Seventh Generation 7
In the history of video games, the seventh generation includes consoles released since late 2005 by Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony. For home consoles, the seventh generation began on 22 November 2005 with the release of Xbox 360 and continued with the release of PlayStation 3 on 17 November 2006, and Wii on 19 November 2006. Each new console introduced a new type of breakthrough in technology. The Xbox 360 offered games rendered natively at HD resolutions, the PlayStation 3 offered, in addition to FHD gaming, HD movie playback via a built-in 3D Blu-ray Disc player, and the Wii focused on integrating controllers with movement sensors as well as joysticks.
Joining Nintendo in the motion market, Sony released the PlayStation Move in September 2010. The PlayStation Move features motion sensing gaming, similar to that of the Wii. Microsoft also joined Sony and Nintendo, with its Kinect. Unlike the other two systems (PlayStation 3 and Wii), Kinect does not use controllers of any sort and makes the users the “controller.” Having sold 8 million units in its first 60 days on the market, Kinect has claimed the Guinness World Record of being the “fastest selling consumer electronics device”. While the Xbox 360 offers wired controllers as a standalone product, all PlayStation 3 controllers can be used in wired and wireless configurations. Starting with handheld consoles, the seventh generation began on 21 November 2004 with the North American introduction of the Nintendo DS as a “third pillar”, alongside Nintendo’s existing Game Boy Advance and GameCube consoles.
The Nintendo DS (NDS) features a touch screen and built-in microphone, and supports wireless IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi) standards. Additionally, the revised version of the NDS, the DSi, features two built in cameras, the ability to download games from the DSi store, and a web browser. The PlayStation Portable, or PSP, released later the same year on 12 December 2004, followed a different pattern. It became the first handheld video game console to use an optical disc format, Universal Media Disc (UMD), as its primary storage media. Sony also gave the PSP robust multi-media capability, connectivity with the PlayStation 3 and other PSPs, and Internet connectivity. The Nintendo DS likewise has connectivity to the internet through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and Nintendo DS Browser, as well as wireless connectivity to other DS systems and Wii consoles. Despite high sales numbers for both consoles, PlayStation Portable sales have consistently lagged behind those of the Nintendo DS; nevertheless, the PlayStation Portable has the distinction of being the best-selling non-Nintendo handheld gaming system.
The seventh generation of game systems consists of:
- Xbox 360
- PlayStation 3
- Nintendo Wii
Nintendo entered this generation with a new approach embodied by its Wii. The company planned to attract current hardcore and casual gamers, non-gamers, and lapsed gamers by focusing on new gameplay experiences and new forms of interaction with games rather than cutting edge graphics and expensive technology. This approach was previously implemented in the portable market with the Nintendo DS. Nintendo expressed hope that the new control schemes it had implemented would render conventionally controlled consoles obsolete, leading to Nintendo capturing a large portion of the existing market as well.
This strategy paid off, with demand for the Wii outstripping supply throughout 2007. Since Nintendo profited on each console right from the start unlike its competitors, it has already achieved very positive returns. With only a few exceptions, monthly worldwide sales for the Wii have been higher than the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, eroding Microsoft’s early lead and widening the gap between its market share and Sony’s. On 12 September 2007, it was reported by the British newspaper Financial Times that the Wii’s sales had surpassed the Xbox 360, which had been released one year previously, and became the market leader in worldwide home console sales for the current generation.
As in previous generations, Nintendo has provided strong support for its new console with popular first-party franchises like Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, and Pokémon, among others. To appeal to casual and non-gamers, Nintendo developed a group of core Wii games, consisting of Wii Sports, Wii Play, Wii Fit, and Wii Music, where players make use of the motion-sensing abilities of the console and its peripherals to simulate real world activities. With the exception of Wii Music, the games and their sequels have all been highly successful.
