[[Exclusivity-The New Frontier]]
During E3 our heads have been hammered with information about the importance of the online potential of each console system, we have also heard of the various features and extras each manufacturer will provide. One peek behind the hype though and it's plain to see that what all this does is throw smoke in our eyes.
Three major console players and they will all offer almost identical content. That is why each one is trying to win us over with the various extras they will offer. Why choose one over the other when all will carry similar, identical even titles?
Microsoft have been the most aggressive at pursuing exclusive deals with publishers. But in order to succeed with such a policy you have to have the numbers to support it. XBox sales have not lived up to expectations and some deals are already falling through. Malice, a game by Vivendi Universal Publishing, which Microsoft had announced as an XBox exclusive, will also become available on the PS2. Luc Vanhal, president of Vivendi Universal Publishing said that marketing assistance and even subsidized development costs only went so far Microsoft is much more aggressive going after exclusive deals, they realize they really need to give an incentive to publishers to focus on the Xbox. But it still comes down to economics, it costs quite a bit of money to develop a game. I need to recoup that money, and it's easier to do that when you're selling to a market of 30 million(PS2).
A similar disappointment for Microsoft came from Infogrames who announced plans to publish a PS2 version of The Matrix, another game thought to be an XBox exclusive. This particular loss was even more severe for Microsoft since they had invested US$1 Million in Shiny Entertainment in order to support the development of the game.
I believe the marketing mistake has been in letting people believe the Xbox is the same product as the other consoles, said Bruno Bonnell, president of Infogrames. Xbox has a lot of features nobody's really taken advantage of yet, if someone built a game that fully utilizes the hard drive, the voice capability, people would see there's a real difference. The best evidence is the price: Microsoft knew they couldn't get people to pay extra for better technology, because they don't have a case yet for how that improves the games.
Microsoft however, claim to have made steps in that direction. Don Coyner, Microsoft's director of marketing for Xbox claims that Microsoft's own Blinx will change all that. Blinx is a jump-and-run game with the unique feature of allowing players to record and replay parts of the game. Console developers are not used to working with a hard drive. It takes awhile for a developer to think about what it can do, and it takes someone who sees the potential to take advantage of it and really push gaming concepts forward. said Coyner.
As can be expected the strongest criticizm of Microsoft's strategies came from their two main rivals. Kaz Hirai, president of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, who insisted all through E3 that Sony have already won the Console Wars said There's a significant investment to having multiple retail packages, at some point you have to say, Time out - Does it make sense for me to do a PlayStation exclusive? How much value do I get from doing other versions?
Perrin Kaplan, vice president of marketing and corporate affairs for Nintendo of America said We're worried about Microsoft, they've spent all this money building an online network, and they've lost focus on the games. Microsoft is doing technology, versus investing in content, and content drives this business.
[[Sony and Nintendo]]
Sony have had it good. They begun the Console Wars with a big head start. They were already in the place where the others wanted to be. The third place has so far delivered for Sony. With an established 30 million user base, deals with publishers seem easy.
Jeff Brown, vice president of corporate communications for EA said The worst thing that could happen to EA is to wake up one day to find Sony out there by itself. But when you make decisions short term, you have to look at the installed base. It's pretty clear if you're running a business selling games, you're simply going to sell more units on the PS2.
That statement describes, in a nutshell, the strength that Sony have in the console market. EA have already granted them exclusivity for The Sims and Madden NFL 2003 and have vouched to support every online PS2 venture. With names like EA, Infogrames and Vivendi, Sony should have been feeling real good about themselves, but they never left anything to chance. The need for homegrown popular titles is a necessity and Sony have found a goldmine in the Everquest series. Everquest II, as well as the sonsole release of the original are bound to stir some interest.
Sony have been lucky. Both of their competitors entered the market much later than the PS2 but both Sony's adversaries have failed to convince the consumer that their product is truly a Next Generation one. While both GameCube and XBox claim to offer the best hardware, neither can actually tell you how.
Nintendo have greatly suffered from the price wars. Following the price cuts announced by Sony and the subsequent Microsoft response, Nintendo found themselves in the position of selling an inferior, as far as extra features were concerned, product at the same price as their rivals. They responded with price cuts in Japan and Europe and soon in the U.S.
Carrying a drop in profits and in share prices, Nintendo are also trying to convince that they are commited to the Console Wars.
What Nintendo have is just what Sony are about to establish and what Microsoft are dreaming of. History. Their long experience in the gaming arena has established them as a power-player and has granted them a devoted fan base who are always on the look out for their new releases.
With new management, following the retirement of Hiroshi Yamauchi, its former pesident, GameCube faces the war with its feet firmly planted on the ground. 3.8 Million GameCubes have been sold in the U.S. and Japan, sice launch, Nintendo estimate they will ship 12 million units globally by the end of the year.
The Software line-up looks promising and with very popular proprietary titles such as Mario, Pokemon and Zelda, the GC seems to have already convinced Nintendo's former fans.
With a recent announcement concerning the release of a new Mario game in august and of a new Zelda title, in time for Christmas, Nintendo seem to have the exclusivity game down to an art. Will those titles be enough to convince gamers to buy the GC? Only time will tell.
The continuing Console War however, is creating a new breed of gamer. The new gamer is very wealthy and can afford all three consoles so that when the winner is finally announced, he will be certain to have the right one.