The times, they are a-stayin’ the same

It’s a new year, but I’m afraid that I have to be the harbringer of bad news to all those console loyalists lurking about the margins. If you’re hoping for a major turnaround, you’re probably going to have to wait until next generation.

I hit upon this realization while I was writing this article. The news itself isn’t much more than guesswork, but I do think it’s at least reasonable to assume that an unholy number of Wiis were sold this past holiday season. After that there’s the Nintendo DS and pretty much everything else. Last year was the year that the trends had a chance to shift, and Sony and Microsoft seemed to know it. They went all in with price cuts, fancy redesigns and innovative first-party software. And what did they have to show for it? Microsoft moved up a couple percentage points, and Sony seems to be losing more ground all the time.

As a stubborn GameCube owner during the last generation, I can certainly empathize with the frustration of the roving PlayStation and Xbox fanboy mob. I was in pretty much the same position in 2003, watching as Nintendo slashed prices and started offering Legend of Zelda pack-in bundles, wondering why attitudes and sales numbers weren’t getting any better.

The thing is though, it seems like the third year of any generation is about the time that trends solidify and consumers pretty much make their final decision. From my vantage point, the average citizen is aware of the Wii and only the Wii (well, they might be aware of the Xbox 360 too), and that’s what they’re going to get for their kids. Outside of that, there’s the Nintendo DS and even the PSP. The poor, clumsy, overly expensive PS3 seems to be getting lost in the shuffle.

Personally, I’m kind of surprised that it’s gotten to this point with the PS3. I had figured that fortunes would reverse, the Wii would taper off, and all three systems would hit some sort of equilibrium. Instead, the ailing economy and the general expense seem to have kept consumers away, and developers just haven’t had the time or energy to put a significant amount of money into the developing for the “lesser SKU.” I’d say that it’s the GameCube all over again, but Nintendo was at least turning a profit.

Not being the type of person to own every console at once (I’m cheap), these trends unfortunately put me in the position of having to make a tough choice. I would ordinarily go with the PlayStation brand because it generally has the support of Japanese developers, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this time around. It looks like they’re all headed to the Wii, the DS, the PSP and even the 360. Which means that the PS3 will be the odd one out for me. It makes me kind of sad knowing that I’ll be missing Fat Princess. And, of course, this just means that I’ll be cursing life itself as Banpresto announces a PS3 Super Robot Wars in a year or two (or a few months, you never know what they have up their sleeve).

You know me, even when I side with the “winning” systems, I’m apparently the loser. I guess there are just no easy choices anymore.

16 thoughts on “The times, they are a-stayin’ the same

  1. I think right now both the PS3 and the 360 are very good choices for hardcore gamers. Most games are multiplatform these days, and no matter what you do you’re going to miss out on a few cool exclusives.

  2. I’m a little upset that the Wii’s success of late is overshadowing the DS’s massive sales. I guess that makes me an extremely specialized fanboy.

  3. I think a lot of serious gamers have cursed themselves for being late to the Saturn party.

    Sony’s problem is that they’ve been price-locked with the PS3, given that they don’t have the luxury of dropping its price without losing cash.

  4. Here’s hoping SRW XO was a sign of things to come and they don’t put Z2 out on the PS3, if they do choose to go with it.

  5. What we need right now is a new Sega console, one that affixes itself to the WII like some metroid-esque parasite. It will double as a space heater.

    My guess is that profitable games will increasingly resemble Twitter — cheap to develop, mobile, can be played in three second intervals. Wario Ware meets Sims meets World of Warcarft meets Uno. Pessimism aside, I actually see the popularity of the DS as one of the few great things going for gaming. I don’t think humanity ever truly mastered the 16 and 32 bit generation, and DS is giving us an oppurtunity to do so. Also, I think if we manage to look at technology development as a social project over an extended period of time (rather than the endeavor of private companies looking to make a quick buck), things are going quite well for hardcore gamers. So what if Microsoft and Sony don’t ultimately profit from their hard work?

