Let the game-console war begin
The console war is about to get a lot more crowded.
While announcements of next-generation devices from Microsoft and Sony are bound to grab headlines this year, a wave of new machines from various corners of the games industry is threatening to shake up the traditional three-company battle over your living room.
Kickstarter sensations Ouya and the Oculus Rift are expected to roll out before the end of 2013. The indie-game focused GameStick is preparing its debut. Hardware maker Razer is launching the curious Edge gaming tablet, while nVidia, best known for their graphics cards, is rolling out a mobile system called the Shield later this year.
2013 is shaping up deliver an embarrassment of riches for gamers. But with so many devices on the way, there's bound to be some confusion as well. And there are bound to be some casualties.
Analysts say there's little -- heck, virtually no -- chance that systems from Microsoft, Nintendo or Sony will be dramatically affected by the glut of new hardware coming this year. Each of those companies has tremendous market awareness and fan bases, and, at the end of the day, that's a high hurdle to overcome, even for systems that have some buzz behind them now.
"I can't imagine all of these devices will ever come to market," says Eric Handler of MKM Partners. "I think it will be very tough. I don't know if the video game market can support all of those devices. Look at the [Playstation] Vita. It's a very cool device, but you can't find anyone who has one."
It’s a fair point. Sony’s handheld system, released last February, has failed to catch on in North America and trails Nintendo’s 3DS handheld by a significant margin.
That doesn't mean they're all destined to fail, of course. The Ouya, an Android-based system that enjoyed the best first day in the history of crowd-funding site Kickstarter, continues to intrigue industry observers since it could offer a different enough experience to hook enough users. With an expected retail price of under $100, it also boasts a value proposition that some other systems (like Razer's Edge, which starts at $1,000) can't boast. And it has a lot of gamer bigwigs backing it.
"It's been a long time since a new console was introduced, and it is likely that pricing for consoles will go up," said Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter when the Ouya was unveiled. "By coming in at a lower price point and challenging the existing pricing model for TV-based games, Ouya could hit a sweet spot with gamers."
"I think it could be that Indie device of choice for games that don't cost $60," he says. "It depends on how well it can be marketed. … The question is: How can you make the casual stuff compelling by adding a joystick to it?"