If you’re a die-hard Nintendo fan you might want to curb your enthusiasm. Nintendo is still a generation behind Microsoft and Sony (and Valve) in the online space. The 3DS uses archaic friend codes, and there’s not even a simple messaging service on the system. That means you have to find people by name if you want to talk some trash. Additionally, Nintendo is unlikely to meet their 3rd quarter shipment numbers, and they’re already planning to add a hardware revision (including a second analog stick) to the system early next year.
Has it been a failed launch? It’s doing okay in Japan, but the numbers out of the states are bleak. This raises more questions: Is this a Nintendo problem or a harbinger of bigger troubles for the hand-held space, since most of us have Android or iPhones that offer 99 cent, bite-sized games? Can the $40 retail model exist in the same world as the app store, or will Apple crush Nintendo and Sony this hand-held generation? What will that mean for Sony’s business model (console-like games on a hand-held)? Will it push either company to go 3rd party? Sony has already started offering “Playstation Suite” games on Sony Ericsson phones…
On the console-side, we’re right at the start of the build-up to next-gen systems, so there are all kinds of tech rumors about the Xbox 720 and PS4. Will Sony go with another version of its Cell processor, making backwards compatibility possible again, or will it contract for an off-the-shelf PC CPU? When will the systems launch? Will Microsoft try again for first-mover advantage? The Wii U is coming out next year, but it’s likely to be a current-gen system the same way the Wii was a last-gen system in terms of power (still outsold everything else anyway). Lots of questions, no definitive answers.
Then there’s the question of whether cloud gaming services like OnLive really work. Can they compete with the big boys in prime time? The potential is unreal: no more hardware limitations for gaming; computer farms run your game from 500 miles away, then stream it to you through the net, meaning your cell phone could play games that look cooler than the best gaming PC you could buy), with the caveat of lag/bandwidth limitations. It’s a brave new world in the gaming industry. There are questions about which direction console manufacturers will go, which way game designers will go, and which direction consumers will go. As usual, the verdict is not in.