We know the name of the next Nintendo console: The Wii U. Nintendo have, since the Nintendo Entertainment System, always looked to trade on the name of “Nintendo.” With the exception of the SNES and the GBA, they generally have an entirely new name for each console generation and a completely off-the-wall entry with the name of the Wii in the last console cycle. In the face of their modern opponents, who took the iterative naming approach of updating the number that accompanies their name, Nintendo went with the whole new name approach. Until now.
Now it seems that Nintendo are unable to step away from the DS and Wii brands. Possibly as a victim of their predecessors’ successes, the 3DS took the add-a-number approach and the Wii decided to add a “U” (admittedly as dumb as the Wii first sounded), but I worry that this association will do them more harm than good going forward. Hardcore gamers and more casual Wii owners both got their fingers burnt with the lack of high quality software, especially from third party developers. Once the Wii bowling honeymoon was over, many Wiis ended up doing little else than being plastic, blue-flashing attention seekers.
Gamers may take some convincing before we take the plunge and the casual market already has their Wii Fit and Wii bowling device. Nintendo convinced the wider public that they didn’t need the latest graphics. How well will they convince those people that they now *do*, remains to be seen. I will say the same I said to the doubters of the 3DS: Bet against Nintendo at your peril. Mario may be a plumber by trade, but he is the ultimate video game salesman.
Sony have had what could be described as the most boring or business-like approach to console names. Continuously looking to build on their world famous PlayStation brand,they have never stepped away from the name, with even their handheld being the PlayStation Portable – more definition than name. Their latest handheld being called the Vita is somewhat of a departure for Sony. Given that the Vita itself looks very much like a direct “sequel” to the PSP, it seems almost odd that it is NOT called the PSP2. The name may have even reinforced the addition of a second analog stick or the two ways of inputting touch controls. It is likely that Sony deliberately wanted a degree of separation from the PSP.
Despite being widely acknowledge as the superior piece of hardware, at least from a technological standpoint, the PSP still ended up being second place in the last handheld war. Partly as it was adversely affected by piracy, but also because they were up against the handheld powerhouse that is Nintendo. Worth noting that any other company that has gone head-to-head with Nintendo in the handheld market is, generally speaking, no longer in the console making business. It should be perhaps considered a moderate success for Sony to have “survived” to the next console cycle. That said, had it not been for the success of the PSP in Japan with games like Monster Hunter, we may have never seen another handheld from Sony. The naming of the Vita may be the strongest indication yet that Sony may be prepared to depart from their standard naming convention when it comes to naming their next console. I still wouldn’t bet against PS4 though. Sony have form and a formal way of doing things.
Sony may also have deliberately stepped away from having a “2” in the name of their latest handheld console for the same reason Microsoft called this generation of console the “360.” In a technology-based market, it is harmful to the public perception of your hardware to be a “lesser” number than your competitor. PSP2 doesn’t look good on the shelf next to a 3DS, in a similar way that Xbox 2 would have looked inferior to the PS3. Microsoft got around this issue by adding two whole new numbers (which if you know anything about maths, instantly makes anything 4.2 times better). Given that the 360 launch was the most costly warranty extension of all time, I feel that Microsoft may want to distance themselves from the bad memories some gamers may still cling to regarding the 360 name. They have never looked to market their consoles as a Microsoft product and have always looked to trade off of the Xbox brand. I would still expect them to want to continue to capitalise on their Xbox branding, but I do not think we will see anything that plays off of the 360 name — so no 720s, 1080s or 361s. I think that the name of the next Microsoft console is likely to be in the form of a name rather than a number: Xbox [Name] — Keep your hands off Xbarrel!! That’s the name for the console we’ll be launching in 2016! = p
While a modern console name needs to be marketable, #hashtag-able and google-able, functionality counts for a lot in the games industry. A next-gen console by any other name would smell just as sweet. I won’t care what you call it, as long as you bring me ALL THE GRAPHICS and ALL THE GAMES, and make it work (and not cost the Earth). I will likely be one of the first ones lined up outside of my local game store excitedly clutching my “early adopter; please overcharge” pre-order declaration.
A new console generation is a very exciting time for us. It has been too long. The longest in the history of gaming. I’m Pretty bored of the names PS3 and 360. The next generation is time for something new.