Games Are Key

The key to a good gaming system isn’t hardware or marketing, it’s the games. This may seem obvious, but we all forget this fact from time to time.

Nintendo forgot when it didn’t release any great games for the launch of the Nintendo DS. Nintendogs and Mario Kart DS are finally available and driving sales of the portable gaming system. They still haven’t released Metroid Prime which is exactly the type of game that should have been a launch title.

Microsoft was either very smart or very lucky with their purchase of Bungie and with it, Halo, the game that sold the Xbox. They haven’t been able to duplicate that success on the new Xbox 360.

Sony had some great games for the PS2 from what I understand. For that generation of systems, they probably had the most good games which can explain why they sold the most consoles.

I’m not sure what Nintendo was or wasn’t doing with the GameCube. Sure, there were some cool games, but no real “must haves”. The rumors that I’ve heard seemed to indicate that they made it pretty hard for third party developers to work with their system. I don’t know if they were any worse that the other console developers, but they sure had fewer games.

There’s always the catch 22 of more consoles lead to more games lead to more consoles. That’s why having a great first year is so important. Console developers need to make game developers feel comfortable with the decision to develop towards a certain platform and justify the development cost. One way to lower this risk is to simply lower the development cost. Nintendo is the only company I’ve seen trying to move in this direction.

It’s too early to say what with happen with the Xbox 360. I’m sure they’ll sell a lot of units, but I’m not so sure that it will be as successful as the original Xbox. I suspect a lot of serious gamers that would be willing to spend $500 on a new console are waiting to see what the PS3 looks like. Sure, there are some devoted Xbox and PS2 fans that won’t even consider buying the competition’s system, but I don’t think that group is very large.

The real marketing battle will start at E3 in May. Microsoft will have had time to release at least one must own game, and Nintendo and Sony should be ready to demonstrate their next generation consoles and games. We probably won’t know which system has the best games until E3 of 2007.