Things are getting serious, punches are being thrown in the eternal battle between these titans of entertainment. Lets have a quick look….
So the market is worth about 100 billion a year, which is a large chunk of cash! Everyone is working to increase their market share. Both PC and Console markets are undergoing a slight contraction in overall percentage of the market share, but as the overall market is growing this is not a problem. The major winner in the entertainment sector is the mobile sector. For example Nintendo has entered the mobile gaming market by releasing Pokemon and announcing a ‘runner’ type game for iPhone featuring Mario. Nintendo has been the underdog in the console war as it had aimed for the ‘casual’ gamer with the release of the Wii, which was a hit and was a great communal gaming experience. Nintendo has realised that their real strength lies in there IP’s and is now using other markets other than their own consoles to leverage capital. Microsoft is tieing there games platform together with the PC market and Sony is heading towrds getting VR affordable for the masses.
For a while Microsoft has been trying to tie the Xbox platform to the PC platform with varying degree’s of success. Even though most Gaming PC’s run windows, the gaming community does not want to be channeled and forced to use proprietary platforms. They are happy with Steam but did not warm to ‘games for windows live!’ The idea that buying a game on the Xbox platform will get you the PC version is obviusly going to please the crowd, free stuff is always good. Microsoft are also releasing the Xbox One S which is the Slim version of the standard model, which is a normal during the console life cycle. But what isnt so usual is the uprated Xbox codenamed ‘Scorpio’ which is going to be a supercharged version of the Xbox One, but it is not a new archetecture, just an iteration. The ‘Leaked’ stats are showing that it is likely to be the most powerful console when it is released at the end of next year, beating what Sony has to offer.
Like Microsoft, Sony is releasing some new box’s, aiming to continue to control the console market. During the battle between the PS3 and Xbox 360, Sony where chasing Microsoft, but due to some really stupid/odd marketing blunders by Microsoft in the run up to release and also ending up with an under powered machine compared to the PS4, Sony managed to leap ahead and gain the lead. Sony has a few products that they will be hoping to keep their console market lead and also diversify their penetration of the market by turning a few PC players heads. So Sony are releasing the PS4 Slim model as expected but like Microsoft they are releasing a ‘Pro’ version of their console. This ‘Pro’ version has an upgraded CPU and GPU from AMD and is tauted as been able to deliver a 4k gaming experience. It’s all in the language its not saying 4k just the experince of 4k. A PC with a graphics card that costs over £600 in a PC that probably costs more than that will just about be able to run a 4k game. The PS4 Pro is a £350 console even with AMD pascal archetucture in the GPU it’s not going to have the processing grunt to be able to deliver. So what does this experience actually mean, well it means that more graphically intense games will probaly be 1220p then upscaled to 1440p to give the illuison of 4k. Only games that are less graphically intensive will run at 1440p natively. As Sony owns the Blu-ray brand the marketing decision not to allow Ultra 4k playback is very strange I can almost hear the shotgun been discharged into their foot.
The other major Sony release this year is VR. Playstation is hoping to bring VR to the masses. Which I hope is going to be a good thing, but… There is always a but somewhere. Lets look at a VR experence for a PC gamer, the GPU is going to have to be at least an 8gb Radeon RX 480 or moving up to a GTX 1070/1080 the processor is going to have to be i5/i7 of at least this or last generation then for a ‘Rift’ your paying £550 that brings the aprox total for a gaming VR setup to £1500 minimum. Thats minimum spec because you want to be driving the display refresh as high as possible, because with the display been very close to your eyes if the refresh is lower than 100 mhz it can induce nausea. With a PC every component will have a profit so is not the most economical purchase aginst Sony delivering a single box that will deliver the same experience. Sony VR is priced at £350 which just attaches to a normal PS4, so you can see that if you want to see what VR is like the PS offering is a lot cheaper than using a PC.
VR on the PC has not realised it’s potential, the sales over the last 2 months have stalled according to Steam statistics. One of the reasons been tauted for this is there is no ‘killer’ game that only works in VR! The Control system for VR has also got to mature, for example Flight/space sims have the HOTAS already available. Some other games use ‘Wands’ to mimic your movements in a 3D enviroment, also there are gamepads that are readily available. I’ve also seen a footplate to simulate movement when you sat down. I’d love to try VR, I want to see what Elite:Dangerous in VR with a HOTAS setup. But it is way out of my price range and it probably is for most people. Even if I could afford a VR headset and a HOTAS thats a lot of money for E:D and probaly EVE:Valkyrie. There needs to be games, a number of games that utilize the VR and are more than just tech demo’s. I dont believe E:D or Valkyrie are just tech demo’s but a number of games that are available fit into that bracket. The market has slowed for VR because there is a lack of prominent VR games that appeal to the masses. Though I love E:D it’s not a game for everyone and has niche appeal. So the early adopters have already bought the tech, niche gamers have bought the tech and the slow trickle will continue untill there is some breackthough in terms of game/delivery/function. The Vive with its motion tracking takes up a good sized room, that room needs no obstructions, I cant see people been able to play Battlefield 1 in VR and be able to move around. It’s just not a viable. Though for me persoanlly i’d like to see a modern version of hexen/skyrim hybrid in VR. If you could get spells cast verbally that could get all the Harry Potter fans involved as well, dovahkiin/expelliarmus anyone?
So Sony enters the fray, bringing VR into your lounge/bedrom for about £500 but im hoping the main thing they bring will be cross-platform games. Obviously Sony would prefer the game to be platform exclusive to bring everyone over to their fold. But as a consumer i’m more interested in the development been available to a wide audience and generating the wider VR uptake, that will then entice other developers into the arena once the market becomes profitable.
In an interesting announcement Playstation have said they are aiming at taking a chunk out of the PC market with the PS Pro. Which will obviously be a rallying call for console owners where as PC owners will laugh at the presumptiousness of Sony thinking that there little toy could even compare to the mighty PC!
This winter Sony will have a console that is about 20% better than the PS4, a slim version of the original PS4 and PS VR the question is will people buy a console they know will be underpowered compared to next winter’s release of the Scorpio from Microsoft? Will Playstation be able to drive sales with both a improvemnt of their PS and the introduction of VR with a price that is more casual gaming friendly?
Either way more sales for Playstation or Microsoft will benefit AMD as the supplier of the chips inside both machines. With AMD releasing their ZEN chipset are they likly to shakeup the PC market the way that PS and Microsoft have done with consoles this year. I’m looking forward to all the stories unfolding.
See you on the other side…