Consoles Now Part of gap intelligence’s Weekly Reporting

Last month, current-generation gaming consoles entered gap intelligence’s database. These consoles include the Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One, and Nintendo Wii U. As both the Data Operations Associate for the Desktops category and a gaming enthusiast, I was unbelievably excited to start tracking consoles. All those jokes we had about how consoles could technically be considered gaming desktops with gaming-focused operating systems, actually became a reality.

Since there are only three gaming console manufacturers and just a handful of SKUs, adding consoles to the database wasn’t too daunting. Plus, integrating consoles with the desktops category makes it easier for clients who are focusing on gaming PCs to also follow what’s going on with consoles as well. After all, console wars weren’t between just the PlayStation and Xbox – the PC “Master Race” was an aggressor as well.

Gaming Consoles
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Competition and Console Wars

Gap’s Market Intelligence Reports not only discuss new products, their specs, and their potential impact on sales, but many of them use these stats to cover what current products within the channel the new ones may compete against. Last month, the HP Omen 870-080 debuted at Fry’s Electronics for $1549. In one report, our Desktops analyst concluded that it competed directly against another gaming tower – the MSI Aegis-049 – as both desktops’ specifications were comparable if not identical. Knowing this, our clients can determine what other gaming desktops a consumer with an approximate $1500 budget might be considering when shopping within that particular retailer.

A taste of what you might see in a Market Intelligence Report.

While gaming desktops compete with one another in the market, they also directly compete against other gaming platforms as well. According to Wikipedia, Console Wars is defined as “competition for dominance in market share in video game consoles,” and they not only include the PlayStation and Xbox, but PCs as well. Think of how competitive sports fans can get, and apply it to gaming platforms – you can even be a fan of more than one, if you have the funds for it.

Many gamers who can afford both a console and a gaming PC may purchase both, or even multiple consoles plus a PC. But there are gamers such as myself who have to pick just one. As much as I would love a $1499 Alienware notebook, I chose to stick with my $599 Dell Inspiron, and picked up the PlayStation 4 when it was on sale last year. I only wish I was one of the lucky ones upgrading to the PlayStation 4 Pro debuting next week.

The Announcement of the Nintendo Switch

Nintendo tends to be left out of these console wars, not because they’re bad, but because they’re either seen as incomparable (due to Wii gimmicks and lack of third-party support) or complimentary to consoles or PCs. Gamers who want to play games on-the-go may be inclined to pick up a 3DS, for example, but not as a replacement for their gaming PC.

Even Sheldon (Big Bang Theory) had to face history’s worst dilemma at some point.
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However, just recently, Nintendo finally announced its newest gaming console: the Nintendo Switch. As both a gap intelligence Data Opper who loves discussing desktop competition in the market, and as a gamer who followed the Console Wars, when I first heard of Nintendo’s new console, I couldn’t help but wonder who exactly the Switch will be competing against in the market:

Sony and Microsoft? Gaming PCs? Tablets? Or is Nintendo actually competing against itself?

Nintendo’s official announcement trailer for the new console, due to release in March 2017

The Nintendo Switch: A Hybrid Console

The Switch is both a home console to be played on the big screen, and also a portable system to be played on the go. There are multiple ways to play video games on the console, and there seem to be many different options for multiplayer as well. In terms of specs, we know very little about it as of now, but notably, the Switch will be powered by a high-efficiency custom Tegra processor, which includes a Nvidia GPU, the latter of which is reportedly comparable to high-performing GeForce graphics cards. Just how well will the Switch’s CPU and GPU hold up against current-gen gaming platforms? We’ll have to wait until next year to find out.

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Entry into the Console Wars

With better specs than the Wii U, the Switch may actually be more comparable to the other three major gaming platforms. No longer will Nintendo’s home console be considered solely for Nintendo fanatics, or solely for family-friendly fun: Nintendo claims to have third-party support from major gaming developers such as Bethesda, Activision, and Konami. This means that these developers may bring games that were previously only allocated to the PS4, XBO, and PC to the Switch as well. Third-party support, Nintendo-exclusive titles, and the Switch's portability are all the main features currently influencing gamers' interest in the new system.

Some console gamers are thinking of selling their current consoles to put funds towards the Switch instead. Others who lack consoles are thinking of making their first purchase the Switch. Some are ignoring it, and may be putting their funds into the upcoming PlayStation 4 Pro or Project Scorpio instead. And the remaining gamers may purchase the Switch in addition to what they already have. PC gamers have reacted similarly, though they won't be switching out their towers and notebooks for the Switch as console gamers might.

It’s hard to tell right now just how much impact the Nintendo Switch may or may not have on the sales of other gaming platforms. Once more updates, demos, and the actual release become available, we’ll see just what direction all this will lean towards.

What Do You Mean, Nintendo’s Competing Against Itself?

There’s been a lot of confusion with regards to what Nintendo plans to do with its other two current consoles (the Wii U and 3DS) once the Switch is out. Nintendo president Kimishima has confirmed in an interview with Bloomberg that 3DS will continue running for a few more years – but with the Switch’s portability, many gamers think it’s redundant to have both. Because the Switch cannot play 3DS (or Wii U) games, I will keep playing my 3DS instead, as I have no interest in doubling up on portable or at-home gaming systems. That being said, I’m wondering how many others are in the same mindset.

Nintendo Switch
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What about Tablets?

There has been some buzz about whether the Switch will compete with tablets. The Switch may appeal to tablet gamers who are interested in playing more than traditional mobile app games, especially since the Switch will have a Nvidia GPU for a (reportedly) better gaming experience. However, unless the Switch allows access to third-party mobile apps and games AND has a battery life longer than a few hours in addition to other mobile features, it’s unlikely to replace anyone’s non-gaming centric tablet.

Game Grip
There already exist controllers and controller grips for tablets, such as Bigben Interactive’s Game Grip.
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More to Come

Barring no foreseeable delays, the Switch is due to release in March 2017. While consoles cannot replace an entire PC, they do compete with the specs and price ranges of gaming PCs – and these consoles may now include the Nintendo Switch as well. However, while we know of the Switch's gaming capabilities from its trailer and other announcements, many other specs and features remain unknown to us. How is the battery life? How fragile is the hardware? Will there be non-gaming apps available? How long until it completely replaces the Wii U and 3DS? The President of Nintendo stated that he will not release more information on the Switch until next year, so all we have until then is our speculation.

gap intelligence will continue to report on the Nintendo Switch and its release as information becomes available.