One of the important aspects in marketing and manufacturing is competition.  This is what drives forward technological improvements and drives down prices.  Everybody wants either the smallest or the most powerful, with the most online features or the most innovative electrical product, and games consoles are no different.

There have been many console wars throughout the development of games consoles.  Some die out, unable to compete, others join too late to be of any threat and some manage to overtake the competition and remain top sellers due to their innovative gameplay experience.

The first console war started between the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64. These were both part of the 2nd generation of home computers; prior to these, you would have to buy the parts and build it yourself; they are both still popular and iconic systems today and there is much debate on who should claim the title of the best, however they both ultimately lost out as have many others over the years.  The Sega Saturn was forced into extinction by the N64 and Playstation; Sega would then go on to make the Dreamcast, but never recovered afterwards.  Atari also switched their operations towards software manufacture from 2001, leaving the market open for Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

Currently the top-selling console of all time is the PS2 with 142.8 million units sold (according to Sony in 2004), and the top seller of the current generation is the Wii with 67.45 million units sold (according to figures released by Nintendo, 2010) compared to 39 million Xbox 360’s and 34 million PS3’s, Sony hoped to have sold a total of 75 million by Autumn 2010 in an article written by James “Dela” Delahunty in Jan 2007; but this estimate seems unlikely in the present economy.

3 PS3’s

History of games

An article written for ClickFire by Emory Rowland in 2007 explores the future of games consoles.  They will be more social, they are already connecting with online social networks and integrate with their own points, trophy and virtual avatar systems such as Xbox Live and Playstation Home.  There will also be more innovation with alternative means of control, such as motion capture and 3D displays to fully immerse the user in the gaming experience using all 5 senses.

Project Natal: Xbox’s full body motion capture

With regards to motion capture being the future of gaming, I am not convinced; we’ve seen it in the PS2’s Eye Toy, released in 2003 with Sony’s Eye Toy Play game; SIXAXIS and Playstation Eye for PS3; The Wiimote and Wii Motion Plus, closely followed by Natal for Xbox 360; PS3’s new motion controller to be used in conjunction with the Playstation Eye.  Myself, I have performed motion capture for use in a project recently, and even with multiple optical data points and cameras , the ability of the hardware and software was still very limited.  Not only this, there was an enormous amount of data cleanup in this controlled environment, we had to deal with stray or missing points, which caused the models to react in an unnatural manner.

Imagine then, for a single camera or dual infra-red detector to recognise and interpret, in realtime, up to 4 people in an environment populated by multiple inorganic objects.  Then the programme has to interpret the motions into usable actions; in a fighting game for example, the interpretation of an attack and defence has to have certain boundaries, and to the software, may look very similar.

For a full range of motion capture, there would need to be several cameras to remove blind spots and ideally, the user would have to wear multiple data points for reliable tracking, computers can easily be confused by clothing and objects in the environment.  Motion Capture may be a viable application for gameplay in the future, but not to the extent of the claims at the moment.

The Consoles Wars may be a thing of the past thanks to cloud computing and advances in internet speed.  Personal hardware can be made obsolete due to the launch of OnLive in June 2010 according to The BBC, IGN, CNET and Wired amongst others (OnLive News reports March 2010).  Imagine being able to play any game whenever you wanted on any PC, Mac or a TV.  Consoles have always played catch up to PC’s – they are generally cheaper long-term, have a wider range of peripherals, and can be upgraded easily

OnLive’s presentation for GDC 2009