Over at the New York Times Bits blog, Eric Taub is wondering who is winning the (video game) console wars. But the more interesting question is: How is it that we been lucky enough to have sustained, vigorous competition among three major platform developers for so long?
Honestly, I never understood how there was enough room for 3 competing consoles in the video game market. I figured that if consumers didn't do in one of the platforms first that game developers would sink one of them in the name of simplifying development and minimizing costs. In fact, last October, an EA executive called for a "single, open platform" for developers to replace the competing console model. It would be interesting to see how a single platform impacted game development, but I think most of us find real benefits from having competing consoles at our disposal.
For example, I'm lucky enough to own both an XBox 360 and a Sony PS3, and although most of the games I play are available on both, each system has its own advantages and keeps the other one on its toes. Specifically, the Xbox offers an outstanding online marketplace with tons of great downloadable content, including HD movies and more TV shows than I can count. Sony, by contrast, is struggling to catch up to Microsoft's online offerings, but the PS3 is an outstanding media player in its own right. Most electronics and home theater magazines agree that the PS3 is still the best Blu-Ray player on the market today. And, although I don't have a Nintendo Wii, I think we can all appreciate the innovative controller that Nintendo brought to the market and the way it has injected an entirely new element into the home console wars. Finally, I haven't even mentioned the unique advantages that the PC platform offers gamers who are into simulators or more intense online, interactive gameplay than what consoles offer.
In sum, video game console competition is playing out quite nicely, even though I still find it hard to understand how all 3 systems (4 if you include the PC market) continue to co-exist.