Next Generation Videogames - Video Games Essay Example

Abstract

Sony Corporation is the world leader in consumer electronics and leading video game console manufacturer - Next Generation Videogames introduction. Sony Corporation (Sony) is a forerunner in video game consoles.

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Its PlayStation 2 is among the best in the world and it accounts for almost 70% of global sales in the video games console market. Another unit of Sony’s, Station.com, produces the company’s other online games, which include the EverQuest series, PlanetSide and the Matrix Online; all crowd favorites (DataMonitor, 2006).

The paper then identifies itself with three major forerunners in this industry, namely, Microsoft, Sony Corporation, and Nintendo. The research also takes the reader through an analysis of current industry trends and what future developments can be expected from this entertainment industry.

1.0    Video Game Console Industry

It all began in 1949 when Ralph Baer, an engineer, made an attempt to build a television that could perform multiple roles. Then it was the turn of Willie Higinbotham to design an interactive tennis game on an oscilloscope, and Steve Russell, who programmed a rudimentary space game on a DEC PDP-1 mainframe computer. Though the idea is the same, methods have changed.

There has been much development after this, like Asteroids 64 by Crave, Nolan Bushnell’s Computer Space, Space Invaders, Centipede, Frogger, and Pong. Pong is an advanced variant of Willie Higinbotham’s tennis on his oscilloscope. Companies such as Atari, Sega, Magnavox, and Nintendo, are well known video game manufacturers. Today, we have Microsoft and Sony Corporation as two forefront runners in this business. Sony would never have thought that its Playstation2 would become its top-selling product of all time (Herman.L et al., 2006).

The first home video game consoles came out in the 70s. Ralph Baer’s Magnavox Odyssey was granted patent in 1972. The early 80s saw the release of more advanced video game consoles through Atari 2600, Intellivision and Colecovision of which, Atari 2600 became more popular. The video game console boom crashed in 1983 when consumers began to see saturation in innovation.

In 2001 Microsoft entered the fray with their home console, the Xbox. The video game console war had begun. Microsoft released its flagship game, Halo: Combat Evolved, Nintendo released their successor to the Nintendo 64, the GameCube, and Sony its new PS2. Sega found the going tough and announced their discontinuance of Dreamcast and became a third-party developer in 2002.

Sony Corporation has become a household name in the field of entertainment electronics. Sony Playstation2 has the distinction of having 70% of the world video game console market sales. From a mere 0.8 million unit sales in Europe in March 1996, to 40.12 million units in March 2005, Sony’s overall sales of its Playstation2 rose to an astonishing 102.49 million units in Europe, America, and Japan (British Library, 2006)

2.0    Market Update

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2.1              Overview

Microsoft was a relatively latecomer to the video games console market. It watched the giants of the business; Sony and Nintendo work their way through minimal competition to gain ascendancy. Microsoft then began work to develop Windows as a gaming platform, while Sony PlayStation was raking in huge profits for the company, taking with it most of the competition that came its way. Sony gradually started work with Sega to use WinCE in the Dreamcast. At the same time, Microsoft began development of their own console, the Xbox, based on a simplified Windows 2000 PC design and leveraging their existing work on DirectX. The video game console fight was about to begin, and consumers were waiting with bated breath for the outcome, that would change the world of video games altogether.

While Dreamcast failed to take off, sales of Sony’s PlayStation 2 far exceeded those of the original. Microsoft released their new Xbox console to battle Sony directly in the console market. Nintendo, pioneers in the video console industry, suddenly saw their cheaper GameCube slip into third place, behind Microsoft.

Microsoft expectedly, invested billions not just to participate in the console game market, but to make Sony sweat for every dollar earned. Sega dropped out of the console market, and Nintendo lost its leadership after years of success in the industry. Clearly, console video games were heading to another level.

Competition began to heat and become more intense as the next generation of consoles arrived. Microsoft led both Nintendo and Sony to the market with their Xbox 360, but still hemorrhages money. Sony however with its branded loyalty, continues to maintain a substantial lead over the rest, while Nintendo is planning a revival by targeting markets outside of the usual gamer audience (RDM, 2006).

The Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii came up with their versions of game consoles to complete against Microsoft’s Xbox 360. What is most interesting is the fact that everyone within and outside the industry are trying to figure out who will ultimately win the battle, as each company is pursuing different strategies. Sony and Microsoft are targeting performance to increase their market share, while Nintendo is promoting fun and playable games that rely more on hardware features such as their controllers to beat than impressive graphics hardware.

The following is a comparative study of what these three players have to offer the consumer today.

