Overlooked Consoles Threaten Microsoft and Sony's Dominance
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So may choices, so little time (and money).

You literary can’t open a gaming magazine or peruse the main page of a game site lately ( such as ours) without seeing the signs of the next-gen. As it quickly approaches, people begin making their final decisions as to exactly which consoles they’ll choose to start of the next round of the console wars. Many have chosen long ago by camping out in order to get their pre-order locked in to guarantee their system of choice in the next few weeks. Now, if you follow my writing, you already know that I’m a proponent of not needing to jump head-first into the next-gen just yet. There is still much fun to be had on the current-gen. However, there also arises yet another reason to wait (at least at first) in deciding which next-gen console you’ll choose.

There are more than just the two options, contrary to popular belief, even though Microsoft and Sony are at the forefront.

Now, this operates under the premise that you’ll probably own one of the two systems. I’d say less than half of all gamers will own both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, at least at first. This signifies that your investment in your gaming future will require some thought, as you’ll probably be saddled with your purchase for quite some time. So are you really aware of all your options? The mainstream would suggest that it comes down to two choices: Microsoft or Sony. However, that’s not necessarily true. This year, we’ve seen more indie-style entries into the marketplace that provide serious competitive alternatives that threaten the “big two’s” market share. These aren’t your generic, run of the mill knock offs like you’d find at Walgreens.

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For the first time, we have legit options in the console-hardware department that require a second look before defaulting to one of the two mainstays of the Xbox or PlayStation. Take the Ouya for example. This is a micro-console that runs on a simple quad-core processer and 1 GB of RAM. Running the Android OS, it looks to bring next-gen functionality to the mobile games market (a market that has enjoyed more success than some console releases as of late). The Ouya has picked up so much steam that it’s actually received backing from major retail chain Target, and will now get top billing right next to the other well-known systems. Hell, even third-party accessory developer Mad Catz has a similar mobile console (entitled the M.O.J.O.) it hopes to bring to market.

Speaking of Steam, lest we forget, Valve intends to impact the market with its Steam Machines. Intending it to be much more than a console knock-off or a glorified media desktop, Valve has stated it’s looking to bring an “entertainment experience” to your living room. More details are expected at this year’s CES, but we’ve already seen some interesting things come from its development. The controller diverges from the path of the traditional by dropping the thumb sticks and incorporating a new touch-pad system in hopes it will set itself apart. Planting its flag in the next-gen won’t be easy for an unproven console, but that’s certainly not stopping Valve. With a few killer apps and some strong hardware under the hood, who’s to say that the Steam Machine won’t be the next Xbox? If you remember, it was crazy to think of Microsoft getting into the hardware business back in the early 2000s, but now, most gamers can’t envision a world without things like Xbox Live or the 360.

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Finally, there are the current-gen options. Nintendo recently announced it’s re-releasing the Wii (after halting production) in a new bundle called the “Wii Mini.” It will feature a stripped down version of the console (no WiFi and no backwards compatibility) but will included a packed-in copy of Mario Kart. With a hot price point of only $99, this is sure to appeal to those who have always wanted to dabble in the Nintendo sandbox, but couldn’t be bothered in the past. Not to mention, it will be a huge holiday gift item, which is no doubt a strategy of Nintendo.

You see? Contrary to popular belief, you do have options. For the first time in a console cycle, we’re seeing legitimate alternatives that could very well lead to major shakes-ups of the hardware landscape. Maybe it’s time we start looking outside the mainstays of the well-known powerhouses to see if these hidden gems are worth polishing. Don’t be so quick to plunk down your hard-earned dollars at the register until you’re truly informed.

Decisions…decisions…

Jason Messer
Jason Messer
@J8sonMesser

Contributing Writer
Date: 11/04/2013

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