I think that this is a valid question to ask at this point. Is the 8th gen already over after 3 years and four months? Some people feel that with the release of Nintendo’s next-gen console code-named ‘NX’, Sony now releasing an updated version of the PS4 dubbed ‘PS4K’, and Microsoft also planning unveil their plans on an “upgradable” version of the XBOX One is proof enough. Some people feel that once it became apparent that the PS4 was running away with this thing and that neither the XB1 or Wii U were a threat it was over then. Also there are others who feel that the 8th gen in and of itself was an epic failure. Let’s delve into this a little more to determine if this is indeed the case.
As we all know the Wii U failed miserably in this generation. We don’t need to rehash why because it has been discussed ad-nausea. Going back to 1985 Nintendo traditionally has had a 5-6 year cycle of releasing consoles. The only difference was the gap between the 1st gen with Nintendo’s Color TV Game and the 3rd gen with the Famicom/NES. They skipped the 2nd gen. So the idea of Nintendo releasing NX in 2016 would seem to break from tradition.
In a perfect world and in much better circumstances Nintendo probably would like to wait until 2017 to release NX. However in the real world if you are a publicly-traded company you have investors to answer to and they can care less about your “comfort zone.” They want results…..NOW. While Nintendo’s market cap rose to an all-time high of 85 billion in 2008 at the height of the Wii’s popularity, it has dropped considerably since then. For three straight years Nintendo had operating losses in the hundreds of millions. That is not something Nintendo is accustomed to. Now they are operating in the black across the board, but in terms of the Wii U it is too little, too late. There is no advantageous reason I can personally think of or have heard from anyone else for Nintendo to TRY to hold on for another 19 months with the Wii U. From what we have heard about NX so far is that it will NOT be under-powered in any way, shape, or form. We haven’t heard much substantial, but what little we have heard seems to suggest that this console is extremely powerful. With the Wii and Wii U it seemed like Nintendo was content to walking around in the stands selling hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, and soda pop while the main event heavyweight title fight between Sony and Microsoft was taking place in the ring. Now Nintendo looks like they are ready to step back into the ring after a two generation hiatus. Nintendo started the 8th gen with the Wii U in 2012, it seems like they will be starting the 9th gen with NX in 2016. The NX might have some company which brings me to the next section.
The PlayStation 4 might for all intents and purposes be the most successful console Sony has made. Someone might say, “How can you say that when the PS1 sold 104 million, the PS2 sold 154 million and is the best-selling console of all time, and the PS3 sold 86 million?” Easy. All those consoles sold at a significant loss for several years before making a profit. The official tallies of those consoles are also inflated because of the high failure rate of the hardware. Think about how many PS1, PS2, and PS3 consoles you went through yourself. Anyone out there who has worked in a gaming store like myself can vouch for countless many broken PlayStations over the years.
The PlayStation 4 however is a solid console. While it is the most powerful console of this generation, it really isn’t that powerful in general (hence the reasoning for PS4K.) The hardware in all three 8th gen consoles was antiquated before they even hit the manufacturing plants. However, I have yet to hear of any major mechanical problems with the hardware itself. So I would say that 95% of the 38 million sold of the PS4 are all one-time buys. The other reason is because the PS4 sold at a profit of $18-20 dollars per console right away. It is selling at a faster rate than the PS2. 38 million in just 2 years, 4 months averaging 250-300,000 consoles sales per WEEK. That is asinine, but true. In comparison the XBOX One averages about 100,000 per week, which isn’t bad, and of course the Wii U down in the basement with about 50,000 per week which is certainly better than years past, but still in the scrub area.
Even with all this success with minimal effort Sony is choosing to roll the dice and go for broke, perhaps literally. They are releasing PSVR this year and most likely the PS4K this year as well. Now Sony’s reasoning for PS4K is to give added processing power and video capabilities to allow for PSVR to be more competitive against Occulus and HTC Vive. PSVR still won’t be on-par with them, but there will no longer be a “night and day” difference and considering the expense necessary to set up VR in a home, PSVR will obviously be a more viable alternative. If PSVR is to release this year and PS4K is necessary for PSVR to be fully realized, it would make sense to suggest that PS4K will release in 2016.
Microsoft is kind of a conundrum in terms of their immediate plans to counter-act what Nintendo and Sony are doing. Phil Spencer has gone on record to state that they want to make hardware fully upgradable.
Spencer: “When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen. You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform.”
So it seems like Microsoft’s plans are to not necessarily focused on hardware upgrades, but to rely on Windows integration into hardware to make Microsoft games compatible with any such hardware running the OS regardless of the power level. Every 1st-party game from now on will be playable on PC to those who have Windows 10. One game recently released on XBOX One and Windows 10 was Killer Instinct: Season 3. I’ve been told by people who have played the PC version that it looks far better and runs much smoother than the XB1 version. That is not a surprise to me. I think you can look forward to any PC version of XB1 games going forward to look much better. Not only because of the obvious with typical gaming-rig PCs being more powerful, but Microsoft subtly edging people away from the XB1 console itself and getting them acclimated and comfortable with PC gaming. When you think about it, technically any device that runs Windows 10 now is an XBOX. No install base will EVER be larger than that. It seems to me that Microsoft has gotten tired of fighting a losing battle against Sony.
It reminds me of the first Sugar Ray Leonard/Roberto Duran fight. Leonard had been told that he is “too soft” and could not handle the power of a Duran in a 15 round fight. Some told him it was a mistake to fight Duran, but he wanted to prove his detractors wrong. The fight turned out to be a classic. Leonard took EVERYTHING Duran had and more, but he still kept coming fighting Duran’s style of fight. He lost the fight and got a lot of knots upside his head for his trouble, but he earned the respect of a lot of boxing commentators, his peers, and from Duran himself. In the rematch, Duran had let himself get out of shape while Leonard trained harder than he ever had before. He threw out the plans of the previous fight and went back to what made Sugar Ray Leonard, SUGAR RAY LEONARD. The fight wasn’t even close as Leonard won with Duran quitting in the 8th round.
It seems like Microsoft is looking at the same strategy. They gave Sony a good run trying to fight their style, but they just didn’t have what it took to out muscle them. So now Microsoft is falling back to what made them what THEY are.
Microsoft at it’s core is a software company and no one has done it better, longer than them. So why not leverage that advantage? If you lose again at least you can say you left it all out on the field. There won’t be and second-guesses later on. I think that is their play.
So to summarize I do think that the 8th gen is over and the 9th gen will begin this Holiday season. I think that the combination of Microsoft going back to their roots, Sony capitalizing on their success this generation, and Nintendo seemingly finally ready to take the kids gloves off, this Holiday season looks like it is gonna be a barn-burner. As Terrell Owens used to say…….