner in the console wars. We will take a look at how the battlelines and war fronts on all three sides will shape up in the months ahead and offer an update this summer on the war and its skirmishes before the final fall 2007 battles begin. We think that will be the time when the true winner will be declared. In the meantime, don't forget your helmet and your first aid kit; this next-gen console conflict could get bloody really fast.
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