Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo are renewing their home consoles, just three years after getting the ball rolling for the eighth generation. This new shot must meet new technical requirements, imposed in particular by ultra high definition and the boom in virtual reality. The opportunity to reshuffle the cards in a market dominated by the PS4?
The video game console war is relaunched for Christmas. Three years after the release of new generation devices, the eighth in this industry, manufacturers are emerging machines capable of meeting the requirements of new technologies (4K, virtual reality). Microsoft was the first to release, with the Xbox One S, a light version of its previous console. Sony followed, with a supercharged PS4 Pro and Nintendo should close the ban with the announced arrival of the Switch next March, supposed to take over after the commercial failure of the WiiU (13.36 million units as of September 30 ).
For Sony, the undisputed market leader with more than 40 million copies of the PS4 sold worldwide (last official figure dating from the spring), “the idea is to reduce the gap between the PC and the consoles on the most knowledgeable players ”, explains Richard Brunois, communications director of Sony Interactive Entertainment France. Basically very powerful PCs attract more the category of “hardcore gamers” and home machines should always make a difference on PCs, he said. “Before, we managed to go the distance with consoles. They are now barely more powerful than PCs [il suffit de voir la différence de rendu entre les deux plateformes, ndlr]. The PS4 Pro fills this technology gap, ”he continues.
No vampirization of classic models
Sony will now be able to offer two consoles and thus target a wider audience: the classic PS4 at 299 euros and the Pro at 399 euros. But the second is primarily aimed at those who bought the first when it came out and who want to improve its technology. “There is a strong demand from gamers for improved images and for an increased frame rate. [images par seconde], those for whom graphic design is a priority ”, recognizes Richard Brunois. In any case, there will be no vampirization according to him. “The first numbers are very good. These are sales that do not overlap with those of the classic PS4 ”. And there is no correlation between sales of Pro and the PlayStation VR headset, the virtual reality headset launched in October. “People understood that the headset worked with both consoles.”
At Microsoft France, we also rub our hands. And we hope to reshuffle the cards on the market for years to come. After having had a difficult start with the Xbox One which has never managed to compete with its great rival (it would have sold more than 20 million since the end of 2013, Nvidia evokes the figure of 29 million, indicated in October The Verge), the One S recorded good results in the United States and France. “We had the biggest quarter since July thanks to the Xbox One S. It’s the best of generation 8,” said Hugues Ouvrard, boss of Xbox France. Good news for Microsoft. However, with the same observation. “The success of the One S can be explained in part by the retrofitting of buyers of the first model.”
But the two consoles do not play in the same category. Technologically, the PS4 Pro is more powerful than the Xbox One S. Blu Ray 4K, 4K video streaming, HDR (high dynamic range) technology, GPU power of 1.4 tflops, storage from 500 GB to 2 TB for the Xbox One S. Games and entertainment in 4K and HDR, graphics processor power of 4.2 tflops, no 4K blu-ray player, 1 TB storage for Sony. In the Japanese, we consider that the PS4 Pro is more to be compared with the Scorpio project, the new console announced by Microsoft for the end of 2017.
Sony must, however, face some technical problems (white screen, declining performance, problems with 4K). “Everything is being fixed by the development teams”, tries to reassure Richard Brunois. “There is no general alert. These are things that are watched closely. ”
The Switch, a new UFO signed Nintendo
The third player in the market, Nintendo, very far behind so far, intends to relaunch the home console market with its hybrid device, the Switch. The idea is to offer a machine that allows you to extend your experience on the move with a removable screen in tablet format. If we do not yet know much about this new machine, the Japanese manufacturer has only offered a brief overview for the moment via a presentation video, one thing already seems certain. Nintendo does not want to come and push its two rivals head-on. “From what we have seen, Nintendo is not in the race for technology”, subdues Richard Brunois.
However, as recently explained to Challenges Laurent Michaud, analyst at Idate, the question of his power will be crucial. It will be necessary to be at the level of experience of Sony’s PlayStation 4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One. “You will have to be at the level of experience of Sony’s PlayStation 4 or Microsoft’s Xbox One. Because today, video games on television must be spectacular. ”
But all agree that it is a great thing for the market. According to Dominique Cor, director of Electronic Arts France, “Nintendo’s creativity is still there with this concept of continuous experience between the home console and the portable screen.” The American publisher said he was planning to release a big game on this new platform. Ubisoft, for its part, expressed its enthusiasm for this new machine. Yves Guillemot spoke of “real innovation”.
Several games are in the works, including an RPG Raving Rabbids and Mario crossover. On the Activision side, we say we are in discussion with Nintendo. “I found their announcement interesting. It is a company that has always created interesting concepts. With the Switch, it is innovative. But it will be up to them to transform the test, ”warns Michael Sportouch, VP France. Especially since the Wii U episode has showered more than one. While waiting for March 2017, Nintendo has managed a nice blow by launching a mini version of its legendary console, the NES released in 1986, the opportunity to once again make vibrate the nostalgic fiber among all fans of the brand and its flagship licenses. . A nice way to remember their fond memories before launching Operation Switch.
Overall turnover of the video game industry in France (source: SELL):
Should we see in this new material a shortening of the cycle of consoles of 8e generation? The six-year cycles still make sense in the face of technologies that are evolving at high speed. For Richard Brunois, nothing augurs such an acceleration of the calendar. “The console cycle is still here. The Pro remains above all a PS4. It’s a technological refresh. We don’t want to break the cycle of consoles. ” This would not be in the interest of manufacturers who earn money on software more than on hardware. “What makes a console profitable is its ecosystem,” warns Hugues Ouvrard.
“The longer the life cycle, the more profitable we are.” But with the Nintendo Switch coming in March and Microsoft’s Project Scorpio late next year, 2017 may well mark a new turning point. With certainty. There is a future for home consoles. “The time will come for the dematerialization of machines, but it is not yet for now”, warns Laurent Michaud.