Of the three current gaming consoles, Nintendo GameCube, Sony Playstation 2, and the Microsoft Xbox, I would say they all have an equally good chance at emerging victorious from this “console war.” Although the Xbox is the most powerful, it has the least appealing games and a high price. The Playstation 2 is the same price, but it already has an amazing library–and because of that, the system sells. The GameCube is the least expensive but it seems to have been the least successful thus far. Part of it is the lack of good games. However, the underlying factor as to why the GameCube won’t sell is because there was no Mario game released at launch. In this editorial I will examine the past, present, and future of the “console war,” and my pick on who will be the winner (in sales) when it’s all over.

Before I begin, I must mention that my predictions are based on consoles already sold, and system-exclusive games that will be released within the next year. Although the console war will probably last another four to five years, I can only predict based on the next year. Most games will be released on all three systems and therefore they will sell about the same amount on each console–so I am looking at games only available on one system and how it will help move consoles off store shelves.

The Playstation 2 has by far sold the most systems so far, but it has been on the market a year longer than the other two consoles. Despite an early lack of good games and system shortages, the PS2 has sold millions worldwide. Even this past November, when the Xbox and Game Cube were released, the PS2 still sold a comparable number of systems thanks to games like Metal Gear Solid 2 and Grand Theft Auto 3. Although the sales will probably slow down, there are a few games capable of selling more PS2’s.

Square’s Final Fantasy XI is almost guaranteed to be a hit. All of the other Final Fantasy games in history have been huge, so I see no reason why this game won’t be. Some of the reasons why it will sell is because Final Fantasy X was a very good and very popular game, and this will stick out in the minds of buyers when they decide whether to buy Final Fantasy XI or not. Also, since it will be the first online Final Fantasy game, it will sell games and probably consoles. If any old-time Final Fantasy fans have been waiting for a time to buy a PS2, at the release of FFXI they have their reason.

Although it was only ever released in Europe for the Dreamcast, Headhunter is now coming to the PS2. Millions of people in America were highly anticipating Headhunter, but it was never released in the states because of the Dreamcast early departure from the gaming industry. European reviewers gave the game got excellent reviews. Message boards on American sites had dozens of posts saying how cool the game looked and they definitely were going to buy it. Many Dreamcast owners by now have one of the new consoles, and the lucky ones have a PS2 so they can now get Headhunter–even if it is a year late. Headhunter is sure to be a hit because it is such an eagerly anticipated title. Plus, the storyline is very cool and the gameplay looks similar to that of Metal Gear Solid.

The first-person shooter Red Faction 2 is being released for the Playstation 2 later this year. Anyone who owned the original Red Faction is sure to buy it and as is custom to these types of games, it will get the friends of owners of Red Faction involved with RF2. Although it is not known whether it will be an online game, RF2 will sell like crazy because the environment is fully interactive, the AI is improved, and many more features. The original Red Faction had a cult following, and RF2 is sure to do the same.

Remember EverQuest? EverQuest is still a tremendously popular PC game that was released a few years ago. Many people lost their girlfriends and even wives over EQ. Sometime within the next year EverQuest Online Adventures will be released. Just because it’s an EverQuest game on a home console, it will sell in the millions of copies, and probably sell a good number of systems. Of course, EverQuest Online Adventures will be an online-only game, but there’s no word if there will be a monthly fee like there is for the PC version. If there is no fee EQ will be even more popular.

Microsoft will have a hard time selling Xbox consoles throughout the year and into next. From what I’ve seen there are only two games that look like they will sell, and a third that won’t be released for at least a year. If Microsoft dropped the price of the Xbox to $250 or $230, they would sell a lot more systems. The problem is Microsoft can’t afford to do that since the system costs almost $300 to manufacture. Also, many people are weary about buying the system since there are only one or two great games you can’t get anywhere else. Also, in order to do the online play, you must use broadband, which is expensive and not available in homes across the US.

The best-looking game of 2002 for the Xbox is with no doubt Unreal Championship. This game alone should help sell tens of thousands of Xbox consoles for two reasons: Unreal Tournament was huge, and Unreal Championship looks so much better and so much different than any other first-person shooter out there, people will want to give it a try. Also, UC will be an online game, and that always makes it more popular.

Hunter: The Reckoning looks good too. While it looks similar to the Gauntlet games, it is much more detailed, more involved, and darker. If it gets a good amount of publicity it should be a hit. The graphics are incredible and the game looks very fun. Unfortunately, these are the only two Xbox-exclusive games that look like they’re worth buying within the next year with the exception of Grand Theft Auto 3. Grand Theft Auto 3 is not exclusive to the Xbox, but it will certainly be huge, and it will definitely sell Xbox consoles.

GameCube, on the other hand, has more games to look forward to than the Xbox–but not as many as the PS2. Eternal Darkness should be a huge hit. Many people are already anticipating this horror adventure game, and if it gets good exposure to the masses, it should easily sell a million copies. It’s being developed by one of Nintendo’s second-party developers, Silicon Knights, which is another reason why it will be good. Eternal Darkness looks like a very unique game that will be extremely fun.

Mario Sunshine will be huge guaranteed. The one reason why it will be huge is because GameCube owners have been waiting for many months for a new Mario game. Many Mario fans will buy a GameCube just for this game.

Metroid Prime should be big. Although I don’t think it looks that good thus far, it is the first Metroid game being released for a console in a long time. It will sell and it will probably sell thousands of GameCube consoles.

The Resident Evil games coming to the GameCube over the next year should be semi-popular, but definitely not as popular as the originals. If Capcom can continue to add many new elements to these remakes, the Resident Evil games should sell big time because they are coming exclusively to the GameCube.

Looking at the next year, the Playstation 2 will outsell the competition by a large margin. It has many more popular games to look forward to, not to mention the huge library of classics it already has. The PS2 has already sold millions more than the other two systems, and if it could continue to sell during the release of the other two systems, the future looks bright. I think the GameCube will catch up a lot within the next few years, but it’s already very far behind and it will never surpass the PS2’s sales. The Xbox will probably go nowhere unless there is a price drop, or maybe two. Microsoft seriously needs to start negotiating big time with developers like Capcom, and they need to start making more first-party classics. Currently, there are hardly any games made by Microsoft that people will call “must own titles.” In the end, first-party games really make a difference in console sales.

By Nate Weaver – 05/06/02

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