Sony PlayStation3

Sony’s PS3 is by far the expensive hardware, coming at $500-600, for it includes a standard hard drive, a high definition Blu-ray optical drive, HD video output, Bluetooth wireless controllers, and a well defined WiFi wireless networking. This hardware is more than a game console; it is a compact computer system as well.

 What Sony has set out to do is the setting up of the PS3 as a PC alternative. The premium model has a memory card reader for not just Sony’s own Memory Stick but also, a Compact Flash and SD memory cards, making the PS3 a digital hub for photos. With a USB keyboard, mouse and web browser (included), it can serve as a basic PC.

Sony planned to ship the PS3 with Linux as its pre-installed Operating System (OS), but instead has made user installation of another operating system as boot option. Use of this OS isn’t supported by Sony at present and therefore it would require the support of a specially designed network to work on the PS3’s specialized Cell processor architecture.

 The PS3 is also the new HD core of Sony’s modern take on the stereo system, offering 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround and true 1080p high definition video playback from prerecorded Blu-ray movies. These features make Sony’s PlayStation 3 more than what a customer could ask for, for money (RDM, 2006).

Microsoft Xbox 360

Following the lines of the Sony PlayStation3, Microsoft introduced last winter, its version Xbox 360. Microsoft Xbox 360 is much cheaper than Sony’s PlayStation3 at $300-400. MS uses a standard DVD optical drive, but includes a hard drive and wireless game controller in its premium version. It updated the 360 to provide support for full HD, 1080p video output to match the PS3. Microsoft positions the Xbox 360 as a media extender that can streamline music and movies from a central media center PC, rather than as a standalone PC alternative.

Another feature that Microsoft plans to offer is the HD movie playback with an optional HD-DVD player in an external box, and another over the web through its online Xbox Live video store. There is a hitch to this option. The external HD-DVD player is priced around the $200-$250 mark, pushing the price up of this product to about the same price of the PS3. Another drawback is that Xbox 360 which costs around $300 can’t use Microsoft’s online video stores to save downloaded movies as it lacks the hard-drive required for this function. This will automatically cut down its sales when compared to the features available on PlayStation3 (RDB, 2006).

Nintendo Wii

With limited features, Nintendo’s Wii is expectedly, the least expensive of the three at $250. It does include both Bluetooth for wireless controllers and a DVD drive, but lacks the ability to play DVD movies. A hard drive to store movies or music is also missing.  Instead, the Wii focuses purely on what Nintendo offers its staunch video game followers; video games. Nintendo Wii concentrates on offering games using the wireless Wii Remote paired with Nunchuk controller to bring video games to life.

The Wii Remote uses accelerometers to sense how players swing, point, and tilt the controller, encouraging game titles to incorporate activity. It can also be connected to Nintendo’s DS portable game system, using its own microphone and touchscreen as inputs for Wii games. While it’s a fact that Wii has no movie store, Nintendo substitutes this lose by incorporating an online store that sells classic games from the Nintendo 64 and other previous game consoles for its video die-hards (RDB, 2006).

3.0    Graphics & Controllers

Nintendo’s Wii system’s controls contain motion-detecting technology. In some games, one need not punch buttons to play. This was very well demonstrated in one game on display; tennis. The controllers can be used as a racket. A swing of the wireless controller like a racket for example produces a shudder as if one had hit a real ball. The controllers also contain speakers that make a realistic ‘thwok’ sound, whenever the ball is hit.

The same kind of effect can also be seen when games like bowling, baseball or boxing are played. Players who play these games can use motions with their hands, arms and wrists that roughly replicate the movements that one makes in real life, taking the video games console a step ahead in realism. Nintendo thus compensates for certain technical imbalance compared to the other two giants; Sony PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox 360.

The graphics on the Wii is therefore a minus point. What really appeals to the consumer is that Nintendo has managed to keep the true identity of the console intact with its technical excellence. This feature of ‘physical realism’ is however missing from the other two.

If its graphics, it’s got to be a Sony. True to the word, most video game addicts would vouch for Sony’s technical excellence in graphic presentations. PS3 has an unfair advantage in the field of graphics. The new PlayStation won over the Wii because the $600 Sony system can run on a new $4,500, 50-inch plasma TV sets. The biggest drawback with Sony’s PlayStation is that players required memorizing where the buttons for the controls were while playing games. This caused a lot of problems in handling the games at the first instance (Mike Musgrove, 2006).

With Microsoft’s Xbox 360, using the interface and getting online is easy and almost as intuitive as using an iPod. Trying to get online with the PS3, on the other hand, is difficult, because it needs a USB-compatible keyboard to plug into the console, and using the game controller to enter user information is tedious.

4.0    Analysis

Opinions about Microsoft Xbox 360 and Sony PlayStation 3 vary, but it’s pretty clear that both devices give serious thoughts.

