刚刚过去的黑色星期五和网络星期一中，Wii U大卖，这一幕让人觉得似曾相识。与2006年推出Wii时的情景相似，由于这款游戏机具有全新而强大的图形处理功能以及新颖的输入装置，狂热的游戏迷们对它津津乐道。因此，它的销量情理之中地赢得了强劲的开门红。该公司估计已经售出了40万台Wii U。由于产品卖得飞快，众多零售商的库存已经告急。
The availability of Nintendo's Wii U on Black Friday and Cyber Monday was source of déjà vu. Much like the 2006 release of the original Wii, diehard video gamers have been chattering about trying out the console's powerful new graphics and novel input device. Sales, not surprisingly, have gotten off to a strong start. The company has already sold an estimated 400,000 units. Many retailers had trouble keeping the game machine in stock.
At first glance, it may seem like Nintendo's (NTDOY) Wii U is starting the video game console cycle all over again. New versions of the Microsoft (MSFT) Xbox and Sony (SNE) PlayStation are slated to arrive next year, and their first-weekend introductions are likely to be just as eventful. But the long-term outlook for these devices is entirely different. These new consoles, despite their high-profile launches, represent a rapidly decaying ecosystem.
The eighth generation of game consoles we will see in the next 12 months will, over their life spans, sell in lower quantities than the generation that preceded them. That will be a first. The best guess, both from inside our company and from industry analysts, is the fall-off will be more than 30%. Much of the decline will be in the out years of sales, after the most loyal fans have snapped up early units.
If this happens, there will be a one-word explanation: tablets. There can be little doubt that tablets from the likes of Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), and Google (GOOG) are the new consoles. Three powerful mega-trends are causing this change: ever-improving hardware platforms, shifting software business models, and consumers' increasingly high demand for convenience. (Full disclosure: my company makes games for tablets.)
Take hardware first. Game consoles enjoyed an edge for players, especially "core" gamers, because their specialized graphics and computing hardware outperformed comparably priced PCs or Macs. But tablet designers have begun taking graphics seriously. This is true in both the Apple iOS and Google Android ecosystems. Screen resolutions of tablets now often beat what is commonly available for consoles. And the under-the-hood graphics processing power -- what makes game play increasingly realistic and exciting -- is catching up as well.
In fact, the latest iPad already has a graphics processing unit more powerful than what will be shipping in the new Wii U -- a fact pointed out in many gaming-oriented reviews of the new Apple product. While next year's Xbox and PlayStation will probably be slightly ahead of the current crop of tablets in graphics capabilities, the superiority is likely to be short-lived.