CES 2013: The Rise Of The UnderDogs

For fans of gaming, CES 2013 turned out to be a joyous occasion  With Microsoft deciding to stay at home and have a bath, Sony choosing to concentrate on their upcoming mobile devices and Nintendo releasing their Wii-U at Christmas, we might have been fooled into thinking it was going to be a relatively quiet year for gaming.

But 2013 promises to be one of the big three’s most disruptive years for a long time…

With nVidia’s mobile Shield console, Razor’s  Edge tablet console, Ouya’s exciting $99 Android OS console, Valve’s Steam-Box and of course, the beastly Oculus Rift, the big players are going to see competition from every direction.

And whilst many commentators are quick to remind us of the established fan bases of the big three, their superior marketing dollars and retail support, I think they’ve grossly underestimated who they’re dealing with.

“I can’t imagine all of these devices will ever come to market… I think it will be very tough. I don’t know if the video game market can support all of those devices” – Eric Handler, MKM Partners.

nVidia know a thing or two about gaming: they’re graphics pioneers and have a loyal fan base that reflects this. Valve already own the platform that the vast majority of PC gamers rely on, and are not short of fans or marketing dollars either. Both of these companies enjoy fans that are almost exclusively PC – a community that has always snubbed the console market and prides themselves on being early adopters. I’m sure like me, they’ve been looking to migrate from their bedrooms to their lounges for a long, long time as well…

The Oculus Rift already has support from some of the biggest studios and developers in the PC gaming space (Valve, Crytek, Unreal, Bethesda to name a few), not to mention sound financial backing and a flourishing community of developers. Providing the Rift comes in at the $300 price point that Palmer is striving for, there’s going to be no shortage of support for the Rift when it finally does come to market, and considering just how good it is, it is going to sell in droves.

So what about the big boys this year?

On the 20th of February 2013, Sony will be holding a special event, inviting guests to bear witness to ‘the future of the PlayStation console brand’ IE the unveiling of the Playstation 4. Whilst Sony have remained coy on the subject, The Wall Street journal has stated that ‘people familiar with the matter have said that the device (PS4) will debut there”.

It has been widely touted that both Sony and Microsoft will unveil their next generation of consoles at E3 in June, so this announcement – scarcely two weeks since the hysteria of CES – serves as a reminder that if you can get steak at home, you shouldn’t waste your time with cheese burgers.

It would be nice if it were true.

Sony’s account of the PS4 details that there will be very few hardware upgrades, no backwards compatibility, social media functionality that has been available on the PS3 for a long time (with headgear and a mic), hands free controllers (shock horror) and a camera – YES A CAMERA. If these specs turn out to be accurate, SONY will have more than game sales to worry about. The 720 will have the advantage of showing their hand second, but according to the early specs leaked for the 720 (code named ‘Durango’), the Durango is even further behind.

And the noise is getting louder and louder from innovative and more agile players that are entering the market.

Most analysts will tell you there’s no way that product sales from Microsoft, Nintendo or Sony will be affected (in any meaningful way) by the hardware that will be released this year. Consoles have already lost ground to smart phones and other mobile platforms that offer gamers a premium service for free or low-cost, so there is really no place for arrogance or assumptions. These shifts in consumer behavior are weighing on game sales, and if the big players are late to the party, they might find themselves out on the street.

Just ask BlackBerry!

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