Has the Wii won the console war or do the Xbox 360 and PS3 still have a chance?
Last week THQ boss Brian Farrell has said he believes that although currently leading the race, the Wii is by no means this generation's winner. We know that the Wii has had a price advantage since its release, with Microsoft and Sony competing at a higher end of the video game market, but will price cuts over the coming years be enough to turn the tide?
For a while it seemed that nothing could stop the Wii wiping the floor with the competition. For over a year the console was almost impossible to buy on a whim and bundles (a standard way for retailers to sweeten the deal when buying a new console) weren't offering better value for money - they basically forced you to buy games you didn't want. But things appear to be changing, not nearly enough to suggest sales are struggling, but there is movement. For the first time you can buy a Wii without having pre-ordered and value bundles are appearing.
Predicting sales of the Wii is hard. Assuming Nintendo doesn't drop the price (at the moment it appears to have no reason to do so) then are there still a huge number of people out there that want a Wii but haven't bought one, and are willing to pay £180? Wii Fit is sure to spike some interest, but are newcomers to the console going to lay out £250 for just that or will the majority of sales come from existing owners wanting something else to play that isn't Wii Sports or Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games? Wii Fit is sure to be marketed as an alternative to expensive home gym equipment, but Nintendo might just need a few more titles up its sleeve in Q3 and Q4 in order maintain its strong sales.
There are over 100 million PlayStation 2 gamers, and it's this audience that Microsoft and Sony needs to convince to make the jump to their consoles - before they're caught by the unpredicted hysteria surrounding the Wii. Sony surely has an easier job on its hands. For reasons that aren't exactly clear, the PS3 has seen a bit of resurgence in recent months in the minds of gamers. You only have to read one of the large gaming forums to see that people have swung from being pretty bitter about Sony's latest console to feeling it's ready to storm ahead.
The PlayStation 3 has lived on the promise of AAA games coming down the line ever since launch, but maybe now those games are getting closer. Although most would agree that no console could match the Xbox 360's line-up during the second half of 2007, many believe that 2008 will be the year of the PlayStation 3. The titles that will drive this success aren't so obvious though. The most clear-cut is undoubtedly the highly anticipated Metal Gear Solid 4. June will mark the series' debut on the PS3 and it will without doubt be one of the biggest third-party exclusives to hit any of the consoles this year.
Looking at the rest of the line-up and you'd assume plenty of established PS2 franchises would finally be appearing on the console, but the current schedule doesn't suggest that. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue carries with it a huge number of fans on the PS2, but Resistance 2, MotorStorm 2, LittleBigPlanet and Killzone 2 don't. Killzone 2 doesn't even have a solid original game to build on, with current hype being more about visuals than any real signs that the game will be able to compete with the big boys. But we're yet to consider the impact Grand Theft Auto IV will have on sales.
If there's one game that will drive sales of next-gen consoles this year it's GTA 4. GTA is a series that transcends video games more than any other. Halo is big, but GTA is played by everyone - assuming they're over 18 years old. The question is whether GTA 4 will have a greater positive effect on sales of the PlayStation 3 or the Xbox 360.
Microsoft's Xbox 360 stands as the console most likely to go either way on the sales front. With a lack of new exclusive games in Q3 and Q4 the console could fall behind the competition in monthly sales. While the exclusive line-up this year is looking good already it doesn't include many games that are likely to shift consoles to gamers sitting on the fence. With this week's price cut, made prior to the release of Grand Theft Auto 4, things could be very different. Microsoft needs to make it clear to everyone that the Xbox 360 game is the version to buy. It's widely thought that GTA 4 will sell a lot of PlayStation 3s for Sony, but Microsoft needs to steal a portion of that audience. If the game is marketed primarily as an Xbox 360 title, console sales in May will make for some very interesting reading.
Even two years into this latest console war it's still too early to say there's a clear winner. The Wii is undoubtedly leading the pack at the moment, with the console generating more hype than anyone could have imagined when everyone was laughing at the new name. The PS3 seems certain to have a strong year, but with a much lower price and what currently stands as a stronger exclusive line-up, the Xbox 360 isn't out of the picture. In terms of software sales the Xbox 360 should still lead the way for the considerable future, with the war against the Wii in terms of console sales perhaps not being quite as important as it's made out to be.
Do you think the Wii has won the console war or is it still too early to call? Do console sales matter more than software sales? Let us know in the comments section below.