Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft: A Retrospective Review
Posted on Tuesday, June 5 2012 @ 08:49:00 Eastern
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The years from 2006 to 2012 have been a crazy one. The United States has its first black president, Osama Bin Laden is finally killed, the northeast coastline of the United States experiences a minor earthquake, and Dick Clark has passed away. The span of those six years will be a memorable one and the same thing can be said about the gaming industry. However, the memories made by the gaming industry may be nothing but a stink that won’t go away. What happened? It seems today that gaming companies are taking fewer risks and are focusing more on filling out their wallets with massive profits. It has snowballed greatly and thanks to several major blunders, gamers can’t ignore it anymore and they are making their voices heard.
Let’s start with Nintendo. Being the whipping boy by Sony for two generations in a row (Nintendo 64 and Gamecube), Nintendo needed to do something to get back into the game, but they also knew just making a new console with better graphics wasn’t going to make a dent in Sony and Microsoft’s market. Nintendo decided to go for broke and make the Wii be just slightly better than the Gamecube in power and made motion controls their core feature. It worked and it kept Nintendo on top in sales for several years. While the Wii got Nintendo the profits they wanted, it came at a heavy price. Still being slow to adapt to online gaming, Nintendo did not learn from their mistake with the Nintendo DS’ online system and had the Wii use one friend code per game. This meant that if a friend and I wanted to play three online games together, we would need to exchange friend codes for all three games. This is almost like the old days where you had to copy down lengthy passwords just to resume your last save in a game. On top of this, the security for online gaming by Nintendo was laughable. Just like with the online for the Nintendo DS, the Wii is extremely easy to run homebrew programs that allow people to use cheats for online games and troll other players. This made online play for the Wii something you had to ignore unless you wanted to play with people cheating or if you were lucky enough to have several friends to play with. Many great games that had potential to be better with online are now ruined with these hacks running around.
Another problem Nintendo had, which they didn’t learn before, was the add ons for the console. Stuff like the wheel and the balance board was only used for a few games and then forgotten. The Wii Motion plus was Nintendo’s attempt to improve the motion controls, which caused people to think it should have been in the beginning of the Wii’s life in the first place. It’s like Nintendo has ADD over controller/console add ons; they make the product cool, but then Nintendo forgets about it and you’re left with an expensive paperweight.
So what happened with Nintendo? Their biggest blunder was not planning far ahead. The Wii had a pitiful amount of memory storage for data, Nintendo did not make enough games directed at non casual players, and they did not make the Wii secure enough to minimize people using programs to cheat online. On top of this, Nintendo had to make an add on to improve the motion controls a few years after the Wii’s launch just to prove to everyone that motion controls could be saved. The Wii was simply not future proof. However, Nintendo is starting to learn from their mistakes; the Nintendo 3DS has stumbled at the gate but picked up steam by releasing more games aimed at the core fans and reducing the hardware’s price. Not only that, but the 3DS uses a global friend code system so you no longer need to copy a billion codes for each game. Nintendo is also doing the same online system from the 3DS to their Wii-U system and are allowing other developers to use their own online system if they chose to do so. The Wii-U is supposed to be more powerful than the Wii, but with conflicting rumors going around about its true power, we will have to wait and see what the results will be.
Microsoft has made the least amount of blunders this past generation, but their decisions has been a costly one. Everyone knows about the infamous Red Rings of Death, a fan term used to describe a broken Xbox 360 when they see three red light rings on the console that indicates an error. For a long time, the red rings have been a disease for Xbox fans. It had them worried on when their console was going to die. The red rings were caused by Microsoft rushing their console out in the market in order to capitalize on the Christmas rush and to beat out Nintendo and Sony before they released their consoles. To do this, Microsoft had to skimp out on some parts and had the console built in a rush. Those two factors caused the internal parts of the Xbox 360 to fry, rendering the console useless. Microsoft had lost a ton of money replacing the affected consoles and giving their customers extended warranties. Microsoft wanted to be first in getting their console out but as they learned, being first isn’t always a good idea. The next time you see someone shouting FIRST in the comments section, think about what Microsoft did.
