PS3 or Wii: A Developer’s Conundrum

Ernest Adams, Freelance Writer, Game Designer and contributor, has written another entry for his series, “The Designer’s Notebook,” about the PS3 and Wii. The question he poses in this column is “which will developers want to work on?” I believe that’s something we’d all like to know.

Adams, in his column, says:

“For a long time, I’ve had a theory that there’s always room for two-and-a-half game consoles in the market – that is, two main contenders battling for first place and an also-ran that survives but never stands a chance of doing better than third. Being either first or second is normally good enough to guarantee healthy sales and long-term survival. The more critical question is, who will be the also-ran?”

He then goes on to discuss the merits of the Wii and PS3 from a developer’s standpoint. The PS3, he says, has computing power, and there’s no doubt that it’s the most powerful console ever made, whereas the Wii has interactivity on its side, with the Wii remote. He then puts forth a theory on the final outcome:

“So who, at the end of the day, will be the also-ran in this generation of consoles? On the global scale, I’d say it could well be neither the PS3 or the Wii, but the Xbox 360. The PS3 will win over the hardcore gamers who have to have the fastest, most amazing machine available. The Wii will skim off the younger players and those who don’t have as much money to spend.

Both have the advantage of being made in Japan, so they’ll crowd the Xbox right out of that market. In the US and Europe, it’s harder to say, but I see the Xbox’s early start as more of a liability than a benefit. They’ve racked up several million sales, but they can no longer claim to be the latest, greatest thing – especially as the PS3 plays Blu-Ray disks out of the box, but HD-DVD is only available for the Xbox as an add-on. The Dreamcast got an early start too, and look how that ended.”

It definitely could turn out that way, but who can really say at this point? What about the hardcore gamers who don’t want to spend $600 dollars to play Madden or FIFA? Surely that demographic isn’t completely covered by the Wii. Who knows if the Wii will even still be going strong this time next year? Maybe the “wow” factor will have worn off in regard to the controller. Each system has individual strengths.

The biggest advantage Microsoft has isn’t claiming to be “the latest and greatest”, but having a second generation of games that look great and play even better. One reason being that they’ve had their dev-kits (early versions of consoles for use by development houses for testing games) out longer, and another is their development tools are of higher quality. That’s what coming out first gets for you.

Sony has its name and the fact that it really has developed a powerful machine. I was skeptical of the PS3 at first, especially after spending so much time following it up to release and listening to the Sony Corporation say one bizarre thing after another, but they’ve really produced a high quality console. The fact that you can display movies and games at 1080p is pretty great as well as being able to swap out the hard drive. The weak launch titles may not do much for initial sales, but when the PS3 starts seeing some quality titles, it’s going to be something else.

Finally, Nintendo. What else can you say about them? Zelda, Mario Brothers, Metroid and Pokemon are all ridiculously popular and will always sell a system. They are currently making a profit on every Wii sold and have been in the black for years. Nintendo may not razzle-dazzle, but they’re not going anywhere.

“Who’s going to win this generation?”, seems to be the question that everyone is asking. The real answer, as of right now at least, is “who cares?” What we need to do, as consumers and enthusiasts, is buy your favorite console, get the games you want to play and enjoy it. We’re in the golden age right now, people, and we should be savoring every moment of it.