To begin, there is a video circulating around the internet titled "Nintendo ON" that is a fake "leaked" trailer for the latest in Nintendo's console offerings. It's pretty impressive for being done by a one guy (in supposedly a week). You should have a look at it, just realise as I didn't that it wasn't the real deal.

The latest in Xbox technology is coming out this year, while Sony's PS3 is presumed to be coming out next year, and Nintendo has confirmed a 2006 release along with some juicy details about their console without really telling us what's so revolutionary.

The first thing that happens? Nintendo gets flak for missing the Christmas Season.

I will not be so silly as to say that there are no disadvantages in being second or third out of the gate, nor will I make ludicrous statements to the affect that there are no advantages in being the first. I will simply note that there are advantages and disadvantages to both. I actually would argue that Microsoft is not making a mistake by releasing first, and that Nintendo is not making a mistake to wait until 2006.

The first of several major detractions cited for Microsoft's November release of the Xbox 360 (why oh why did they ditch Xenon? Anyone else thing Xenon a far better name?) is the common citation of Sega's complete failures to drum up sales for the Sega Saturn and Sega Dreamcast by releasing ahead of the competition. While a valid point, there is more to say on the subject.

First off, the Sega Saturn's polygonal capabilities were far inferior to the Playstation's, especially considering it was originally designed to basically be a souped up Genesis. Sprites were supposed to be the center, and suddenly Sony turned around and smacked them out of the limelight. Releasing early doesn't mask last minute changes to make a console ready for primarily polygonal games.

The Dreamcast was not an ill-conceived effort like the Saturn, but a well planned out console. While less powerful than the others to come, it was not so much so that it could not have done well. However, Sega had several factors going against them. One was their inability to properly market the system. The second was their strange decision to wait an entire year before taking the console stateside. By that time, Sony had released all the juicy details on the PS2, and the rumblings concerning the Gamecube and Xbox were growing loud. The Dreamcast did well, but not well enough to last and Sega abandoned the console.

It is notable that even the Sega Genesis emerged before the Super Nintendo, but there Sega was the first to ever even challenge Nintendo, and did a darn good job at it.

In the end, we have one win, one loss and one inbetween for early console releases. At the same time, we have one instance of Nintendo's late arrival to the market yet still capturing the majority of the market (the SNES).

Microsoft has shown itself to be able to market, or at least spend money by the bucketload on marketing. Being only one of three competitors and with Halo 2 mania still buzzing in the ears of many college students, it is unlikely the Xbox 360 will have the same problems as the Dreamcast.

The next citation for problems the Xbox 360 will face is the nature of the upcoming Christmas Season. The PSP and Nintendo DS will be going full force before the Xbox 360 is even on the shelves. This will be the PSP's first Christmas, and both handhelds will have had time to widen their lineup of games. Because neither of these handhelds are cheap ($150-$200), they will likely be cheaper or at the least equal in price to the Xbox 360. Additionally, with the PS3 and Nintendo Revolution certain to be backwards compatible, owners of PS2s and Gamecubes are not likely to be going out and grabbing a console they have no investment in. If the Xbox 360 is not backwards compatible, even Xbox owners might not want to bother. With games like the latest Legend of Zelda installment due out this Christmas, Microsoft seems to have an uphill battle.

All of these factors are irrefutable in that they will turn away hardcore gamers. That will hurt Microsoft, but they are willing to take the hit. The people they are really aiming for are not hardcore gamers at all.

No video game company in their right mind or with any idea of demographics would advertise a console on MTV if they were targeting the more serious slew of gamers. What should be obvious is their full intent on swallowing whole the perhaps larger number of casual gamers who are more likely to buy movie tie-ins and sports games than whatever Mario happens to be doing. Releasing early to an audience so unlikely to get a PSP or DS is a smart move.

To release next year holds few advantages if any for Microsoft. In addition to having to directly compete with Nintendo and Sony right out of the gate for sales, they would be giving the other systems all the chance they needed to draw in the crucial casual gamers. With Sony likely to have some leeway in terms of riding the wave of the PS2's success, and Nintendo's possible revolutionary steps towards changing the industry, Microsoft would not only be shooting themselves in the foot, but doing so with a rocketlauncher.