Publishers such as Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, Capcom, and Majesco continue to release exclusive titles for the console, but the Wii’s strongest titles still remain within its first-party line-up. Analysts speculated that this will change in time as the Wii’s growing popularity persuades third-party publishers to focus on it; however, some third party developers are beginning to express frustration at low software sales. Goichi Suda, developer of No More Heroes for the Wii, noted that “only Nintendo titles are doing well. This isn’t just because of the current situation in Japan, as this is happening outside Japan. I am very surprised about the reality about Wii, because before I was making this game, I wasn’t expecting that Wii would be a console targeted only for non-gamers. I expected more games for hardcore gamers. The reality is different to what I expected.” Conversely, the PAL publisher of No More Heroes Rising Star Games were greatly impressed with the game’s sales. Goichi Suda later retracted his comment, saying his “point was that No More Heroes, unlike a lot of Nintendo Wii titles currently available is the kind of product that will attract a different kind of consumer to the hardware, i.e. gamers who are looking for a different genre to the products that have been successful on this platform thus far.”
In early 2008, the NPD Group revealed sales data showing that, while the Wii’s life-to-date attach rate is low, in December 2007, it reached 8.11—higher than the attach rates for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in that month. The Wii’s low overall attach rate could be explained by reference to its rapidly increasing installed base, as financial analysts have pointed to the Xbox 360’s high attach rates as indicative of an unhealthy lack of installed base growth, and warned that what actually benefits third-party developers is “quicker adoption of hardware and a rapidly growing installed base on which to sell progressively more game units,” which tends to lower the attach rate of a product.
On 23 September 2009, Nintendo announced its first price drops for the console. In the United States, the price was reduced by fifty dollars, resulting in a new Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $199.99, effective 27 September 2009. For Japan, the price dropped from ¥25,000 to ¥20,000, effective 1 October 2009. In Europe (with the exception of the United Kingdom), the price of a Wii console dropped from €249 to €199. On 3 May 2010, Nintendo announced that Wii consoles sold in the Americas now include Wii Sports Resort and Wii MotionPlus, effective 9 May 2010. Since 15 May 2011, the Wii Console is US$149.99 and comes bundled with Mario Kart Wii.
Microsoft Xbox 360 gained an early lead in terms of market share, largely due to its established Xbox Live online gaming system, and its early launch date, which was one year before its rivals. Sales in North America and Europe have continued to be strong, even after the release of the Wii and PlayStation 3. Like its predecessor, the Xbox 360 received a muted reception in Japan, attributed to the lack of content aimed at Japanese gamers.
This early launch did come with some trouble, as technical problems appeared in a portion of Xbox 360 units sold. The most well known problem is the “red ring of death” and Error E74, which received (and still receives) a great deal of attention due to some users’ having to replace their consoles multiple times. Microsoft attempted to address this by offering a three-year warranty on all affected consoles and repairing them free of charge. It also retroactively reimbursed owners of affected systems who paid for repairs. According to The Mercury News, new models of the console featuring 65-nanometer technology will address this and other issues; the new technology is expected to reduce heat production, which will lower the risk of overheating and system failures; although, this has never been officially confirmed by Microsoft.
As they share many cross-platform games and compete for the same audience as their predecessors, frequent comparisons are made between the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The PS3 uses the Blu-ray format, while the Xbox 360 uses a standard DVD9. The Xbox 360 is less expensive to produce, and analysts expect that a mid-revision will allow Microsoft to break-even on manufacturing costs, while industry consensus is that the Xbox 360’s conventional architecture is easier to develop for.
At the end of first half of 2007, the console stabilized at 11.6 million units shipped as sales dropped 60% while its rival, Wii, gained momentum and Sony announced a competitive price drop on the PlayStation 3. Microsoft’s strategy to boost sales with the release of the highly anticipated Halo 3 in September 2007 paid off, outselling the Wii that month in North America.Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division experienced a huge increase in revenue, largely driven by the release of Halo 3, and posted a quarterly profit for the first time in two years.
