Wii vs. PlayStation3 – What We Can Learn from the Game Console War

The last four weeks have contained much dinner time discussion about my step-son ditching the Xbox 360 (all of six weeks old, which he bought with money that he earned) to buy the new, cool PlayStation3. You may be asking what does this have to do with product design management. Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are competing over the console space. A game console is a thinly-disguised computer that hooks up to your TV to play games. When I was growing up the console space was brand new and was dominated by Atari. Later generations of game consoles boiled down to a console war between Nintendo and Sega. Sega lost. The latest consoles are the Sony Playstation3 (Sony), Xbox 360 (Microsoft), and the Wii (Nintendo).

The Sony Playstation3 has cutting-edge graphics and physics powered by the IBM cell processor. The XBox 360 is a year old now and doesnt quite have the graphics horsepower that the Playstation has. However, it does have a very successful on-line component called Xbox Live. The Sony costs from $500-600. The Xbox costs from $400-500. The Wii costs from $200-300 and doesnt have the graphics (or physics) horsepower of either of its competitors.

The Wii does have a very innovative controller that was designed to make game play easier. Both the Playstation3 and the XBox controllers are button farms. They can be difficult to use. The other Wii advantage is its emphasis on ease-of-play. The system was designed to make game play easy. Making it easier makes it more attractive to a wider audience, and not just hard-core gamers. Nintendos plan is to design a better experience for a broader audience.

My step-son (age 16) test played the Wii last night. When he got home, he was raving about how great the Wii was. When I asked how it could be that great he said; “I like the way it played”. This goes back to exactly what Shimon (www.Touch360.com) has been saying about designing for experience: https://montie.com/PDMA/2006_sept_event.

The Wii, it doesnt have the sheer computing power of the PlayStation 3, but it does have a well-designed experience. We, as product designers and managers, should strive for similar forms of design excellence. It isnt always about additional features and more performance. Elegance can be difficult to achieve, but the result is usually worth the effort especially if you are the end user.

As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Montie Roland
President – Montie Design (ww.montie.com)
President – Carolinas PDMA (www.pdma.org/carolinas)