2013: A Console Odyssey

This Year Will Finally See New Consoles. Time To Rejoice?

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This year in gaming is setting itself up to be one of the most exciting in recent memory. There has been nothing set in stone, but it is almost assured that both Sony and Microsoft will be announcing their new consoles this year. With Nintendo jumping out of the gate last November with the [amazon_link id=”B009AGXH64″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Wii U[/amazon_link] we have officially entered the next generation of gaming (whether you believe the Wii U counts as a true leap or not). For the first time since 2006 we get to salivate over the possibilities of what new consoles will bring. Many may think how much farther can games go (a valid argument when you look at games like The Last of Us), but there is always the possibility of better that keeps us looking forward.

This has been the longest console generation yet. Come this November we will be eight years into the life of the Xbox 360 and seven years for the Playstation 3 and Wii. The difference between this lengthy console generation and others, that have lasted around five or six years, is the undeniable quality of the games coming out for the current gen systems. With so many years of development knowledge under company belts, we are being rewarded with massive, beautiful games like [amazon_link id=”B004HYK956″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Skyrim[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”B0050SXX88″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Far Cry 3[/amazon_link]. Even this year, gamers have a litany of triple-A titles coming. [amazon_link id=”B004FS8LYK” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Tomb Raider[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”B003O6EB70″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Bioshock Infinite[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”B0050SXKU4″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Grand Theft Auto 5[/amazon_link] would be a massive year in the video game world, but these games are coming out a mere few months apart.

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So why the need for new consoles? I am not business savvy, in fact I can barely add, but I am pretty sure it is not just Microsoft and Sony that are wanting to usher in a new era of consoles. Remember that the two corporate giants only began making money off of their respective consoles in the past few years. It is almost assured that they will have to sell the next Xbox and Playstation at a loss just to get an install base. I would not be surprised if they are feeling a little bit of heat from publishers who have seen this generation stay alive way past what was expected and would like to have new consoles to develop and release games for. Don’t get me wrong, I know creating a console literally takes years of planning and producing, but I think Sony and Microsoft would have been just fine letting this generation go on unimpeded for another year or two before announcing any new system.

So what is ahead for Xbox and Playstation? I figured we would take a look at my best guesses to what I think will happen by the end of this year. Sure it is all speculation, but that is what is so great about new consoles coming out. By the time this year’s E3 happens in June we should have a good idea about the names and release dates of the systems with the yearly game show being used to showcase the games that will be coming.

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Microsoft

Microsoft is the one that has to be the most careful in this next year of console launches. They will not have a full year head start like they did with the Xbox 360 and they can not afford for their new system to have the numerous problems the 360 had during its launch. I worked at EB Games during the release of the Xbox 360 and can tell you that it was no walk in the park trying to explain to multiple customers (many who I knew on a first name basis) that their brand new console that was only a month or two old had died completely and we had no idea when we would have any replacements in to honor their warranty due to the shortage on systems. The now infamous “red ring of death” may be in Microsoft’s rear view but it will still be on the mind of many gamers when it comes time to decide which system to drop a chunk of change on. To have anything closely resembling this incident again may leave Microsoft and their next gen hopes D.O.A.

System Name

When it comes to the name of the system I subscribe to the theory that it won’t be simply called “Xbox”. I understand the theory as to why a lot of people think this since Microsoft has been branding everything from their music service to tablets with the Xbox name but I still believe that there will be something added to it. They could simply call it The Next Xbox or Xbox Next. We also can’t forget about the fact that Microsoft bought up a whole lot of domain names like Xbox8.com. Many people have speculated that it could mean that the system could be called Xbox Infinity which is the 8 turned sideways. I can easily see this happening also. Either way I believe that the future Xbox will have a new moniker.

Release Date and Price Point

Guessing the next Xbox’s release date should be a matter of history. The original Xbox released on November 15, 2001 and the 360 on November 22, 2005. Microsoft likes launching in November and they should stay the course with this system also. My two main dates that I could see them launching on are November 5, 2013 and November 12, 2013. The second would be an easy selling point because of the easy to remember date, 11/12/13. The advertising almost makes itself.  But one huge monkey wrench in this plan is a little three word game called Call of Duty. The second week of November is normally the release of the new Call of Duty so it would be up to Microsoft to decide whether they should release a new system the same week as a new Call of Duty, even if the game is on both the 360 and the new Xbox. They may want to move up to November 5th just to have the spotlight all to themselves.

I believe Microsoft and Sony know what is the absolute most a consumer will spend on a new console. Microsoft hit the right spot with the Xbox 360 with the two sku model for $299 and $399 respectively. There should be two sku models again with reports being that one will be more of a set top box that runs Windows 8 and apps with DVR access and another being the tried and true next generation console that gamers will buy. If Microsoft takes this route I think the fully loaded Xbox will come in at $399 while the DVR set top model will run from $299-$349. If I had to venture a guess as to what the hard drive size would be I would say the $399 model will come with 500GB and the other model having around 64GB or 120GB.

