For months and months we have been waiting for this weekend to arrive. With the release of the Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii–finally the next-gen of gaming is now the current generation. While we have had the Xbox 360 for roughly a year now, new consoles always generate buzz and excitement for the gaming public. However, this launch weekend is probably the most unique console launch weekend in the history of our industry. The Wii and PS3 are taking completely different strategies and promising a completely different future for the player. Will the player choose the PS3, the Wii, or will they decide to stick with the already established Xbox 360? Things are about to get interesting…

Last year we covered the release of the Xbox 360 in detail. Despite all the hype surrounding the system, Microsoft faced enormous challenges with shortages at retail, lack of a true “killer-ap,” and a higher price tag than players were accustomed to paying. But no matter how negative the launch was, the Xbox 360 generated a huge following and Microsoft expects to eclipse the ten million unit mark by the end of the holiday season. It may not be a full ten million unit lead over its PS3 and Wii competition, but it is still quite a large lead in sales.

On Friday, November 17, 2006, Sony entered the next-generation of gaming, in North America, with the release of the PlayStation 3. The third console launch for Sony was met with long lines, shortages more insane than what Microsoft encountered with the 360, and an apparent low software to hardware tie in. Sony has not released any numbers yet and it is doubtful that they will any time soon. But from what retailers are saying throughout the country, Sony’s new console was sought out by many more people than the 360. That may sound good but all is not well, according to the sources that wish to remain nameless. From these sources, it appears that people were only buying PS3 to make a quick buck on Ebay. A quick look on the popular Internet auction site does make it look like people are buying PlayStation 3 to sell them. However, if this is the case, how long can the market sustain higher-priced PS3’s? It took less than a week for it to happen with the Xbox 360.

Some of the launch day stories for the PlayStation 3 included a Best Buy store in Fresno, California with only 34 consoles available at launch. As the doors opened for the midnight launch, a stampede of people began to run into the store. People were getting trampled and the the videos of this made it look like what you would expect from a big “Black Friday” sale. Other issues on launch day happened as well. Consumers at one EB store woke up to find that the consoles they had pre-ordered had been stolen that night before. Someone had broken into a midwestern EB to rob their entire stock of PlayStation 3 units.

Most stores I visited did not have many, if any, PlayStation 3 accessories at launch. I am not sure if Sony only released a limited number of accessories, but the only accessories I could easily find were extra controller for $49.99 and a Sony branded HDMI cable for $79.99. The one accessory I felt was an absolute necessity at launch, the PlayStation 2/PSone memory card reader, was nowhere to be found. Surely these will be able to be found in the near future though.

There are also some minor technical issues surrounding the launch of PS3. Some users have been unable to utilize 1080i resolution. Others have found that over two hundred backwards compatible games do not work. Finally, some users have complained that the HDMI cable has produced a less than desirable image and in some cases would not even display HD. Other issues include the lack of sound for any game loaded on the Hard Drive if you have played a Blue Ray movie. Sony is said to be working to address these issues and plans to release a patch to users in the very near future.

On Sunday, November 19, 2006, Nintendo launched the Nintendo Wii. I attended a launch event at a local GameStop store and while the Wii is the least powerful of all next-generation consoles, people are more excited about it than anything else. Crowds lined up for their chance to get their very own Wii and the stores I spoke with sold just about every accessory, a ton of games, and every console they had on the shelves.

Despite the lack of power the Wii offers, when compared to the PS3 or Xbox 360, the console has generated a lot of buzz from gamers. While there are still several people who want to get a PlayStation 3, even with its few technical problems, the Wii appears like it will be able to compete with both Microsoft and Sony for dominance in this generation of gaming.

From what has been seen of the Nintendo Wii, the interface takes only a few minutes to get the hang of. The best part of the the experience is logging into the Virtual Console. Unfortunately, only a handful of titles are currently available. None of the Turbo Grafx 16 games are there and the only word we have is that they should come out sometime before the end of the year.

When purchasing Virtual Console games, the status bar is Mario running after coins and jumping on goombas. As the download gets closer to to completion, Mario hits a coin box. It definitely makes things much more interesting than just a boring status bar.

We plan to bring you full reviews of PS3 and Wii games in the coming days. We also plan to bring you full reviews of each system. While we can debate about which system should reign supreme, the only thing we can say with certainty is that the next-generation of gaming is here!

By Kaleb Rutherford – 11/19/06

Screenshots for PS3 & Wii Weekend: Lets Do Launch