What goes online

Technology is not unlike politics.

Technology is not unlike politics.

When Microsoft's Vista will be released – and whether it will live up to its hype – is a wedge issue. People on both sides of the technology aisle oppose most of the current digital rights management (DRM) technology. And, the national convention for all parties this year was in Los Angeles, at E3, the base-driving event at which Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony all released new video game console products or add-ons.

Thanks to weblogs of all stripes (either corporate-supported, independent, or part of larger network like Gawker Media) there is both wall-to-wall coverage of an event like E3 and no clear consensus on who wins and loses. The sheer volume of information obfuscates any message that can be taken to the masses. Industry insiders seemed to love wii, Nintendo’s new console, which, paradoxically, is geared more towards casual or non-video gamers than tech geeks. The system’s games, most of which are simple, are a throwback to Nintendo’s first gaming system, albeit with greater graphics and a sensory joystick that makes game play more interactive. Despite the early raves, much like a stump speech, it is unknown how it will play out in the basements – i.e. the barns in the heartland.

PlayStation3 also “launched”, though consumers won’t be able to get their hands on the product until November, provided there isn’t a product blackout like the one Xbox experienced with its 360 offering in 2005. PS3 can serve as the referendum on Xbox: do you feel more excited with your gaming experience today than you did a year ago?

There is one deviation to the political metaphor. In a world where tech geeks are blogging about products – and collecting advertising dollars for their efforts – everything can be a tax write-off. You have to wonder if those at E3, whether by purchase or by occupation, won’t just end up owning all of the video game consoles.  That way they can live in a world where they can support both parties unambiguously without scorn.

Those in the mainstream marketplace, however, will likely only be able to justify one console purchase. So is it the PlayStation 3? The wii? The Xbox with its HD DVD add-on? None of the above? Marketers better find the issue that gets those undecideds to the stores.

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