The PGC staff discusses the rumored Revolution specs floating around.
Last week IGN reported an unofficial sketch of the Revolution's hardware based on third party sources. The report has created much commotion--naturally we have our own thoughts on the matter. Let the rambling begin!
Mike C.: Rumored Revolution Specs: powerfully daring, powerfully disappointing or powerful BS?
David: First of all, I believe the information is relatively accurate. As with most things, there are a number of positives and negatives to be considered here. The obvious negative is under-powered graphics, although this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that Revolution games will not have to run in HD (which is itself a manifestation of under-powered graphics of course). The other negatives are essentially marketing problems related to having the least powerful console.
The positives are low manufacturing cost and also higher manufacturing volume. As long as the controller doesn't cost too much, this will translate into a very low launch price combined with very high launch quantities. Together this should result in a very significant number of Revolutions sold at launch starting the console out with a healthy install base. As the price decreases, the number of games increases and the PS3 launch magic wears off, Nintendo will have the easiest time selling new consoles to 360 and PS3 owners because the lower price and unique interface will easily justify the purchase. The low price is integral to bringing in non-gamers as well. All in all, I think the positives clearly outweigh the negatives for Nintendo. The ones who lose the most are die-hard Nintendo fans with deep pockets who really wanted to see Nintendo enter the HD era in style.
In short, as long as Nintendo can convince third parties to release games that justify the controller, I think they'll do very well. The lack of hardware power won't hurt them as long as there is a solid install base. Developers don't rule the industry, but Nintendo will certainly have a number of developers on their side who are just itching to develop for the new interface.
Jonathan L.: Nintendo has bowed out of the console graphics "arms race", and I
don't think that's necessarily a bad idea. Look at the Nintendo DS.
It's a suped-up GBA that isn't even on the same technological
continent as Sony's PSP, but it has hardware features that no other
handheld offers along with some of the best games out there. Despite
its supposed shortcomings, it's moving solid numbers in both North
America and Japan. With Revolution, Nintendo is attempting to
recreate this model in the console space. It will be
cheap, less powerful, have some great games, have free (at least to
connect) wireless online capability, and have wholly unique hardware features. Nintendo isn't trying to
out-muscle the XBox360 and PS3; it's simply trying to make an
obvious improvement on GameCube's graphic power while providing a steady
stream of innovative games exclusive to their console.
Content is king in the videogame industry, and Nintendo will certainly
have great content. Within the context of Nintendo's strategy, the
"underpowered" specs of the Revolution shouldn't come as a surprise to
Stan: While I don't have any conclusive data to back up this statement, I can still state pretty confidently that the DS didn't expand the handheld market like Nintendo is expecting to do with the Revolution. How are they going to market this so that Mrs. Soccer Mom is going to buy this just as much for herself as for her kids? I'm interested in seeing how they pull this off.
They've certainly limited themselves to pushing the controller, since the "guts" of the machine (based on the pretty credible hearsay) isn't anything to call home about. 104 MB of RAM is pretty weak. I can hope IGN is dead wrong, though they seem to be very confident in their sources.
256MB of RAM was the least I was expecting from this console, primarily because I was thinking, "Okay, this bad-boy's got to last 5 years. And with no HD, that leaves plenty of breathing room"
I guess I'm disappointed, but I love the controller so much that I'm most definitely intrigued. With next fall being the expected launch date, Nintendo better turn on the faucet if they plan on creating an ocean.
Mike C.: Let's not forget that developers tweak details of the specs all of the time. Sony increased the amount of RAM in the
PSP fairly late in its development, and Nintendo tweaked clock rates for the GameCube GPU and CPU after its E3 showing.
I'm not saying Nintendo is going to all of a sudden go HD, but if their internal development team decides they need more
RAM, they'll add at least a little more.
Rick: Nintendo is caught in a difficult situation. Revolution will be a hard
sell at retail, because much like the Nintendo DS, until you get it in
your hands and see what all the fuss is about, it's far too easy to
dismiss. Without "sexy" hardware specs and features, the very market
Nintendo is going after will need to play with Revolution before making
a decision, and I'm just not sure that the intriguing controller is
going to get the job done.
