Currently there are at least four contenders (five if you count Indrema ... which I'm afraid to say, I don't) competing for your living room gaming (and partial net functionality) time. If I can be bothered, I'll update this node as the "battle" progresses, but to get the ball rolling, here is my prediction : Saturating the market in this way will be harmful for all concerned. Remember what happened in the early Eighties? For the younger readers, Home Computers happened, eradicating the need for consoles almost overnight. Now, if it all goes pear shaped this time (which is unlikely with the amount of marketing muscle and casual gamers in the equation) we can only speculate as to where games development effort will regroup. The obvious answer would be the PC, but two years down the line we are going to have much more powerful (and connected) hardware permeating our homes (mobiles, PDA's, set-top boxes...)

Who will be victorious and who will go the way of the 3DO? Gentlemen, start your (rendering) engines ...

Contestants will be judged on hardware sales, quality of games, playground status symbol factor, and viciousness of advertising.

(Other entrants:: NUON, Indrema, Nokia set-top box)

Correction to the below: the NUON was not 'vapor'. You can currently pick one up (and a copy of the very smart Tempest 3000) at your local specialist retailer.

On exclusivity: There is another issue involved with making a game for one format only. And that is that a game designed with a specific format in mind is almost always better than a port, where compromises have to be made and a different style of controller catered for. Only very simple games like Tetris generally survive the porting process. Games that are developed on multiple formats simultaneously sometimes work out OK but that is a prohibitively expensive exercise. When choosing a console the thing to be weary of is that the genres you prefer are well supported. Buying a console on the strength of a 'killer app' is not always a sound method. (Furthermore, Halo is shite- Christ known what witless marketroid decided it could be considered a 'killer app'.)

September 29th, 2001 Update:

Hopefully this will help in the coming months. For those who haven't been paying attention, here's the currently run down of the hardware market...

  • Dreamcast: Launched in the US on September 9th, 1999, the Dreamcast had some very quality titles, but after a few months third party developer support was getting thin. In Feburary of 2001 Sega's become a software only company and said they would stop supporting the Dreamcast after 2002. Currently Sega is still developing Dreamcast titles, and it has said it is going to support the Gamecube and the PS2.

  • Playstation 2: Debuted in the US October 27th, 2000 with much of a thud. Hardware shortages and lack of quality software hurt the PS2 for the first few months of it's life. However since second quarter 2001, the PS2 has seen the quality of it's library increase somewhat. With Sega throwing in the towel, Sony has had the majority of 2K1 with little threat from other companies. The PS2's killer apps are just around the corner (November for Metal Gear Solid 2, January for Final Fantasy X).

  • Gamecube: Launches in November 2001. Nintendo's pushed the November system launch like, two weeks, and Capcom has announced that the Resident Evil franchise will be home on the Cube. Aside from that, other titles we've seen of the Cube show that it's a gigantic leap from the Nintendo 64, but maybe not as big as from the NES to the SNES. The Cube launched in Japan earlier this month with modest success.

  • Xbox: Launches in November 2001. Microsoft also pushed back their November release of the Xbox by a week. Rumors have it that hardware will be sparce, ala the PS2's launch. Third party support is decent, however the majority of the games for the Xbox will be ports from other consoles/PC games, rather than exclusive titles. Games still look like ass, purportedly.

  • Others: The Nuon was vapor (of course), the Indrema was vapor (duh), but the Gameboy Advance did bring some cool stuff. Including a dark ass screen, and the ability to link up with the Gamecube to do some supposedly neat stuff.

  • That's how the market looks right now. This writeup will be updated to reflect the battle and outcome of this great struggle between consoles.
    One of the most foolish notions of the console wars is the exclusivity of titles. Each console has a 'killer game' (or 3) for it that cannot be purchased on other consoles:

    PlayStation 2 GameCube XBox I used to be a computer gamer but can't deal with the upgrade path anymore. However, I obviously can't afford three different consoles. I doubt anyone can. So how do you choose? By games. The argument that people buy consoles for games is an old one. So what do you do, buy the console that has the one killer game for you?

    Now we see why exclusivity hurts the market. If the console companies signed less exclusive deals, there would be more games. And then, the comparative merits of the same games on different platforms would be measured, and we would actually know what console was better!

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