March GEAR column: Reporting From the Trenches

The next-generation console war rages on. This month the conflict shifts to Europe, with the launch of Sony’s PlayStation 3 in that region.

So where does the current battle stand? Who is winning and who is losing? We turn to gaming-journalists-turned-pseudo-war-correspondents for those answers. Entrenched on the front lines before their monitors and TV screens, a cup of tea positioned perilously close to the table’s edge, these men and women brave the dangers of bad posture and video game thumb to report back on the situation.

Currently, the media would have us believe Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is on the march, conquering more and more market territories as it advances. Faced with this awesome display of power, the Sony PS3 has fallen back, unable to defend its previously unchallenged turf. Already wounded by assorted blunders and delays, the PS3 lies bleeding on the floor, ready to commit hara-kiri.

This is what we’re being led to believe. However, if we’ve learnt anything about war reporting in recent years it’s that propaganda is still a useful tool to twist events to your advantage.

Unquestionably, the Xbox 360 is winning the current next-gen battle. Winning the WAR, however, is far from guaranteed. The Xbox has a year’s lead on its rivals, the PS3 and Nintendo Wii. In that time memories of the 360’s launch failings have faded. In November 2005, long queues of gamers were frustrated by product shortages, hardware problems like freezing, disc scratching and overheating, as well as little variety in terms of launch titles. Substitute backwards compatibility conflicts and Blu-ray glitches for the Xbox’s hardware issues and the description exactly fits the PS3’s debut in late 2006.

It is way too early to demand that Sony wave a white flag of surrender. The PS3 needs a year or so to get to its feet, and heal its wounds before launching a full scale sales attack. Sony is a powerful brand, with a lot of loyalty from gamers who received so much enjoyment from their previous PlayStations. Winning PS3 support needs only time, a price drop and the release of a PS3 flagship title to rival Xbox’s Gears of War. Final Fantasy XIII may be it.

As for the Nintendo Wii’s position on the battlefield, well, if this was World War II, the Wii would be Italy – a bit player strutting around in the shadow of much bigger, louder, more powerful guns.

The Wii Remote controller may make for a fresh, fun gaming experience, but it also makes the console gimmicky. Waving your arms about as you play yet another Mario, Metroid or Zelda is amusing for a few hours; not three years. The Wii is fantastic for parties and people reclaiming their inner-child. Otherwise, it’s a novelty, selling no doubt because of Nintendo’s nostalgic brand cult. It is not a serious contender for overall victory.

Meanwhile, the console war continues relentlessly, and it’s advisable that you stock up on rations. This year it’s going to get very rough in the muddy market trenches.


Gareth said…
Or you could just buy a PC and make fun of console gamers :P

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