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FTC-Xbox hearing dares to ask: What console gen is Nintendo?

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During the past week between Microsoft, Sony and the Federal Trade Commission another intriguing conundrum has emerged that has been plaguing video game forums, and Nintendo fans in particular, for nearly two decades: whether Nintendo’s latest console is part of the current generation?

Even if, as Xbox boss Phil Spencer said on Friday, “console wars” are a social construct, it’s still something that dates back to the Wii days and a memorable Game Developers Conference rant in which a Maxis developer accused Nintendo of rejected the then-new console as “two GameCubes duct-taped together.”

The argument came into play again in 2012 when the Wii U launched, and there was much discussion as to whether Nintendo’s first high-definition console was part of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 console generations, or whether it started the next generation. . I distinctly remember Wii U fans being outraged when Activision PR balked at the idea. call of Duty Ghosts Launching on Wii U. (It was the last Call of Duty to launch on a Nintendo platform.) And it didn’t help that the Wii U was a dud at retail, and third-party publishers had given up on Nintendo nearly that time.

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Today, it’s no longer a console-wars pub argument. The FTC is asking a judge to block Microsoft’s $68.7 billion acquisition of Call of Duty maker Activision Blizzard, arguing that a console maker with such publishing scope and control would harm consumers and the market. The question is, who is part of that market?

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A heavily armed, masked soldier prepares his weapon amid the rubble of a collapsed building

call of Duty Ghosts (2013) was the last Call of Duty to launch on a Nintendo console.
Image: Infinity Ward / Activision

Lawyers for the government and Microsoft have offered a competing view of that market: If it’s just PlayStation and Xbox, it’s a little easier to argue that Microsoft gets an unfair advantage in acquiring Activision Blizzard. If this is going to be a global three-way race, especially against the blundering sales performance of the Nintendo Switch, Microsoft might better claim that it’s more of an underdog in the market than a bully.

This has put witnesses like Jim Ryan, the head of Sony Interactive Entertainment, in the uncomfortable position of commenting on the capabilities of competing hardware without seeing that it’s getting punched down. And it sees some interesting admissions and contradictions from Xbox boss Phil Spencer as he explains why Microsoft will view the Switch as an equal competitor, even if it can’t run some of the biggest games published by his division.

“In terms of processing power of GPU, graphics processor, CPU, Switch, the eighth generation is more similar than the ninth generation [console]right?” James Weingarten of the FTC asked Spencer on the stand Friday.

“I would disagree with that,” Spencer replied, in a discussion of the Switch’s mobile capabilities, where the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have to be plugged into a wall. Weingarten then walked Spencer through the Switch’s resolution and frame rate capabilities, leading Spencer to admit that they fell short of the capabilities supported by the Xbox Series X.

It is also somewhat disconcerting to hear government attorneys referring to consoles of the eighth or ninth generations, whose classification and chronology comes from, I believe, Wikipedia editors, publisher-level marketers and investor relations representatives.

Weingarten brought up the issue of Call of Duty later in the hearing to further press the difference in console generations. “If Call of Duty launches on Switch, it won’t look the same to a player playing on Xbox X [sic]right?” he said. Again, Spencer was distracted.

“If we launch Call of Duty on Switch, our goal is for it to be of equal or better quality than other Switch games,” Spencer replied. Weingarten cited Spencer’s statement where the same question was asked. “Answer: ‘It won’t happen,'” Weingarten said, reading Spencer’s testimony.

Spencer was also asked why the company has separate competitor analyzes that include Switch and those that are outside. Then, he made a two-by-two statement where Spencer had to remind him that he previously testified that Xbox included the Switch “to show an accurate global perspective of our relevance.”

The analysis that excludes the Switch, Spencer said, is because both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are “at the same point in their life cycles,” which would at least suggest that he’s considering the Switch as the current generation. I do not see console. (The Switch launched three years before the PS5 and Xbox Series X.)

Jim Ryan, President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, speaks during a press event at CES 2023 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center on January 04, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Jim Ryan, president of Sony Interactive Entertainment: “Many of the games we make for PlayStation are so powerful they can’t be played on Nintendo Switch.”
Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

In his videotaped statement submitted Tuesday, SIE’s Ryan didn’t try to have it both ways. “Many of the games we make for PlayStation are too powerful to play on Nintendo Switch,” Ryan said during questioning by Microsoft attorney Beth Wilkinson. “Nintendo hardware just doesn’t have the processing power, the graphics capability, to be able to play those games.”

Afterwards, Ryan was asked for his thoughts on Nintendo in the console market. “They are in the console market, but they are not our direct competitors,” he said. Wilkinson led Ryan to the right edge of the Nintendo-like-kids stuff fodder bog, around which he respectfully spread his legs.

“Do you have any idea why Call of Duty hasn’t sold well on Nintendo?” Wilkinson asked.

“My opinion would be [Call of Duty] “Aims at a very different audience to the standard Nintendo audience,” Ryan said.[which] Mario enjoys Zelda, not Call of Duty. my opinion.”

No one from Nintendo has been called as a witness, so we’re not sure whether the company agrees with Spencer or Ryan. But we’re sure at least one of his fans was laughing when Wilkinson asked Ryan why Xbox is more popular in the United States than overseas.

Ryan said, “Most of his games, many of his games involve an element of shooting.”

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