Games

I hope Microsoft has a few tricks up their sleeve when it comes to what games will be available on launch day. You have a new [amazon_link id=”B002I0H2AG” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Gears of War[/amazon_link] coming on March 19th and you just had [amazon_link id=”B0050SYX8W” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Halo 4[/amazon_link] come out this past November so those are two of the biggest Xbox franchises that won’t have an impact come release day. Bungie will most likely have their next big property, Destiny, ready for the next Xbox but it will also release on the Xbox 360 so the new version better have a significant difference to make people buy a new system as opposed to a $60 game for a console they already own. Beyond Destiny it gets a bit hazy. We may get a new Alan Wake and Forza Racing but are those enough to bring in the sales especially going head to head against Sony? I hope at this year’s E3 Microsoft will have some surprises in store in the games department. All we can do is wait and see.

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 Sony

Sony is already in a better position than the last console cycle. They will be launching alongside the new Xbox instead of playing from a year behind. The fact that the PS3 has almost caught up sales wise with the 360 should give Sony hope that they can take the lead again in this new console generation. Make no mistake though, with Sony losing money from other divisions and the Vita not lighting the sales charts on fire they need the new Playstation to be a big seller. They will lose money on the system for the first few years but that should be expected. The need to get into as many homes as they can before the end of the year and not overcharge again for the new Playstation.

System Name

I was all ready to give my thoughts on the new Playstation name when I began this article and then developer Quantic Dream had to go and throw a wrench in my plans by registering the domain name SingularityPS4.com. Who really knows anymore? I was on board thinkin that Sony would just call their new system Playstation. No number or anything but now maybe they are keeping with the numerical tradition. Not that there is anything wrong with Playstation 4, I just felt that simplifying the name would be a good idea. Heck I even had an inkling that they would keep the code name Orbis on it. I mean we have the Vita, how odd is Orbis? And it would all fit into the easy to remember three letter/number shortened name (PSV, PSN, PS2, PS3, PS4). So as far as Sony goes I don’t feel as confident as I do with the new Xbox name. So just to be official I will say that it will be the Xbox Infinity/Xbox Next and the Playstation/Playstation 4.

Release Date and Price Point

Sony’s Kaz Hirai has gone on record saying that they will let Microsoft unveil their system first to the world and that’s all well and good but it won’t matter which company shows its hand first I think Sony will be first out of the gate. Even if it is only a two or three week head start they will be out first. Sony could go ahead and catch everyone off guard and release in late September but I don’t think that will happen. It looks more like mid- to late-October will be the sweet spot for the new Playstation. If I had to venture a guess I would say that October 25, 2013 seems like a good date. It would give them an 11 day head start and would launch on a Friday which is a much easier day for people to take off from work to play their new console. I can’t be the only one thinking that right?

The price of the system is the one part where Sony can not screw up twice in a row. While the PS3 is priced good now no one can deny that the initial price of the system is a major reason why the console took so long to take off. I remember being so excited when the PS3 was shown off, thinking of all the amazing things I would be playing on it and then they said the price. $599.99. My heart, wallet and balls all sank at the same time and I wasn’t the only one. So this go round Sony should get things right. Like the new Xbox I think they will hit at $399, but I am not entirely sure if they will launch with multiple skus. If there is only one model then I believe you will get a 500 or 750GB hard drive. Should Sony go to more than one the price may go past the $399 point. Now I would not be opposed to paying $449, especially if the system came with a 1TB hard drive. Some have said to push Vita sales and also combat the Wii U by announcing all kinds of different ways the [amazon_link id=”B003O6EATE” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Vita[/amazon_link] can be used with your new system that Sony could bundle a new Playstation and Vita together and charge like $599.99 for both. For people who don’t own a Vita, that would be an insanely great deal.

Games

Sony may be in a much better position when it comes to launch games. While Microsoft has their biggest franchises releasing on the 360, Sony’s are positioned to make a big splash in the early going on the new Playstation. Uncharted, Killzone, Infamous and Gran Turismo are all due for sequels and it would not surprise me if two of those franchises were announced as launch day titles. Add to that Sony’s huge PC shooter Planetside 2 rumored to be on its way for home release on the new Playstation and I could easily see Sony winning this battle. Let’s say Sony launches in October a few weeks before Microsoft and has a lineup that includes a new Uncharted, Killzone, Planetside 2 and all the third party support (granted Xbox will have it too) then my choice of system would be pretty clear. I love Xbox and will be getting both systems eventually but in the battle for my gaming buck this fall Uncharted and Killzone will always beat Alan Wake and Forza.

So Who Wins?

Honestly, in the gaming world we live in now there won’t be a clear winner or loser in the next generation console war. Both Sony and Microsoft will sell heaps of systems and gamers (like me) will eventually have both systems. Both companies have so many quality first party titles that there is really no way for one or the other to nosedive into nothingness. Even Nintendo, who enjoyed sales supremacy with the Wii, will be hanging around. The Wii U will sell no where near what its predecessor did and will most likely fall way behind the new Xbox and Playstation, but Nintendo will always have its core audience that will keep them afloat. If they can make through the Gamecube (which was awesome btw), they can make it through anything.

So this year as we learn all the specifics of the next generation of consoles and that feeling of excitement comes, like it always does with new systems, there is one clear winner. All of us.

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