There also has been a rise in complaints over canceling an Xbox Live Gold account. Every account is linked to a credit card and the customer is automatically charged each month. If you want to cancel your account, you can’t do it online or through e-mail. You have to call customer service to do it, but the process to go through it rivals almost the same way people had to suffer to cancel their AOL accounts years ago. You get pestered and bugged to not cancel your account and just like the ISPs and cable companies, if you terminate your account before the contract is done, you get smacked with a termination fee. As the old saying goes, read before you sign up!
Microsoft’s Kinect add on, while presented poorly at E3 once, had potential. They tried to sell on the fact that you could play games by just using your body and no controllers were needed. People thought that you could play war games and pretend you were holding a gun or chucking grenades at enemy lines and more. What did Kinect have to show for itself? It had nothing but casual and party games like dancing and an animal simulator (remember Skittles the tiger?) amongst other things. It was like Microsoft tried to one up the Wii by saying “Hey, kids! You playing with that waggle stick? You can play our games by just flailing around!” and not realizing that the average gamer prefers to just sit down on the couch after a long day and play games on a controller by pressing buttons. Even the novelty of playing with the family by flapping your arms to row a boat gets old after a while. Nintendo kept their motion controls simple while Microsoft tried to capitalize on the Wii’s success by copying their game concepts and then trying to make their games be played by standing up and jumping all over the place.
Now let’s talk about Sony. They had a very rough start with the Playstation 3 and one of the reasons was the sixaxis. The sixaxis feature was an afterthought since most games that used it either barely used it all or was implemented horribly as if it was trying to compete with the Wii’s motion controls; it was only capable of tilt and many called it a rip off of the Wii’s controller. This quietly died off and no one really talks about it anymore. Could it have gained potential? No one will ever know.
The biggest blunder Sony made was the infamous $600 price tag on its 60 GB PS3 model and the 20 GB model was only $100 less. This is where Sony got too cocky due to dominating the market for years with the Playstation and Playstation 2. By making the Playstation 3 absurdly expensive, Sony basically told its consumers that they should start saving money if they wanted to buy their product and many viewed the console as nothing more than an alternative blu-ray player at the time of launch. The high price put the hurt on Sony while Nintendo and Microsoft attracted consumers with their lower price points. It took Sony several years to find a good price range to sell on once the technology got cheap enough to sell without a big loss. Sony learned the hard way that past success and brand recognition alone won’t sell a product and that consumers will not buy something out of their price range no matter how appealing the item may look.
As if Sony hadn’t learned their lesson the first time with the sixaxis, they attempted to outdo the Wii’s controls by making a nearly carbon copy called Move, except Sony’s controller had a colored ball on the end. Taking a look at Sony’s online store, I searched for all games that required the Move controller or giving the option to use it. Only 24 games so far are made with the Move in mind and nearly half of them are party/casual games while a fourth of the titles are ports of older titles with Move attached to it. Sony fanboys declared the Move would be the killer of the Wii and even dubbed the Move as an HD version of the Wii. However, it seems that Sony didn’t get that memo and the Move has nothing to show for itself. The Move could have done wonders, but it seems to be just an afterthought that was quickly quieted. The Move made Sony look like as if they were trying to cash in on the Wii’s long success and failed at it.
The more recent blunder of Sony came around mid 2011 where someone or a group of people hacked Sony’s network, which granted them access to credit card information Sony stored on their servers to help consumers make purchases easier online. Not only had this happened, but the hackers also crashed Sony’s servers and Sony sluggishly worked at fixing the problem. The servers were down for almost a whole month, which meant players could not play any of their games online or connect to the PSN at all. Sony basically had no idea who attacked them and their slow response to fix the problem, in addition to keeping consumers in the dark until things got out of hand made the company look completely incompetent. Sony attempted to apologize to their consumers by offering a few free games to download on the PSN, but the choices were mostly old games that people most likely already owned and that pissed off people even more. Basically, Sony ****ed up majorly and it will have to do a lot to regain the trust of its consumers.
How does the future look for the three big faces of gaming? Nintendo is slowly doing the right thing by learning from their past blunders and the future for them looks pretty good as long as they keep on the ball. Microsoft has the potential to do great, but their Kinect peripheral still has untapped potential that no one is taking advantage of and it looks to be just a quick cash in on the Wii’s success with motion controls, but different. Sony still has to dug out the huge pit they dug themselves into, thanks to their major blunders with the price tag at the start plus the slow reaction to the hackers. The future is always uncertain, but people can always learn from the past.
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