From a processing standpoint, the PS3 beats the Xbox 360, but the first generation PS3 games are second best to features available on the Xbox 360. The PS3 advantage comes from it’s mostly compatible with the millions of existing PlayStation (PS1) and PlayStation 2 (PS2) titles.

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 has its own advantages, such as its HD Media Center Extender is a sure win against anything Sony offers on the PS3, and it supports live and recorded HDTV over home network, along with TV show and movie downloads. Its device connectivity, including direct support for Apple iPod and Sony PSP devices is top notch. Add these to Microsoft’s free 1080p upgrade for all its existing Xbox 360, and it’s a sure winner (Paul Thurott, 2005/6/7).

The following tables illustrate the technicalities and features available on the Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, and Nintendo’s Wii.

Tables Courtesy: Paul Thurott’s SuperSite for Windows.

Pricing

Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Wii
Low-end model
$299
(Xbox 360 Core System)
n/a
n/a
Mainstream model
$399
(Xbox 360)
$499
(PlayStation 3 20-GB)
$249
High-end model
$479
(Xbox 360 Elite)
$599
(PlayStation 3 60-GB)
n/a

Microprocessor
Feature
Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Wii
Processor type
3.2 GHz PowerPC with 3 dual-threaded processor cores
3.2 GHz Cell processor with 7 single-threaded synergistic processing units cores (not directly comparable to Xbox 360 processor cores)
729 MHz IBM Broadway processor with 5 execution units

Graphics processor
Feature
Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Wii
GPU Type
ATI-based custom processor
NVIDIA-based RSX “Reality Synthesizer”
ATI Hollywood processor
Clock speed
500 MHz
500 MHz
243 MHz
Video RAM
Up to 512 MB GDDR3 system RAM (700 MHz) plus 10 MB embedded DRAM (eDRAM) frame buffer
256MB GDDR3 (700MHz)
24 MB of system RAM (486 MHz) plus 3 MB of embedded DRAM (eDRAM)
Video memory bandwidth
21.6 GBps to system RAM; 256 GBps to eDRAM
22.4 GBps
3.9 GBps

Video
Feature
Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Wii
Native video resolutions
16:9 widescreen 720p, 1080i, 1080p (will down sample to standard definition)
480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i, 1080p (will down sample to standard definition)
853 x 480 (480p) in widescreen or 4:3 aspect ratio
Component HDTV output
Yes
Yes
No (does support 480p EDTV)
HDMI output
Elite model only
Yes
No
Video cables included
Core model includes composite only. Mainstream model includes both composite and component. Elite model includes HDMI cables as well as composite and component.
Composite only
Composite only

Audio
Feature
Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Wii
Analog sound output
Dolby Pro-Logic II
Stereo
Dolby Pro-Logic II
Digital sound output
5.1-channel Dolby Digital
5.1-channel Dolby Digital (HDMI), 7.1-channel LPCM
n/a
Number of voices
Software-based, limited only by CPU and memory
Hardware based: 320 compressed channels; software based: limited only by CPU and memory
Hardware DSP with 64+ channels

System memory
Feature
Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Wii
Main System RAM
512 MB GDDR3 RAM (700 MHz), shared with GPU
256 MB XDR RAM (3.2GHz)
64 MB GDDR3 RAM
Memory bandwidth
22.4 GBps
25.6 GBps
1.9 GBps

Storage
Feature
Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Wii
Optical drive
12X dual-layer DVD; HD-DVD drive offered as $200 add-on (for movies only).
Blu-Ray
Proprietary optical drive
Supported optical formats
Xbox DVD, DVD-Video, DVD-ROM, DVD-R/RW, DVD+R/RW, CD-DA, CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-RW, WMA CD, MP3 CD, and JPEG Photo CD (HD-DVD supported with optional HD-DVD drive).
BD, BD-ROM, Blu-ray Disc, CD, CD-DA, CD-DA (ROM), CD-R, CD-RW, DualDisc (audio side), DualDisc (DVD side), DVD+R, DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD-ROM, DVD-RW, PlayStation 2 DVD-ROM, PlayStation 3 BD-ROM, PlayStation 3 DVD-ROM, PlayStation CD-ROM, PlayStation2 CD-ROM, SACD HD, and SACD Hybrid (CD layer).
Wii discs (both 4.7 GB single layer and 8.5 GB dual layer), Nintendo GameCube discs. Not DVD compatible.
Hard drive
Core System: No
Xbox 360: 20 GB removable hard drive
Elite: 120 GB removable hard drive
20 GB or 60 GB replaceable hard drive.
No. (Does include 512 MB of internal flash memory for storing saved games, downloaded games, and other data).
External hard drive support
Yes, but limited to media playback only.
Yes
No
Memory card ports
2 Xbox 360 Memory Unit ports (64 MB or 512 MB).
None in 20 GB version; 60 GB version includes flash memory card reader (supports Memory Stick, Compact Flash and SD/MMC).
1 SD card slot, 2 GameCube memory card ports.
USB 2.0 ports
3
4
2

