#1 Diminishing returns in graphic quality
For several console generations, the strong selling point for the next big thing has always been better graphics, fancier explosions and so on. However, technology has reached a point where duplicating or triplicating the capacity of graphic processing is less noticeable than in previous generations.
See the triangle count image below as a quick example: a sphere using 420 triangles (7x the 60 triangle one) represents a huge difference in perceived quality. Contrast with the 19,800 sphere versus the 3,120 one (roughly the same 7x ratio). You will only notice the difference by looking really close.
Fancier graphics have not the same impact as they used to. Then, the marketing people at MS (MicroSoft) have to give audiences a reason to buy the new thing, and striped of their historical main weapon (graphic enhancements) they have to resort to other areas.
#2 Producing games takes time
What developer legend Peter Molyneux said console generations ago still applies: People forget that it takes time to build games for new consoles. If making AAA games takes years, marketers are left with only promises to sell. If E3 is in a big part a promise, now they resort to promise to see more at the promise event. Why? Producing the games takes time.
#3 Pressure from the side
Nintendo innovated with the motion controllers to be followed by Sony and MS. The thing is, MS felt the need to take the idea beyond (stay premium, remember?) and produced Kinect. Oops! Turns out that Kinect needs a lot of space to work. Result, if you expect people to use it, better be in the living room rather than in the bedroom.
#4 Pressure from the bottom
In order to stay competitive in any market, players feel the need to move upwards to the more expensive premium regions. For example, the Japanese did that with cars (long time ago, America’s big three used to make jokes about scratching the paint of a japanese car to reveal the Budweiser logo, they do not find those jokes funny anymore).
MS feels the same pressure from the usually-less-powerful Android and iOS devices and feels the need to stay premium by trying to consolidate themselves as the king of the bigger screen available in any house. Thus the focus on TV watching, Internet navigation features. At the same time they try to defend themselves from the bottom by including integration with smart glass devices.
As Valve and Ouya make a move to attack the living room as well (from presumably a lower price point than Xbox), the battle for the big home screen is going to be something very entertaining to watch: MicroLannisterSoft House defends its turf against the Ouyawolves, the ValveDragons are preparing their attack from overseas, oh god, someone please make a video parody about this!.
Epilogue: Well, now that my suit side explained itself why MS forgot my gamer side, my gamer side wonders:
- I am going to pay $500 to watch TV on my TV?
- I said -“Xbox call john”, Xbox replies -“Yes master, calling mom”
- How well is the voice thing going to perform with all the different accents that exist. Or even worse, in the “other” side of the world (that is, “not America”)
- The Battle for the TV remote will reach new levels as the one who screams the loudest wins
- In the climax movie scene: The killer was… Your 12-year old nephew calling…
Mini-Rant: Looks like us Indie game developers have been abandoned. No more XNA. No more indie section at the live arcade. The King is dead….long live the new king.