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The Future of Console Gaming

part 2/page 4


   What does the future hold for Nintendo? Well, unlike the other consoles on the market, whether or not Nintendo will actually have internet connectivity in their next console really remains to be seen. While it can be a selling point, it also increases manufacturing cost, and adds another potentially problematic customer-service point. Consider this though, Nintendo representatives have already stated publicly on a number of occasions that while the "Dolphin" will be a DVD-CD derivative system, it will not play music CDs nor will it play DVD movie disks. History indicates that it will boil down to whether or not Nintendo feels internet connectivity is a core element required in their games, and less on what their competition does in this regard.

   Seeing as how 2000/2001 release dates currently fall perfectly into Nintendo's release record, I feel there is no real reason to doubt Nintendo's stated shipping dates at this time (of course as I said above, until it's in your hands anything goes). Also, the current release schedule has the potential to give Nintendo an amazing advantage that they are not likely to pass on. If they release a more powerful system than the competition (as they are suggesting they will), it could for once give them a clear edge in the market. At this point none of the other companies will be in a position to release a newer system till 2003 at the earliest, if but for no other reason than for the amount of funds they have already tied up in their current platform launches. The only platform wildcard here is Microsoft who appears to be shooting for 2003 as their own launch date for the "X-Box" (although when has Microsoft ever met a release date?). While it is possible that Nintendo may have a date slippage, confidence is high that they will have their system out for Christmas 2000 in Japan.

   Also, speaking of the new platform, not only will the new Nintendo system have a Mario launch title (Mr. Miyamoto has said as much in interviews), but there are many subtle indications that the long awaited Metroid 4 will be released for the system as well, most likely within 9-12 months after launch.

   At the end of the day though, while no one can honestly say if any given company will or will not be around tomorrow let alone next year, Nintendo has a very solid track record, talented and committed staff, and a clear focus on exactly where they want to be in the market without overextending themselves. You can even take that a step further if you want to believe as I do that Nintendo has a clear formula worked out for how to succeed in this industry. These things alone can carry any company a good ways toward long-term success.

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   Then we have Sega, generally considered Nintendo's "arch-nemesis" among core console gamers. Sega has been involved in the arcade market in Japan and the U.S. since the before the early 1970's. Initially in the U.S. gamers knew of this company from their arcade games and the occasional software releases for many of the First Gen systems like the Colecovision. But outside of Japan, it wasn't until Sonic and the "Welcome to the Next Level" campaign that they really rose into the general consumer consciousness.

   Unfortunately there is only a minimum of background information available about Sega prior to their whole operation becoming a part of CSK Industries of Japan in 1984. To be honest even my research for this article created more questions than answers when trying to sort out the companies life prior to 1984. What I do know is that if you want the best information on this company's direction a whole, there is no need to go any farther than to the words of Isao Okawa, Chairman of CSK Corporation who in 1997 wrote in his presentation commentary "CSK Group, The Present and Future":

"We are not just a game producer or software producer anymore. We must start thinking in terms of a systems producer. We must also develop our sensitivity. All new ideas will soon be old but this is the challenge and energy that develops the entertainment business."(5)

   With that said, let's cover what happened with this company since the launch of the Genesis. While a large success here in the U.S., the Genesis was actually the underdog console in Japan (where it was called the "Mega Drive"). In the years around 1990, Sega and Nintendo fought for first here in the U.S., while in Japan it was NEC and Nintendo who were the big guns slugging it out.

   Sega had really started to build up its U.S. core market with their 16-bit Genesis which won points over the 8-bit NES by being an all around more powerful system and by having a good two years head start over the SNES. Aside, from the release of Sonic, Sega's next big success in the U.S. was the conception of its "Welcome to the Next Level" advertising campaign and the flood of money they put behind it to spread the word. Everywhere you looked you saw the familiar square of text and the "in-your-face" person yelling "SEGA!" at you. This was a case of marketing a successful system by making "attitude" one of your top selling points.

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