I honestly can't see Microsoft's Xbox 360 doing well and being released next year.

For Sony, I don't really think it matters what they do in terms of their own martket share. If they wanted to, they could do incredible damage to the Xbox 360's chances by releasing this year. Were they to drum up a "war" between themselves Microsoft for the Christmas Season, they would likely be able to sideline the late arriving Nintendo by getting gamers to choose between the PS3 and the Xbox 360. The only downsides here would be a possible increase in sales for Microsoft as a result, or a decrease in PSP sales.

While a 2005 PS3 release seems to have a lot of reasons going for it, I think that Sony would be wiser to wait as well. If gamers are anticipating not one, but two consoles to be released the year following the Christmas Season, that might be enough to dull enthusiasm for the Xbox 360. Additionally, fighting a juggernaut of a company like Microsoft head on is like running directly into a wall of lava. Even if you are a juggernaut yourself, you're only making things easy for whoever else wants a cut of the market. By competing more directly with Nintendo, Sony would not only steal some limelight from Microsoft's big show for Christmas, but also deal with a longstanding threat that could with each generation explode back into the top position. If Nintendo and Sony mutually work together on starting a war between the handhelds without making gamers turn to the Xbox 360 from disgust, they could seriously do some harm.

Which inevitably brings us to Nintendo, the people I'm rooting for unobjectively, but tentative about from a less biased standpoint. Having already weighed the possible benefits and detriments for Microsoft and Sony, where does this leave Nintendo?

To begin, we'll ignore the revolutionary aspect of the Revolution. I'll deal with that later.

We already know for certain that the Revolution isn't coming out until next year. Here's my reasoning as to why. The general talk going round and my own feel for the industry points to several basic goals in terms of competition between the companies. Sony is content to be on top, and will simply fire its cannon at all comers. Microsoft wants to take out and possibly take over Nintendo as a step towards better cornering the market (and eventually ousting Sony). Nintendo is probably more interested in taking out Sony directly.

It seems obvious that taking on Sony directly is exactly what Nintendo is doing. Nintendo is already in direct competition with Sony's PSP via the Nintendo DS. While where that fight is going is up in the air, Nintendo is doing anything but poorly. To continue the trend by waiting until 2006 when the PS3 is likely to be released would simply be logical.

Additionally, Nintendo is purportedly going to be really tight lipped concerning the Revolutionary aspects of its console (no surprise, Microsoft and Sony are infamous for their copying of competitors) as E3 rolls by. As Microsoft and Sony battle it out for media coverage, Nintendo can wait until later to grab all the attention. In the same way, if Sony releases early with Microsoft, Nintendo can let them battle it out and coast in later. Considering its late start with the Gamecube, Nintendo didn't do too poorly. Arguably, it would be better for Nintendo if Sony released in 2006.

The odd factor out is the revolutionary aspect(s) of the Revolution. The specs for it sans that factor are impressive enough. It would take a person without a single bit of geekiness in them to be blind to the obvious technical competition Nintendo will bring against its competitors. However, what can make or break Nintendo in this next generation is that odd factor.

As an anything but objective gamer, I'm all for Nintendo's next console and given my large Gamecube library will likely buy that first and any other consoles later (I do have a PS2 and extensive Playstation library, but again I'm not objective). However, if I remove my bias one soon finds a deep, dark fear lurking in the back of my mind.

What plagues me is the fear that Nintendo's revolutionary, industry changing aspect of their console is either going to be too gimmicky for everyone, too weird for casual gamers, or too mundane for hardcore gamers. If it is any of those things, Nintendo is likely to be hurting.

However, if it is only somewhat gimmicky, only slightly weird, or a tad bit mundane, Nintendo will survive. Obviously if the console is backwards compatible it can do the basics and if the revolutionary stuff is a turn off they can scrap it. However, if the first statment is true, Nintendo will survive.

If the end result is better than the first statement in that last paragraph, then I project some good times for Nintendo. Given the ravings of those who have seen it (even with a grain of salt), I find it likely that the Revolution will be just that.

In any case, all we can do is wait patiently for E3 and whatever details emerge on these systems. Like all projections, they get increasingly accurate as the moment of truth approaches.

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