Another poster created a topic about XBOX Live, which promoted me to create a new topic about the next-gen console wars. The read may be a bit much, but please take time to read my opinion on the subject, and please feel free to add your $0.02.
Going forward into the next-gen console wars, the one advantage Microsoft has over Sony and Nintendo is their online functionality. XBOX Live was a huge success on the original XBOX, and will be three times fold more successful on the 360. The ability to play a multi-player shooter or sports game on a strong global network amplifies the level of entertainment (not to mention Live Arcade ... Street Figher II anyone?!). Video gaming enthusiast understand this, which is why PC gaming is on the decline (due to console gaming leaping fiercely into the online community).
Look at the previous generation (PS2, XBOX and GameCube). Without the success of XBOX Live, Microsoft wouldn't even be in this current generation. If the Playstation Network was as strong or equally as strong as XBOX Live, there'd be no question on who's going to win this next-gen console war. Instead, because of the 360's head start and superior online gaming community, there's a chance Microsoft could be the next champion. Imagine how successful the GameCube (my personal favorite of the previous generation) could have been with a solid online society. Games like Super Smash Brothers, Mario Kart, Mario Party, etc. would have thrived online.
This generation is different for Nintendo. They're putting together a strategy for online gaming, which will certainly be to their advantage. In addition, if they allow throw-back games (like Mario Kart for the SNES, Golden Eye 64, etc.) to be online playable, imagine the buzz that would create? Online gaming is the key to true gamer's hearts. Having said that, to many people's surprise, I believe the 360 and Wii will be the frontrunners in this generation of gaming if...
all of the following things take place:
● XBOX Live continues to dominate the online community
● Nintendo finally delivers a strong online network
● Playstation Network remains mediocre
Honestly, I still can't find a Wii anywhere in my hometown (Winston-Salem, NC). I can easily find a PS3 just about anywhere now. Ironically, everyone predicted the PS3 to remain sold-out for months, while the Wii was thought to be collecting dust on store shelves. Right now, Nintendo is kicking Sony's ass, and if the Wii continues to keep its buzz, it will soon be in Microsoft's rearview mirror.
In the end, I believe Nintendo will lose its buzz; mostly due to lack of 3rd party support for games. In a few years, the PS3 will become more affordable, more people will have HD-TVs, and will greatly pick up much needed speed. The wild card for Sony is, if Blue-Ray wins the format war for next-gen video; that'll be a huge momentum swing. At this point, Microsoft is in a critical position.
If the 360 can keep selling machines and continue to promote their dominance in the online community, I think they'll be victorious in the end. XBOX Live and XBOX Live Marketplace is taking console gaming to a whole new dimension. While Sony will allow free online gaming, it's grossly mediocre compared to what Microsoft is doing. Ultimately, gamers will want the best of all worlds as follows (especially as living room technology becomes more affordable / HD-TVs and high speed ethernet):
● Enhanced Graphics (PS3 / 360)
● Huge 3rd Party Support (360 / PS3)
● Superior Online Community (360................................ PS3 / Wii)
● Affordability (Wii / 360)
As you can see, Microsoft is the only competitor in all categories of importance. Microsoft will provide the highest level of opportunity for gamers to get the most bang for their buck. This in my opinion, will crown them king in this generation of console gaming (which may be the last generation of console gaming). What's your take?