  6. The PS3 should be selling at a much greater rate than it is solely because of the blu-ray functionality. It’s $100 more than the standard blu-ray player and is of very high quality. I know a few people that have a PS3 and use it for that purpose (plus a little bit of Rock Band on the side).

    I keep hoping that things will change. 2009 has the greatest lineup of games for a single console that I’ve ever seen, but I doubt people will notice. The disturbing lack of Gran Turismo and Final Fantasy at this point in the PS3s life is baffling to me.

  7. I’m not baffled by this generation. The Wii is fun and fun equals sales. In of story.

  8. It doesn’t matter. So the wii is selling like hotcakes. If you are a hardcore gamer, you got two or more consoles and maybe a computer rig. Until the wii makes it so that I can’t shoot zombies in the face with a mouse and keyboard, I could careless how it’s “winning” this generation.

  9. The problem with “PS3 for blu-ray” is that its purely a luxury. Of course so is a DVD player, but comparing the two is comparing 30 to 300 dollars in a age where people are watching what they spend with greater and greater frugality.

    So it ends up that the people who want one will buy one, and the people who want one but are on the fence about how much they’ll get out of it don’t. I know I’m not buying one until they put backwards compatibility back in to the thing; it has no use to me as I can get everything that will be released for the PS3 on the 360 I already own for the same price. Sure I could get an old one off ebay, but I have a crystal clear memory about what happens with most launch consoles: They fail. A lot.

  10. Before PlayStation, Super Robot Wars were all over Nintendo’s consoles. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a SRWZ sequel on the Wii. Bamco could recycle the game assets without having to upscale the graphics. And sticking to a DVD medium means they can more easily fill the disc to capacity and release an overpriced “bonus disc” six months later.

  11. It’s never to late to join the Saturn party!!! It’s going to be Saturn February next month… Hop on! :)

    Also I just realized I own a Super Robot War game for my Dreamcast… (Used to buy lots of games in bundles/lots from eBay) So I will have to check it out… it’s “a” or something, any good?

  12. If you have an SRW game for the Dreamcast, it’s most likely @ (Alpha, not to be confused with A which is for the Gameboy Advance.)

    It’s generally considered one of the better “classic” SRWs, and OG1 takes quite a bit of its plot from said game.

    The Dreamcast version adds in new units and some balance changes, and also attempts 3D battle animations as opposed to the original PS1 version which uses normal sprite animations, but the 3D animations are in general criticized. Still, the core gameplay does remain the same so you should probably enjoy it.

  13. “Personally, I’m kind of surprised that it’s gotten to this point with the PS3.”

    Me, I’m surprised it’s not doing Saturn numbers. As a last-gen early adopter of PS2, PS3 offers pretty much nothing for me and its market failure could be seen a mile away. But honestly, I’m surprised that the Japanese haven’t taken more to the 360. Even in Europe, the 360 is barely making headway against the PS3. So it’s not doing as bad as it could be, it’s already sold more than the Saturn and is on way to sell at least slightly more than the Gamecube.

    Remember the last days of the Saturn? It was hell getting most games, especially things like PDS and Shining Force III (I never really got on the Saturn import scene). I don’t think the PS3’s last days will be as dire.

  14. Also, I think the foundation for Wii was set in the previous generation, even before the DS – with the Game Boy Advance. Against my earlier preconceptions (born out of the triviality that was the Gameboy Color), the GBA became my favorite console last gen. A handheld console over home consoles, who would have thought? And it seems a lot of people really took a liking to the GBA, and not just the Pokemon crowd of GBC. So the GBA started rebuilding trust in Nintendo even while the Gamecube was eating it away. And Nintendo must have seen that people were turning to the GBA’s games instead of the home console “blockbuster” model, with ridiculous things like the Mario Advance series outselling Mario Sunshine. Retro, accessible, to the point gaming won over loading times and graphical extravaganzas. A lot of people with Gamecubes must have bought GB Players – I know I played more GBA games on it than Cube games. And with the DS, this audience grew even further, growing Nintendo’s audience. GBA, DS, Wii. It brings the handheld console thinking into the home console space, and it seems to be paying off.

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