Consumers ready for "innovative" consoles, bring on the Wii U
You have to admit the Wii U is innovative. It may not have the graphics to compete with future next-gen consoles, but it's tablet controller is unlike anything we've seen from a video game console. And if we've learned anything from the sales of the Wii and Kinect, it's that consumers love innovation.
Neither of those two hardware boast anything that impresses the hardcore game, but they were innovative. Tracking a user's movements to control a game was something that's been tried before, but has never been successfully implemented in the gaming market - until those innovative systems.
So what does that teach us? It's that consumers will spend the money on new, innovative technology that intrigues them. And given the 8% drop in total video game sales in 2011, Microsoft and Sony may want to hop on the next-gen console bandwagon. Video game hardware was down 28% in 2011 from 2010, which GAME boss Ian Shepherd attributes to "consumer confidence issues".
"The weakness in the overall numbers was partly driven by the economy and consumer confidence issues," he told MCV. "It was also driven by where we are in the hardware cycle.
"The hardware market was much more negative than the software market. That tells you the industry and the consumer is ready for more innovation there."
"Whether it is in the handheld space with 3DS and Vita or in the home space with Wii U - all of that will excite the consumer in coming back to the games market again," Shepherd added.
The 3DS has recently picked up in sales, but the Vita has yet to prove it can compete in the handheld market. The PS Vita's sales have steadily declined since it's launch in Japan last month, but the system is set for a huge release in February in the United States and Europe. It's a launch backed by "the biggest campaign ever", according to Sony.
The Wii U, on the other hand, has attracted consumers attention with it's innovative tablet controller - which might also function as a standalone tablet. But complaints about the system's graphics could hold it back.
Looking beyond the Wii U, the gaming industry really doesn't have other innovative hardware technology. Both Microsoft and Sony are at a stalemate, neither of them wanting to announce a new console. Despite rumors of a Xbox 720 and PS4 being revealed at E3, both companies insist they aren't ready to reveal anything.
If that is the case, then I hope they are prepared for another year of slow hardware sales. Sony might stand a chance in software with some promising exclusive releases this year like Twisted Metal, Starhawk, and The Last of Us (uncomfirmed, but rumored).