There have been a lot of discussions going on recently about when players can expect the next-gen console wars. We’ve been told the PS3 and Xbox 360 can last for around ten years, but no one really believes that. Development costs have come down tremendously by reusing assets from previous games and streamlining engines like the Unreal Engine. So the question is, when can we all expect to plunk down a cool $10,000,000 for the next consoles?
I always like to look at the past to get a better idea of where the future might lead us. So let’s start with the NES vs. Master System war. Keep in mind all the dates I’ll use will be for the North American debuts. I’m also only going to talk about the main consoles that debuted by companies that still operate today. Sorry Atari, 3D0, etc. If there were more than one configuration, I will always take the more expensive one as that’s always considered the “premium” model.
NES vs. Master System (Winner NES)
NES debuted on October 18th, 1985 for $249.99
Sega Master System debuted in June 1986 for $199.99
The war was completely one-sided with Nintendo claiming virtually the entire North American market. Sega would challenge Nintendo’s monopoly by doing away with Nintendo’s exclusive contracts and releasing their next-gen system early.
Sega Genesis vs. Super NES (Winner SNES)
Sega Genesis debuted on August 14th, 1989 for $189.99
Super NES debuted on August 23rd, 1991 for $199.99
Given the two year lead the Genesis had over the SNES, Sega was able to make real inroads and sold a great deal of consoles in North America. Eventually the SNES would reclaim the number one spot, but only by a few million units. Sadly Sega would make terrible business decisions over the next few years which would lead to the virtual collapse of their gaming business in North America.
Sega Saturn vs. Sony PlayStation vs. Nintendo 64 (Winner PlayStation)
Saturn debuted on May 11th, 1995 for $399.99
PlayStation debuted on September 9th, 1995 for $299.99
Nintendo 64 debuted on September 29th, 1996 for $199.99
We all know how this played out. Sega killed themselves with their surprise launch, and Nintendo and Sony would battle it out for the remainder of the console war. Sony would eventually win the console war by a very large margin. Not to be outdone again, Sega launched their next-gen system early to get a surprise attack on the competition, but this time planned it out with third parties and retail partners. The next-gen war would also see the arrival of a new challenger.
Sega Dreamcast vs. Sony PlayStation 2 vs. Microsoft Xbox vs. Nintendo GameCube (Winner PlayStation 2)
Dreamcast debuted on September 9th, 1999 for $199.99
PlayStation 2 debuted on October 26th, 2000 for $299.99
Xbox debuted on November 15th, 2001 for $299.99
GameCube debuted on November 18th, 2001 for $199.99
Sega would eventually bow out, even though they had a very successful launch. Microsoft would make some serious headway into the market and Nintendo would further reduce global sales compared to the Nintendo 64. Sony, on the other hand, would continue to gain new ground eventually selling over 150 million PS2s. The next generation would begin with Microsoft’s early launch of the Xbox 360.
Xbox 360 vs. PlayStation 3 vs. Nintendo Wii (Winner Wii)
Xbox 360 debuted on November 16th, 2005 for $399.99
PlayStation 3 debuted on November 17th, 2006 for $499.99
Nintendo Wii debuted on November 19th, 2006 for $249.99
In a surprise turn of events Nintendo was able to reclaim the top spot. Sony lost almost the entire footing they had previous established because of the high entry price for their console and their inability to showcase audio/visual strengths over the already released Xbox 360. As of 2011 the Wii sales have slowed to a trickle and now the Xbox 360 and PS3 are virtually neck-to-neck selling around 55 million units apiece. Nintendo was the first to announce their next-gen plans with the Wii U.
Wii U vs. Next Xbox vs. PlayStation 4 (Winner TBD)
Wii U will debut in 2012 for an as of yet unknown price.
That’s all the information we currently have on the next-generation war. Take a look back at all this data. The average console lifespan is around five years. Meanwhile the Xbox 360 is about to turn six years old, with still no hint of a successor. The question is, how long will that last?
With the Wii U scheduled to arrive 2012 in North America, likely summer, it wouldn’t be too surprising to hear about the next Xbox and/or PlayStation at E3 2012. I would be very surprised to see either machine launch in 2012 though. My best guess right now is that both platforms will hit sometime in 2013. By that time PCs will be significantly more powerful and hardware prices should be manageable for both Sony and Microsoft. I am almost positive we will not see another $499.99 launch from any of the three companies. I believe all next-gen hardware will be capped at $399.99, although I wouldn’t be too surprised if Nintendo announces their hardware at $299.99.
So what do you all think? Could we see a new Xbox and PS4 in 2013? That would make the Xbox 360 between seven and eight years old, and the PS3 only a year younger. Do you think 2012 is actually possible? Use the comments and let’s hear what you have to say.