Game Changers • Page 2

Move, Natal, 3D, Blu-ray, Live - which technologies will define the console battlefield in the coming years?

The possibility of such seismic shifts in the patterns of sales make for exciting, if ill-informed, headlines on blog sites, but they simply aren't how the market generally plays out. There are, however, a number of interesting underlying factors which could signal gradual shifts in how the console race moves in the coming year.

Natal and Move are, of course, two of those factors. It's unlikely that either will make a serious impact in 2010, but both systems offer the opportunity for the HD console manufacturers to claw back some mind- and market-share from Nintendo. Crucially, the installed base of HDTV sets has grown massively since the launch of the Wii, and while avoiding the expense of HD graphics made perfect sense for Nintendo at the time, there's a strong possibility that the firm is now vulnerable - even in the mainstream market which it has won for itself - to incursions from the now heavily discounted, motion control-enabled HD consoles.

The limiting factor, as I've said many times before in this column, will be software. Nothing truly compelling has yet been shown off for either Natal or Move, and I'm dubious that any of the first generation of software will have the sort of impact which Wii Sports managed. However, E3 may bring surprises on this front, and either way, the chances are that by mid-2011 developers working on the second wave of software for the motion control devices will be doing some genuinely impressive things that will get the market excited about the possibilities.

One to watch is what EA Sports Active's development team does with the technology - the potential to tap and even exceed the Wii Fit market certainly exists. Another is the attempts being made, largely by Sony, to embrace the existing hardcore market with Move - a tough sell, given the general resistance to motion controls, but if a game like Killzone 3 turns out to be more fun and more precisely controlled with Move than with a joypad, that will be an important victory for the tech.

Outside of motion controls, however, there are two interesting areas in which Sony is making headway, either or both of which could deliver a significant competitive advantage to the PS3 over its rival. The first is Blu-ray - a much-maligned technology among gamers, but one which is rapidly gaining traction as a film medium. There were fears, when Blu-ray and HD-DVD were fighting out their slightly daft battle a couple of years ago, that any victory would be a Pyrrhic one - with Blu-ray emerging as the physical format champion just in time to watch downloaded movies become the true heir to DVD's success.

That hasn't quite happened. Downloads are a large and important market, certainly, but the reality is that broadband isn't quite fast or widespread enough yet, consumers aren't quite sold on downloads or educated about their possibilities at the moment, and there are huge problems with proprietary DRM, pricing models and so on which have yet to be tackled in a successful way. There's a window of opportunity for Blu-ray, and thanks to rapidly falling prices - which in recent months have started to rival DVD prices from only a couple of years ago - the format's sales are taking off. This delivers a major advantage to the PS3, of course, and has led many to wonder if Microsoft will swallow its pride and release a Blu-ray add-on for the 360 in order to remain competitive.

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