The Xbox 360’s advantage over its competitors owes itself to the release of high profile games, such as additions to the Halo franchise. The 2007 Game Critics Awards honored the platform with 38 nominations and 12 wins – more than any other platform. By March 2008, the Xbox 360 had reached a software attach rate of 7.5 games per console in the US; the rate was 7.0 in Europe, while its competitors were 3.8 (PS3) and 3.5 (Wii), according to Microsoft. At the 2008 Game Developers Conference, Microsoft announced that it expected over 1,000 games available for Xbox 360 by the end of the year. The Xbox 360 has managed to gain a simultaneous release of titles that were initially planned to be PS3 exclusives, including Devil May Cry, Ace Combat, Virtua Fighter, Grand Theft Auto IV, Final Fantasy XIII, Tekken 6, Metal Gear Solid : Rising, and L.A. Noire.
In August 2007, the first price drop was announced for all Stock Keeping Units (SKU’s) of the Xbox 360. The Core system’s price was reduced in the United States by $20, the Premium by $50, and the Elite model by $30. Also, the HDMI port, previously exclusive to the Elite system, was added to new models of the Premium and Arcade systems; the Core system was discontinued. Note: the “premium” system is sold in Australia as the “pro”, Arcade and Elite systems retain the same names.
At E3 2010, Microsoft revealed a new US$299.99 Xbox 360 SKU known officially as the Xbox 360 S and referred to as the “Slim” by various media outlets. It replaced the Elite and comes with an integrated 802.11n WLAN adapter, integrated TOSLINK port, 5 USB ports and a 250 GB HDD. It also does not require an additional power supply to make use of Microsoft Kinect motion control accessory. A US$199.99 version was released on 3 August 2010 in the US which replaced the Arcade model. It has 4 GB and a 250 GB model of internal memory, it has a matte or glossy finish and it comes with a headset. At E3 2013 Microsoft revealed the Xbox 360 E, the final iteration of the Xbox 360 series, to be succeeded by Xbox One. The Xbox 360 E was originally priced at US$199.99 for a 4GB model, and US$299.99 for the 250GB model. The 360 E featured a new square design with a simplified exterior akin to the Xbox One
Sony PlayStation 3 was released on 11 November 2006 in Japan and 17 November 2006 in the US and Canada. The system’s reliance on new technologies such as the Cell microprocessor and Blu-ray format caused difficulties in manufacturing, especially the Blu-ray diode, leading to shortages at launch and the delay of the PAL region launches; however, by early December 2006, Sony announced that all production issues had been resolved. Market analysts and Sony executives noted that the success of the PlayStation 3 and the Blu-ray format were dependent on each other; Rich Marty, VP of New Business Development at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment stated that the “PS3 is critical to the success of Blu-ray,” while Phil Harrison stated that the PlayStation 3’s success would be ensured because “the growth of the Blu-ray Disc movie market … is a positive factor which will play more into the consumer psyche … as more consumer electronics firms launch standalone disc players, as more Blu-ray Disc movies become available, and as more shelf space is dedicated to the category at retail.”
