By: David Kaplan
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Like the music industry, the gaming industry is in mid revolution thanks to a lot of innovations and technological advancement. First off; the Nintendo Wii. Back in 2006, the Xbox 360 was already at retail for a year as a hi-def media and gaming system. Sony answered in direct competition with the Playstation3. The inclusion of the blu-ray player was a great idea on paper, but when people saw the price $600 tag, they weren’t too quick to invest. Released the same year was the Nintendo Wii, a system that doesn’t even feature a DVD player and had no real intention to capitalize on the shift to hi-def. Aside from these now industry standards, Nintendo did away with what you once knew as “they way to play videogames.” Rather than sitting on the couch with controller in hand, Nintendo introduced their Wii remote which had you up and actively involved in the game play. Price and the Nintendo name definitely helped moved units.
At $250 for the system and a game included, they had quite a pitch over the Xbox, which started at $300, and the Playstation3, which started at $600 (neither of which even included a game). With games like Wii sports where you are bowling, playing tennis or golf, families were getting together in friendly competition. The games were as easy and natural as their real life counter parts which meant people who had never played videogames before could easily pick up and play. Wii Fit also attracted new gamers that weren’t actually gamers at all. Wii Fit, being more of a personable trainer, sold videogame consoles to health conscious consumers looking for an at home aerobic plan. Many clones of Wii sports and Wii Fit have been released for the Wii but none capture the controls like the Nintendo made games do. The other big players in the console wars have caught wind of this new gaming craze and this holiday season, 4 years after the release of the Wii, they will be releasing their own versions of motion controlled games. Microsoft will be releasing Natal, a 3D camera for your Xbox360 that picks up your movement and distance from your TV, which will allow for controller free gaming. Sony will be releasing wand controllers called the Playstation Move that look all too much like the Wii remote and nun chuck.
Another large shift that could really hurt the retail business of gaming, which we’ve already seen in the music industry, is the move to digital. All home consoles feature high-speed internet capabilities and storage space for downloading. In addition, they each feature their own version of an itunes-esque marketplace where you can purchase games that download and save directly to your console. At first these were games that were exclusively downloadable, much similar in style to the golden age of gaming where 2D side-scrollers and arcade beat-em-ups reigned supreme on Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. Over the last year or so though, full retail titles like Grand Theft Auto IV have been making their way on to the marketplace as well for download. Even the hand held consoles of the day (the Nintendo DS and Sony’s PSP) feature a market place for downloading games. Sony went as far as releasing a version of the PSP called the “Go” which only plays downloadable games.
After studying the music industry and noting how the trends in the gaming industry are moving in a similar direction, I wouldn’t be so surprised if gaming goes completely digital, in regards to software, within the next 5 years. There will always be a need for the console to store and process the games (like an mp3 player housing music) but the internet takes away the need for games to be on a physical medium. Microsoft may already be in the running for the next step. Currently they charge $5 a month for their online service Xbox Live that, among other great features, allows you to play your games online against anyone around the world. What if for an increased rate, you were given full access to stream and play full versions of any games available on the service in addition to those features already in existence?