The next generation of games consoles is almost upon us. In fact, if you count the Wii U as "next-gen" -- which, given its relatively dated technology, some people don't -- we're already there.
But it hasn't been an easy road, and it looks likely that there will continue to be challenges for hardware manufacturers, publishers and developers in the near future. It's not all doom and gloom, of course, but just in the space of the last few days several stories have emerged that demonstrate the fact that Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft -- plus developers and publishers for their platforms -- are all going to have to work hard for success in the coming generation, and that with new platforms and new ways of doing business, new challenges and difficulties will inevitably present themselves.
Aside from the news that Titanfall is exclusive to Microsoft platforms (and PC) "for the life of the title" -- news that was apparently as much a surprise to Respawn's Vince Zampella as it was to the public -- a couple of other stories spring immediately to mind.
Wii U Selling Better, But That's Not Saying Much
CVG reports that Nintendo sold around 300,000 units between July and September of this year -- an 87 per cent increase on last quarter, but still well behind its end-year goal. The growth was credited to high-profile first-party releases such as Pikmin 3 and Wind Waker HD, both of which were well received.
By contrast, the 3DS sold 2.49 million in the same period -- a decline of 22 per cent -- though software sales increased considerably.
Nintendo acknowledges that the Wii U's consistently mediocre sales are having a negative impact on its profits, and is aiming to drive sales by "proactively releasing key first-party titles" like Super Mario 3D World and Wii Party U -- titles that will appeal to both core and casual players -- in order to try and pick things up a bit.
But is it too late? Our sister site GamesIndustry International notes that the Wii U has sold less than 500,000 units in a six-month period, and that a hefty proportion of its recent profit can be attributed to a favorable depreciation of the Yen rather than particularly good sales of hardware or software. The 3DS is certainly doing well, but things still look very bleak for the Wii U; that said, Nintendo still claims to be confident about a strong holiday season, and Martin Robinson from our sister site Eurogamer argues that a Wii U might even be the best next-gen console to get this holiday season.
It remains to be seen if these "key first-party titles" will have an impact on the Wii U's future both in the long- and short-term -- Wind Waker HD launched right at the end of (or, in some territories, after) the timeframe covered by the financial report in question, for example, so it's a little early to determine whether or not this particular title had a significant impact. The upcoming holiday season, which Nintendo maintains will be "strong" for the company, will be a very important one.
PS4 and the Day-One Patch
Much like the Wii U shipped without a number of key features ready to go, both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 will require day-one patches in order to access their full functionality. In Sony's case, the update covers two features that have been used extensively in the new system's marketing: remote play via Vita, and gameplay sharing via the Share button on the DualShock 4 controller. Even with the update, some features still won't be ready for launch; the "suspend/resume" mode that allows you to "sleep" your system like a handheld won't be available on day-one systems, for example, and there's no date been given for when we can expect this.
Sony has confirmed that the key features that will be available on day one (with the patch, of course) include remote play; second screen interactivity via Vita or mobile devices; broadcasting, recording and taking screenshots of gameplay; the play-as-you-download technology; multiple logins; party chat; face recognition and voice commands with the PlayStation Camera; a Music Unlimited-compatible background music player; online multiplayer for PlayStation Plus subscribers; plus the Blu-Ray and DVD player functionality.
Sony was also keen to reiterate that the console will function for, you know, playing games on day one, and that you'll be able to download the system update in the background while playing something rather than having to stare at a progress bar for an optimistic estimate of 15-20 minutes before even being able to boot a game up. So that's something, at least.
Eagle-eyed NeoGAF users spotted both the 308MB day-one patch file and 859MB recovery file on Sony's update servers yesterday; at the time of writing, however, the links to the files now only lead to a "file not found" error page, so it looks as if they have either been removed or moved. Some users were able to download the update to their computer, however, which means that they should theoretically be able to update their systems on day one from storage media rather than having to manually download it via the Internet to their console; if Sony was to officially release the update early in this way, it would certainly help take some of the strain off the PSN servers on launch day, though it remains to be seen if that's the plan or if it was simply uploaded early erroneously.
How are you feeling about next-gen? Are you confident in the new consoles' chances of success, or do you think there are likely to be more tough times ahead? Let's hear what you think in the comments.