Sony would provide support for its console with new titles from acclaimed first-party franchises such as Gran Turismo, Team Ico, and God of War, and secured a number of highly anticipated third-party exclusive titles, including Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, Yakuza 3, Agent, and Demon’s Souls. Titles that were originally exclusive or recognized with the platform, such as Devil May Cry, Ace Combat, Virtua Fighter, and Monster Hunter, have been released on other platforms. The previous Grand Theft Auto titles were originally timed exclusives on the PlayStation 2, before making their release on other platforms, such as the Xbox, months later; however, Grand Theft Auto IV, the latest installment, was released simultaneously on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Announced exclusives titles for the PlayStation 3 such as Assassin’s Creed; Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War, and Fatal Inertia were released on Xbox 360 as well, with the latter making its release on Xbox 360 before the PlayStation 3 version. The Katamari series, which has long been PlayStation 2 exclusives, found one of the more recent installments, Beautiful Katamari, exclusive to Xbox 360. These releases fueled rumors and fear that Final Fantasy XIII and Tekken 6, two highly anticipated exclusive PlayStation 3 games at the time, would also be available for Xbox 360, the PlayStation 3’s primary competitor and at E3 2008, it was announced that Final Fantasy XIII would be simultaneously released on the Xbox 360 in Europe and North America; later on 8 October 2008, it was announced that Tekken 6 would also be releasing on the Xbox 360; the fifth installment of the Metal Gear series, Metal Gear Solid: Rising, has also been announced for the Xbox 360; L.A. Noire, which was announced as an exclusive since the beginning of its development, has also been released for the Xbox 360; Dark Souls, the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, has also been released on Xbox 360; however, Metal Gear Solid 4, Final Fantasy Versus XIII, Yakuza 3, Demon’s Souls, and Agent still remain PlayStation 3 exclusives. Sony has blamed lower-than-expected sales, loss of exclusive titles in the PlayStation 3 software library, its higher price, and stock shortages.
In July 2007, Sony announced a drop in the price of the console by $100. This measure only applied to the 60 GB models and was exclusive to the United States and Canada, where those models are no longer in production. On 18 October 2007, Sony announced a US$100 price drop for the 80 GB model and a new US$399 40 GB model to launch on 2 November 2007 with reduced features such as the removal of backward compatibility with PS2 games. Within weeks, Sony announced that sales of the 40 GB and 80 GB models by major retailers had increased 192%. In November 2008, Sony launched a $499 160 GB model, and on 18 August 2009, Sony announced the PS3 Slim. The PS3 slim sold 1 million in under a month. It was then announced that a 250GB slim model was to be released. It was released on 1 September (or 3 depending on country) and costs $299, £249 and €299. In Australia the console will cost A$499, which is A$200 less than the standard PS3. In September 2009, a $299 120 GB Slim Model was released. A $349 250 GB Model was later released later in 2009. In August 2010, the 160 GB Slim Model was released for $299. The same price for a 120 GB PS3 slim Model. In Japan, the 160GB slim model is also available in white. On 17 September 2010, Sony released the 320 GB Slim Model, but it only sold with the PlayStation Move for US$399.99.
In September 2012, Sony announced a new slimmer PS3 redesign (CECH-4000), commonly referred to as the “Super Slim” PS3. It was released in late 2012 it became available with either a 250 GB or 500 GB hard drive. The “Super Slim” model is currently the only model in production.
For video game handhelds, the seventh generation began with the release of the Nintendo DS on 21 November 2004. This handheld was based on a design fundamentally different from the Game Boy and other handheld video game systems. The Nintendo DS offered new modes of input over previous generations such as a touch screen, the ability to connect wirelessly using IEEE 802.11b, as well as a microphone to speak to in-game NPCs. On 12 December 2004, Sony released its first handheld, PlayStation Portable. The PlayStation Portable was marketed at launch to an above 25-year old or “core gamer” market, while the Nintendo DS proved to be popular with both core gamers and new customers.
Nokia revived its N-Gage platform in the form of a service for selected S60 devices. This new service launched on 3 April 2008. Other less-popular handheld systems released during this generation include the Gizmondo (launched on 19 March 2005 and discontinued in February 2006) and the GP2X (launched on 10 November 2005 and discontinued in August 2008). The GP2X Wiz, Pandora, and Gizmondo 2 were scheduled for release in 2009.
Another aspect of the seventh generation was the beginning of direct competition between dedicated handheld gaming devices, and increasingly powerful PDA/cell phone devices such as the iPhone and iPod Touch, and the latter being aggressively marketed for gaming purposes. Simple games such as Tetris and Solitaire had existed for PDA devices since their introduction, but by 2009 PDAs and phones had grown sufficiently powerful to where complex graphical games could be implemented, with the advantage of distribution over wireless broadband.