2011 has the potential to be a big year for video games. We're weeks away from seeing the Nintendo 3DS hit retail, motion control technology for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 will continue to mature, and there's going to be plenty of software just waiting to be bought. Before the year really gets into high gear, I'm going to log five predictions here about some events that I think will happen. These are mainly hunches that I have and none of these have been confirmed to be true or false as of this writing, so we can see at the end of the year just how right—or how crazy—I turn out.
1. Nintendo will announce a new console in 2011 aside from the 3DS, and the Wii is on its way out.
I don't care how much Reggie Fils-Aime denies it, because it's becoming more and more evident that the Wii is about to be overrun by the Xbox 360 and potentially the PlayStation 3. The console is approaching its saturation point, and worse for Nintendo, the gap in prices between the Wii and its competition isn't wide enough to keep consumers buying Wii instead of another console. Looking at the list of upcoming releases for 2011 and beyond, the Wii is looking at less than 30 games for release all year long. Compare that number with 140 for the PlayStation 3 and nearly 120 for the Xbox 360, and red flags should certainly be going up. The Wii is the best-selling console of this generation (so far), so to see such a small number of upcoming titles indicates to me that there's something going on. Sure, it could be the 3DS, but I'm betting that developers and publishers already know what Nintendo has up its sleeve… and we'll find out what this new console is at E3, if not before.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword won't see release this year, and it might not even see a Wii release.
There's a definite feeling of similarity between the string of delays that we've seen for Skyward Sword and what we saw for Twilight Princess back in 2006. My gut is telling me that history could repeat itself here since the Wii is basically a lame-duck platform (much like the GameCube was back then) and Nintendo would love to have a Zelda game as an ace in the hole for the launch of its new platform. I get the feeling that the tech issues that plagued the demo of Skyward Sword at E3 in 2010 still haunt Shigeru Miyamoto and company, and I think that there's at least some doubt as to whether the Wii is the best platform for the game. I very well could be wrong with this prediction and we could see Skyward Sword in Q4, in time to strengthen Nintendo's holiday sales outlook, but I'm not convinced that this will happen. Of course, this would mean a second dose of heartbreak for Zelda fans which just experienced this a generation ago… but wherever Zelda goes, they'll buy the hardware to play it.
3. The PlayStation 3 will see a price drop either during or before E3.
Not to sound like Michael Pachter here, but this prediction needs to come to fruition if Sony wants to remain competitive. Sales of PlayStation 3 hardware were not that impressive in 2010, and what momentum that Sony had during the second half of 2009 thanks to the hardware revision and lowered pricing faded when Sony was stricken with supply problems during Q1 of last year. Sony has tried other things to get things moving in the right direction, such as bundles, more hard drive space, and a strong alliance with Electronic Arts that has spawned some PS3-exclusive goodies… but stacks of unsold PS3 units remain at retailers everywhere. A price drop of at least $50 will happen in order to jumpstart sales as production costs continue to gradually decline. If this doesn't happen, it could be another long year for Sony and the PlayStation 3 here in the USA.
4. Consumer interest in motion control technology and 3D gaming will be generally flat in 2011.
I hate to break it to Sony and Microsoft, but the motion control fad isn't hooking as many consumers as the companies would like. Yes, Microsoft's marketing blitz for the Kinect fueled strong sales of the motion tech in November and December, but once the newness of Kinect tech dies down, I foresee most consumers just sticking with traditional controls. Sony is taking an interesting approach with its PlayStation Move tech, as they're keying on its presence in Killzone 3 (slated for a February release), but I don't see loads of people jumping on the motion bandwagon. Motion presents a different way to interact and play games, but traditional controllers and gameplay types aren't going anywhere. Same goes for 3D gaming; until 3D television costs come down significantly, I don't see much more than extreme enthusiast interest in games that utilize stereoscopic 3D… it's just not practical. Yet.
5. The PlayStation Portable 2 (PSP2) will see release this year and will retail for less than the 3DS.
We all know that the PSP2 exists, but that's about all we know right now… so that's where predictions come into play. I believe that the platform will be ready for launch this year, supported by software from Electronic Arts and from Sony's first-party development arms, and I'm reasonably certain that the MSRP will be somewhere between $200 and $230. That will be less than the 3DS, which is likely to launch somewhere between $250 and $300 come March. What is unclear to me is the potential success of the new platform. Even if my prediction is true and the PSP2 hits for $200, Nintendo will have had a decent head start and there's no denying that the marketing machine for the 3DS will be formidable. Software will be key, as will the power and feature set of the platform.
There you have it. Feel free to make your own predictions or leave some comments about the ones that I've made. I'm thinking that if I nail 4 out of 5 here, I'll have done all right. In the meantime, here's to a busy and successful 2011 for video games.