There’s an idea in the video game industry of the “third console syndrome”. This comes from historical console releases, where the third one from a manufacturer usually isn’t as successful as its predecessor. See the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation 3 as two big examples, as neither were as successful or dominated the market as the SNES or PS2 did.
Microsoft’s upcoming Xbox, due to be announced officially in April, will be Redmond’s third console release. Now, I’m not going to get into rumored specs here, as that’s a whole other can of worms, but there are some big hints out there that Microsoft may be approaching their game console with the completely wrong strategy for the 2013 world of home electronics.
To start off with, there’s this video that Microsoft produced about the “Xbox”:
An all-in one box that does everything in the living room? That sounds so awesome…if I was living in 2005. The problem with this approach to a game console is that these days if someone wants to watch Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime they really don’t need a separate device to do so.
If you go into Best Buy or any other big box electronics store where they sell televisions, take a look at the Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, and even low-end Vizio flat panel LED sets currently selling. One thing that you’ll notice on almost all of them is that they’re “Smart” or “internet ready”. Each manufacturer usually has their own “app store”, but the common feature is that the sort of video streaming someone would want to do (which MS is hyping up for the Xbox brand) can be done directly on their TV.
It doesn’t require an additional box in the living room anymore. All you need to do is hit a button on your remote and you have all the apps that Microsoft is saying is so crucial for the Xbox’s success as an all-in-one box. If you want to watch Blu-Rays and don’t have a smart TV, virtually all BD players these days also have the same internet features.
When Sony announced the PlayStation 4 they stressed how it’s a game console first. Hell they got Mark Cerny to design the hardware with input from all of their first party developers (that’s why it has 8GB GDDR5 RAM). It’ll still offer all the media stuff that the current consoles do, but as Sony also manufactures Smart television and BD players; they’re very well aware that those sort of things are not what you focus your game console on in 2013.
People just have far too many options and avenues to get their media to risk your game console by hoping people would choose it as an all-in-one solution, especially when they no longer need to worry about even using an additional box to get their content on. While I didn’t want to directly address specs here; credible rumors are saying the next Xbox may lag quite a bit behind Sony in terms of horsepower. When your console can’t match up with the competition, you need to distract people with other stuff, like media and internet functions. “Look at the birdy!”