This holiday season the console wars are heating up again. With Microsoft releasing their controllerless motion control peripheral and Sony having already released their motion controller, Move, industry analysts are once again turning to sales figures to see who will win the battle this time around. Recently, Sony’s Andrew House reported to Bloomberg that first month sales in Europe were, “somewhere in the region of 1.5 million units.” This is great news for Sony, installing a base early that adopts the new technology will provide developers with more incentive to develop games that support the new technology. However, US sales figures have been estimated by press outlets to fall in the 300,000 unit range, a number far below the estimated preorder sales of Microsoft’s Kinect. Adding fuel to the skeptic fire, Sony has confirmed the shipment of 1 million units to North and Latin America in Move’s first month. Some analysts see this as a sign of underperforming sales in the US. Latin America’s data, some say, having been thrown into the total units shipped to make it appear as though more North American gamers are interested in Move. At this point its all conjecture, but I see sales picking up around the holiday season for both Sony and Microsoft’s new technologies. The real questions are: who will win the battle of motion control, and has Nintendo already saturated the market?
Obviously Kinect is the more advanced of the three motion control devices that will be on the market this year. Kinect has a lot of potential to dominate market share and maybe even sell a few new consoles to Sony fanboys. However, the lackluster launch lineup I wrote about yesterday has me a bit skeptical about how consumers will receive the peripheral. Are there enough STRONG games to drive consumers, in this economy, to shell out the price of a new device? I’m not sure, but I certainly hope so. There is too much potential in this technology to let it become a dead fad, but pausing and rewinding Netflix with my voice isn’t going to be worth $150.00 to me. Microsoft will have to provide developers with an incentive to develop for the Kinect in order to drive successful sales in the long term. Nintendo got away with a weak lineup at launch (a Zelda port and Wii sports were the only worthwhile launch titles) because they were the first. Consumers saw the advertising and thought to themselves, “I’ve never seen that before, I must go buy it.” Microsoft doesn’t have that luxury, too many “gamers” were turned off by the Wii to shell out half the price of a new console for another bland sports game, or dance game, or an advanced Giga Pet Game. I hope this technology takes off, but with a later release date than its competitors, an unenthusiastic launch lineup, and a price point considerably higher than Move, Microsoft has their work cut out for them.
Kinect will outsell Move and Wii Motion Plus in America. While Microsoft’s appeal outside the US is comparatively limited, I believe the technology will grab hold of a large (more than 33.3%) portion of the market after the first year. Unfortunately I foresee developers taking their time in creating fully functional Kinect titles possibly until sales figures are solid enough to warrant a major investment, which could be as late as Holiday Season 2011 or 2012. If sales are steady I see Kinect winning the long term battle here.
Sony PlayStation Move
Sony has already shown confidence in their version of motion control, and with a reported 1.5 million units sold in its first month in Europe, that confidence is well placed. My concern is Move’s performance in America, where Microsoft has outsold Sony this generation, up until this point. As far as what Move has going for it, it’s basically a finer tuned and responsive Wii-mote, the technology is like the Wii’s older brother, but Sony’s marketing campaign has been entertaining and engaging and will no doubt increase sales figures in the long run. However, it will be less difficult for Sony to get games developed that incorporate their technology due to the market’s familiarity with their equipment. Whereas Kinect is new, having never been done before, Sony can co-opt developers with experience programming games for Nintendo and possibly have strong titles to support their new control system sooner than Microsoft can.
Sony has already proven itself in Europe and sales figures for North America, once released, will be able to shed some more light on the initial interest in the US and Canada. At this point it is hard to say if Move will outsell Kinect, but I can confidently say Kinect is the better technology. Sony should have an easier time getting fully supported titles on the market which should give them a slight edge initially. As with any console battle, this one will be decided not by the merits of the respective technologies, but by the speed at which either company can take full advantage of their new controllers. I predict Move will originally outsell Kinect, but not by much, and only when looking at worldwide sales figures. Kinect will continue to gain momentum well past the time when Move sales have started to decline. In the long term I think Sony looses this battle to Microsoft, but outsells Nintendo.
Nintendo Wii Motion Plus
What is left to say about Nintendo? This generation the company focused its attention on opening up the video game market and capitalizing on new demographics. From a business standpoint, it was brilliant. However, many “hardcore gamers” were turned off by Nintendo’s “kid friendly” focus. This is why a console’s, or peripheral’s, game library is just as important for sales as its hardware is. Nintendo was able to outsell both Microsoft and Sony because of their unique product. It was the first time anyone had thought to bowl from home or swing their controller like a golf club and have the display correspond with the motion. However, by now, these games have become antiquated and boring for more seasoned gamers. They lack depth and substance, but remain fun “party” games. With the release of Wii Motion Plus, an add-on for the Wii-mote, Nintendo was able to improve on the initial technology, fine tuning sensitivity and responsiveness. First month sales figures for the Wii Motion Plus were around 374,000 units with over 54% of those sales coming from a prepackaged deal with EA for their Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 video game.
Nintendo knows business, that’s why they have been around so long. Everything about their 7th generation console has worked for them, from the price point to the gamble with a new technology, Nintendo has definitely taken the lead this generation; going so far as to influence their competitors into creating technologies similar in concept to their own. At $20.00 it isn’t a stretch to say Nintendo will sell the most units of their advanced motion control device, but the question remains, how much energy is left in their demographic to sustain continued sales and how will their competitors new technologies affect Nintendo’s sales? In my opinion, Nintendo will see a steady decline in hardware and peripheral sales after this holiday season. As such, they will need to rely heavily on new releases and games that can more fully utilize the potential of their system, but then again Nintendo has already won this generation’s first console wars.
And the Winner Is…
The consumer – with technologies advancing to near minority report levels (Kinect) and the Big Three (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) all vying for the consumer’s attention, video-gamers are bound to find something they like somewhere. While not one of the consoles has EVERYTHING for EVERYONE, at least one console has got something for you. Each of the platforms have something special for different types of gamers, and gaming is becoming more main-stream because of it. While I, personally, am not a fan of motion control, it is clear that innovation is driving the market and in the end we all win because of it. Once ga
me developers begin to fully understand and support this new way to play, video games will begin to take on a new life and these new technologies will continue to redefine the industry.
TL/DR: Microsoft Kinect, Sony PlayStation Move, and Nintendo Wii Motion Plus will all be on the market this holiday season. Microsoft’s Kinect should win in sales figures long term, but Sony’s Move should win the short-term sales race. Nintendo’s Wii Motion Plus is the cheapest technology and therefore will likely move more units.When all is said and done, the consumers win in this war as innovation will help redefine the industry.
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