Networking
Feature
Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Wii
Ethernet
1 port (100 Mbs)
1 port (1 Gbps)
No; optional with USB-based add-on.
Wireless networking
No. 802.11g is optional ($100) on all models.
Bluetooth 2.0, Bluetooth controller interfaces; Wi-Fi is available only on 60 GB version.
Integrated Wi-Fi for networking and Internet access; Bluetooth 2.0 for controllers.
Online service
Pervasive online experience through Xbox Live Silver (free), Xbox Live Gold; includes ability to download full-length movies and TV shows, many in HD format.
Free PlayStation Network with micro payment system; includes a Web browser. Individual game makers can choose to charge for online services.
Wii Network online service includes online shopping, Web browsing, messaging, and other features.

Multimedia features
Feature
Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Wii
Full Media Center Extender 2.0 experience
Yes
No
No
Live and recorded TV support (including HDTV)
Yes
No
No
Supports streaming video from PCs
Yes
No
No
Supports streaming audio from PCs
Yes
No
No
Supports streaming photo slideshows from PCs
Yes
No
No
Plays content from portable media players, including iPod and Sony PSP, and with digital cameras
Yes
Yes
No
Displays content from portable storage devices
Yes
Yes
Photos, MPEG and QuickTime movies, and MP3 music files from SD storage only.
Plays DVD movies
Yes
Yes
No
Upscales DVD movies to HD resolutions, including 1080p
Yes
No
No
Supports next-generation DVD formats
No. Can play HD-DVD movies with optional $200 add-on.
Yes. Blu-Ray drive included with console.
No

Controllers
Feature
Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Wii
Number of supported controllers
4 wireless (plus 3 wired controllers via USB), controllers will work with Windows PCs as well. Controllers feature removable AA batteries and can be replaced with removable rechargeable battery packs.
7 wireless and/or wired controllers total. PS3 controller does not feature a removable battery.
4 wireless Remote Controllers. Also supports Nunchuk add-on controller (attaches to Remote Controller and for many Wii games) Wii Classic Controller (also attaches to remote controller; for older, downloadable games), and up to four legacy GameCube controllers.
Rumble functionality
Yes
No
Yes
Motion sensor functionality
No
Yes
Yes
USB keyboard support
Yes
Yes
No

Compatibility
Feature
Xbox 360
PlayStation 3
Wii
Compatible with previous generation games
Partial compatibility with original Xbox titles. (Only some original Xbox titles work, more are being added slowly over time.)
Near-complete compatibility with PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games in North America and Japan only – European version of console offers just partial compatibility with PS and PS2 titles.
Plays all GameCube game titles (but doesn’t include GameCube controller or memory card); Nintendo offers some downloadable versions of Nintendo NES, SNES, and N64 titles, as well as NEC TurboGrafix-16 and Sega Genesis titles, for $5 to $10 each via online service.
Improves legacy game experience
Yes. Original Xbox games are upscaled to HDTV resolutions and some games (like Halo 2) are graphically improved.
No
Downloadable N64 games offer enhanced graphics quality.

5.0    Conclusion

The video console war has taken video games to another level in technological excellence, with features that are realistic and visually delightful. So advanced are these companies; Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo that these equipments are no more just game units, they are technological displays.

As competition gets hotter, more features are added, and as more features are added, the more the benefits. While the companies battle it out to make their mark on the consumer, it’s the consumer who is smiling all the way.

6.0    Bibliography

1.0       Neoya Ltd, The New X2VGA2 2.0 fully support 1080p is available now! http://www.x2vga.com/?gclid=CIKwyYyuhYwCFRB_TAod7SlKWQ

2.0       RDB, PlayStation 3 vs. Xbox 360 vs. Nintendo Wii, 2006, http://www.roughlydrafted.com/RD/Q4.06/745E215D-460A-4393-96E6-56FD13A883A2.html

3.0       Mike Musgrove, In the Wii-PS3 Playoff, Nintendo Upsets Sony on the Fun Factor, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/22/AR2006112201857.html

4.0       Leonard Herman, Jer Horwitz, Steve Kent, and Skyler Miller, GameSpot: History of Video Games, http://www.gamespot.com/gamespot/features/video/hov/

5.0       June 2006, Business Description, Sony Corporation, DataMonitor, Company Profile, Page 6

 

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