It’s tempting to pick a winner in the next gen war. Who’s going to come out on top when it’s all said anddone? Sony or Microsoft? After E3, pundits and players alike were both ready to hand the crown to Sony. They might have won the battle, but the war is just beginning. The real winner of the console war will be the one who can bring gaming into the hearts and minds of their audience in entirely new ways.
With that being said, who is actually going to be king of the console? Let me save you some time: spec comparisons are meaningless. The Xbox One and PS4 are in an all-out PR blitz right now to convince you each has the edge. Neither console will be noticeably different from one another graphically. It all comes down to what comes next.
Remember when you first used the Wii’s motion controller? That “wow” experience when the real world became part of the game mechanics? This is what the next gen consoles will need to nail to succeed. Better graphics? Yes, sure we’ll all enjoy that. TV through your console? Nice, very convenient. And the list goes on.
It’s easy to get excited about the small new things because we’ve all been w-a-i-t-i-n-g for what feels like eternity for next gen. It’s only normal for us to think these features and hardware are what determines the winner in the console war. The trick to it is looking at the landscape many years out. What kinds of hardware add-ons are coming? What can push these consoles over the edge when initial sales start to drag?
Historically, if we look at Microsoft I would say the Kinect effectively revived the Xbox 360. The Kinect claimed the Guinness World Record of being the “fastest selling consumer electronics device” after selling a total of 8 million units in its first 60 days. It pushed up sales and squeezed a extra few years out of extremely outdated Xbox tech. Forget the hype – within two years of launch this next gen hardware will already start to look old and gamers will be looking forward to that next big thing. Just look at what happened to the Wii U. Nintendo execs thought the next logical step to success was to roll out a graphically beefed up Wii and controller. But it doesn’t solve a need and it doesn’t create a wow experience like the original Wii did. Wii U sales tell the whole story.
This is the same problem that both Ouya and Shield have. They are cool, but they aren’t jump-up-and-down exciting. And therein lies the problem with next gen products: If consumers aren’t camping out overnight, snapping up preorders, and making noise about them on social media then developers aren’t going to spend the resources to make games for them. Some are already calling OUYA a disaster for developers. According to Kickstarter, Ouya sold 54,000 units but only 3.4 percent of players (2,000) picked up arguably the best title, Tower Fall. What’s the lesson here? Microsoft and Sony need something extra special to separate them from the pack. Here’s what each giant could put forward to secure the edge.
So what do we know is already coming from Microsoft? IllumiRoom is a game-changer.
I don’t care what anyone says, when your entire room becomes part of the game that wow experience has arrived. Remember when pundits were criticizing Xbox for charging $100 more and including the Kinect? This is when they do a full 180 and see the brilliance of including the hardware necessary for IllumiRoom. I’d actually argue that when this gets released, Xbox One sees as many if not more units sold than in 2014. My guess is we see this unveiled at the end of 2016.
If you thought illumiRoom was cool then check out the Xbox One Augmented Reality Glasses
We aren’t even sure what these will do, but we do know Microsoft has been working on a Google Glass competitor. This is pretty far away from being ready if Glass is any indication. I’d say we’ll see a prototype some time in the next couple of years and a full launch by 2017 if they are going to stay competitive with Google. While details are light we can definitely say it has the potential to win some gamers over.
What can we say about Sony’s strategy? They’ve clung to the Vita for dear life while dreaming up the PS4. Looking past the fact that nobody except the hardcore carry a dedicated gaming device with them, the Vita is not anywhere close to giving gamers a new and exciting experience.
Sony needs something new. Something jaw-droppingly incredible. The only question now is can they pull it off?
An Illumiroom competitor? I’m sure Sony is working on it from this video. But let’s not forget that they haven’t included the Eye camera with every console. Now the price difference seems even more meaningless and timing becomes everything. Who can roll it out first? My gut tells me from how much information Microsoft has already shared they will be the first to strike, with Sony doing their best to stay relevant by quickly following with their own version.
The Illumiroom concept is not perfect. One challenge that both companies will have is getting mom and dad or the significant other to put up with a coffee table projector and power cables streaming across the floor or wall. It would also require game developers to integrate a new SDK.
Or what about Sony goggles? Rumors have it they have also jumped on this bandwagon following Oculus Rift’s RIDICULOUS virtual reality headset.
This is where things get exciting. Full-blown immersion into games is no longer some Star Trek fantasy, the tech is already here. THIS is the next generation of gaming. The only question is who will be the first console to roll it out? This importance of virtual reality headsets cannot be overstated.
Michael Abrash, a developer at valve: “It could be the beginning of a whole new industry that leads us eventually to having true augmentation all the time every place.”
So forget the PS4 vs Xbox One comparisons and all the marketing hype you’re going to hear for the next couple years. The true winner of the next gen war will be the first one to take us truly into the world of gaming in a significantly new way. My bet’s on Microsoft but only time will tell.