War is good

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Wii recently, and its surprising success. Richard wondered last week whether it could bring an end to the console war. I don’t think it’s dominant enough to do any such thing, but more than that, I think it would be a really bad thing if it did.

One of the main arguments in favour of the console war has always been competition. Consumers benefit from a competitive market. Usually.

But historically, what benefit has there been from having multiple formats? Everyone was trying to do basically the same thing, in basically the same way.

Format holders would bang on about innovation, and how unique their format would be, but almost universally fail to deliver on that.

You might argue that we’ve had better – and 3D – graphics thanks to competition. But that’s a result of ever improving technology independent of consoles.

Analogue sticks? Surely just a logical progression of control in a 3D world.

Lower prices? Competition always lowers prices, doesn’t it? I say just this: PlayStation 3.

But Nintendo’s lack of success drove them to the point that they had to take a risk, and try something genuinely differentiable. That gave us the Nintendo DS and the Wii.

Competition at work, says I. Previously, it was argued that all the consoles are so similar, there may as well just be one. Not so now, and to me that proves that there are still new ideas to come in gaming. To see them, we need competition.