Attack of the Consoles

I realize I’ve been a bad blogger this week, but I’ve been so busy finializing things for EduTech, making trips to Fargo for meetings, and working on a Rails application at night that something had to give. I haven’t even touched my independent study material yet this semester, but I can’t imagine doing a quality job on it at this point, so it’s on hold for the moment. It would be really nice to finally finish that project and graduate with my MBA, but first things first, I suppose.

So, my plan is to fire off some quick blog posts today and over the weekend about whatever I happen to have an opinion on. I might even upload some new pictures of Kael to Flickr since the latest ones are already over a month old!

Via Slashdot, I found an interesting BusinessWeek article about the upcoming Playstation 3. The question BW asks is whether or not Sony is trying to do too much with the next generation Playstation, adding TiVo-like functionality, High Def DVD playback, a digital music store and more, in addition to playing video games. A lot of the geeks on Slashdot say no – the more features the better (as long as the price is right). However, these are the same people who want their digital music player to run Linux, double as a PDA, and record, copy, and play shows directly from their television. Which is to say, they’re not like most people.

If you take the iPod as an example, it had (and still has) less features than competing devices from Creative and iRiver while costing more. Apple spent its time making it the absolutely best music player possible, at the expense of the extras that geeks dig. It has the whole package (player, software, and music store) that work together extremely well. So well, in fact, that it made digital music accessible to the normal person who doesn’t normally feel comfortable with technology. Sure, Apple has since added video playback and picture viewing, but not at the expense of the iPod’s audio functionality.

Going back to the Playstation 3, I think Sony runs the real risk of trying to cram too much into one device. I’m very skeptical about customer demand for a jack-of-all-trades console, especially if it’s at the expense of games. I don’t have (or want) a Playstation Portable, but I’ve heard many criticisms that while there are a ton of UMD movies available for it, the game selection is crap. I can see the same thing happening with the Playstation 3 too.

In the end, the thing that sells videogame consoles is a big selection of quality games. The small group of gadget lovers and hard-core gamers who buy the first round of machines will probably like the additional features, but chances are they’ll already have TiVos, HD disc players, etc. The mainstream, the huge group of customers who determine if a console is a success or not, buys it for the games. I could be wrong, but I don’t think most people will use the other features, especially if they’re half-assed or poorly designed.

This should make for a very interesting next generation console battle. On one extreme you’ll have the Sony Playstation 3 with its ‘everything and the kitchen sink” strategy and at the other will be the Nintendo Revolution with its “games, and only games” approach. The Xbox 360 fits somewhere in the middle because while it offers media center functionality, it’s being still being marketed as just a game machine.

Personally, I’m rooting for Nintendo. It knows what its core competency is (killer games) and is sticking closely to it. Instead of trying to make a console that non-gamers might be interested in, it’s doing its best to create new and innovative games that appeal to new audiences. I admire that a lot, and I hope the marketplace rewards them for it.

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