Having played video games since I was 7, I have had fond memories of the Playstation/N64/Saturn era, the Ps2/Gamecube/xbox era, and Sega’s little console that unfortunately could not – a console stuck between generations, the Sega Dreamcast.  All of those consoles captivated me at one point or another, each having it’s moment in the spotlight and a few games worth remembering, until being replaced by a newer, faster successor.  Five years seeming to be the magic number for each new iteration to be released unto the public.  Sure the Xbox 360 has served me well for the past 6 years but I’m sure as hell glad to have my brand spanking new  ‘NeXbox’.  Wait…what?

Yes folks, if you would take the time to stop playing the latest Call of Duty installment (Black Ops while this article is being written), you’d see that you’ve been playing that trusty Xbox 360 since 2005.  Sure Microsoft and Sony both have released updated ‘slim’ models to their consoles but that’s not quite the same thing. Nintendo hasn’t  made any revisions to the Wii and instead have chosen to focus on their 3DS product in the hand-held market.

Sure near constant yearly updates of the Call of Madden, errr ‘Duty’ series, has kept Ps3 and 360 owners content but what about Wii owners?  Unless your idea of gaming involves burning calories or playing a few first party titles – bones thrown to us gamers – you have probably switched to one of the other consoles.

Playstation creator and madman Ken ‘Kurtz’ Katugari claimed back in 2005 that the Playstation 3 will have a 10 year lifespan, no doubt in an effort to entrench the Playstation brand in the market and put a Playstation in every home. (Oh the horror! the horror!) Katuragi has since been replaced at the company yet the mantra has remained. Sony is currently in third place in sales.

For all their billions in stocks and assets, Microsoft has made egregious errors since launching the 360 back in 2005; chief amongst them being the poor hardware design resulting in overheating and the subsequent dreaded ‘Red Ring of Death’. Having since revised the 360 hardware, it should be smooth sailing from here on out.  how long is that you may ask?  They too have held the position that the console life-cycle could last much longer than previous generations, well into 2015.

In the mid 90’s Sega tried to prolong the life of its popular Genesis system through the release of several add-ons and hardware revisions – The 32x and Sega CD being the most widely known.   The game support for the two expansions was not extensive and instead detracted Sega from working harder on its Saturn system.  Nintendo released an expansion to it’s N64 system dubbed N64DD yet quickly scrapped support in favor of focusing on their next system, the Gamecube. Both Sega and Nintendo struggled for dominance in a market beginning to be dominated by Sony and their Playstation.

As history has shown, console hardware add-ons are usually not successful in the long term.  Microsoft is currently in second place behind Nintendo with 50 million, or more than twice as many consoles sold than their previous Xbox system, yet is spending resources and focus on its new Kinect motion sensor add-on.  It’s a good product in the few demo’s I have tested but not one that justifies holding off the next generation of consoles for another three or so years.

Sony has released an add-on for their system as well, albeit one that is not as expensive or expansive as kinect: Playstation move.  Obviously an imitation of Wii’s motion controls at an effort to prolong the system’s life and competitiveness against Nintendo’s Juggernaut.

The real travesty comes from the leader of this generation, Nintendo.  As a recast and overclocked Gamecube, the Wii  barely qualified as being a next gen console; and yet despite all that sold the most as of February 2011. A look at the resent releases chart for the Wii sinks your heart and reminds you why the little white console has been collecting dust ever since you either beat Super Mario Galaxy 2 or lost 10 pounds on Wii fit. 

With falling prices for Sony and Microsoft consoles, the extended console cycle is not all that bad.  The upside is that more folks can afford the systems and enjoy the many games already released.  The wii is not so fortunate in that regard.  No new hardware revisions and only a measly $50 price cut gives core gamers little reason to support the system.

The industry and market are changing and perhaps the five year console cycle is a thing of the past.  Nintendo has an opportunity to reap their profits and catch the other two manufacturers unawares with a new console.  Waiting another 2-3 years will certainly spell their doom if their stagnating sales are anything to go by.    Change is a good thing.  I for one would like to play a Zelda game in 720p without having to rely on an emulator.

source used: http://www.gamepro.com/article/news/99528/sony-stays-the-course-on-its-ten-year-plan/

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