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The Future of Console Gaming

part 4/page 2


Nintendo GameCube

* Easy to develop for
* Exclusive Nintendo 1st party titles
* Inexpensive ($99-$149?)
* Nintendo often labeled as a "kiddie" company
* Range of 3rd party support unknown
* Heavy reliance on existing Nintendo properties (Mario, Zelda, etc)
* Launch coincides with Microsoft X-Box
Summary: Not a whole lot is known about the GameCube yet, but if screenshots tell any sort of story it looks just as capable as any of the other next-gen systems. The big question here is how much gamers are willing to shell out to play the next wave of Mario/Zelda/Donkey Kong titles...ironically, Nintendo's biggest strength (it's characters) is also one of it's biggest weaknesses. To make this system attractive, there will have to be a good supply of 3rd party titles to diversify their game lineup, otherwise the GC could end up being another N64: a machine primarily used to play the often ingenious 1st party Nintendo titles. But in all fairness, Nintendo's choice of a disc-based media and a seemingly much more friendly arrangement for 3rd party developers would point to a very bright future for the GameCube; the price point will be the final deciding factor.

Microsoft X-Box

* Backed by Microsoft
* Embraced by PC development community
* Includes modem/hard drive for online connectivity out of the box
* Based on spec sheets, will be the most technologically
      advanced console in history
* Massive advertising budget for launch ($500 million)
* Easy to port games from PC
* Possible deal with SquareSoft
* Japanese developer support fairly small
* Unknown price point
* Microsoft relatively unknown outside of PC circles
* Abundance of PC-styled games may turn off typical console gamers
* Launch coincides with Nintendo GameCube
Summary: Probably the biggest pile of unknowns, there's no question that Microsoft will have X-Box advertising all over the place well in advance of the system's launch. With half a billion dollars in pre-launch ad funds, there won't be a place you'll be able to hide. The main questions here are the price of the unit, and what type of support it'll get from console game developers. It's fairly well known that PC gamers and console gamers often choose different types of games, and the abundance of PC game ports to the X-Box may be a turn off to the casual console gamer. Some Japanese developers are interested in developing for the X-Box (Konami, Capcom, and SquareSoft is also rumored to be interested), but so far it looks as though most games for the system will come from US/Euro game houses. However, the biggest thing going for the X-Box is Microsoft itself. With almost limitless cash flow, Microsoft could conceivably take a major loss on every unit sold and still not flinch. With the Nintendo GameCube (a more recognizable gamebrand) launching at around the same time, Microsoft will have to have some very sharp A-list titles available at launch to attract gamers' attention, but with the alleged raw power of the machine and access to a vast array of PC game developers, there should be more than enough 'wow' factor here to get the X-Box in a considerable amount of homes if the price is right.

   So, there's a lot to consider and think about when it comes to the console market this year. Who will ultimately win in the end depends on what you the consumer buys, and everyone knows you're a fickle bunch.

-Dr. Otto


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