However, Nintendo is most definitely going to have some innovative
software, and it's possible that they may be able to generate the same
sort of buzz that Mario 64 created going into the Nintendo 64 era, which
would certainly offset the lack of the expected "next-generation"
What Nintendo needs to do is avoid making the same mistakes Microsoft
has made with the Xbox 360 launch. Focus on one territory at a time,
launch with at least one killer app (Mario would surely do it), and make
sure that the initial run of software shows the potential of the new
Steven: After the initial announcement that Nintendo wouldn't be supporting HD
resolutions on the Revolution, I was furious. It took a few days for me
to cool off after that. Now that I've seen some potential specs for it,
I just stopped caring about the whole technical aspect of it. While I
do admit I was expecting a little more, I realize that what the
Revolution is going to be should be more than enough for anyone to enjoy
I was worried for a time that if I saw some Xbox 360 games, Zelda
Twilight Princess wouldn't look at as good. After seeing Project Gotham
Racing 3, Kameo, Call of Duty 2 and others on a nice, big HDTV, I can
say with confidence that Zelda still looks great and I still look
forward to playing it.
Nintendo needs to sell Revolution and hook everyone at E3. They're only
going to get one chance at it, and if they can't steal the show against
the 360's second wave of games or the PS3 juggernaut, they may be dead
before the system launches.
David: I agree that non-gamers will be a hard sell and will ultimately prove
insignficant in the final tally. I think the Revolution's strength will be
as a secondary console for people who own 360's and PS3's. And if Microsoft
and Sony end up with equal marketshare and Nintendo gets strong enough
penetration as a secondary console, the numbers could potentially add up in
such a way that puts them on top. As unlikely as this is, I think at the
least the Revolution will be a strong contender in the next generation race.
Stan: Then what do you think about all this talk about Blue Ocean marketing
and increasing the video game market?
Steven: Blue Ocean, yeah, I totally agree with it. The modern videogame
industry is over 20 years old now, and if the general audience for games
was ever going to expand significantly, it would have done so with every
new system introduced. Instead, it's only expanded as the population
has increased, as Reggie pointed out during his Gamers Summit presentation.
This is a big risk by Nintendo, but greater risk yields greater rewards.
If Nintendo can really expand the market, even by a little bit, that
new market will exclusively belong to Nintendo. Add in the current
market, and Nintendo has a good chance of coming out on top.
Rick: That's assuming that coming out on top is even all that important.
Nintendo has always been numero uno when it comes to generating a
profit, and that's really all that matters. Being a darling of fans and
media is nice, but if you're doing it at the expense of the bottom line,
it's a bad decision.
This is where I have to criticize Microsoft for continuing to spend
money promoting Xbox 360 when you can't even go out and purchase it.
They're coming out strong, but without product to back it up, all
they're doing is cutting into any potential profit. (Of course,
Microsoft will be able to absorb those losses much as they did with Xbox.)
Jonathan M.: For Revolution to be a success in spite of its technical limitations,
Nintendo has to figure out a way to sell the system to my parents. It's
tough but not impossible. Reaching people like that, people who currently
have zero interest in video games other than Solitaire and Bejeweled, is
going to take a truly mass market price point ($99), a non-threatening
interface (CHECK), and absolutely remarkable marketing. I think Nintendo's
technical direction is going to place the system at or near the mass market
price point. Marketing is the real issue here. Nintendo will have to
completely change the type, quantity, and placement of their advertisements,
and in more subversive ways, they'll have to significantly alter their brand
image for non-gamers, which has been dramatically diluted since the late
The final big piece of this success puzzle is the Revolution's software
support. I have little doubt that Nintendo will provide some excellent uses
for the new controller, but I don't see the system gaining major third-party
support in time for launch. With the GameCube, Nintendo has asked
publishers to port their titles to the third-place system, which entails
nominal development costs that may or may not be recovered by the GameCube
version's inevitably weak sales. But with carefully negotiated money hats
and promising success stories of a select few titles, most publishers were
willing to give at least some multiplatform support to the system. With
Revolution, Nintendo is asking publishers to significantly retool their
multiplatform games to work on the Revolution, or else develop innovative
new software which will take advantage of the Revolution's features but will
simply not work at all on any other platform. So while overall development
costs for an original title may be lower on Revolution than PS3 or Xbox 360,
you can be sure that developing any sort of original software costs more
time and money than simply porting one over from the traditional consoles,
and even the "normal" multiplatform ports will require more work to
translate to Nintendo's system than publishers are used to.
I cannot stress enough how major this issue is for Revolution. It is the
key to whether the system succeeds or fails. GameCube's third-party support
was slightly improved over the N64's but still inferior to that of the Xbox,
which started this current generation with zero dedicated fanbase and zero
brand recognition. Nintendo simply cannot afford to maintain their current
level of support from third-party publishers, and the Revolution's
uniqueness is going to make the battle to improve that characteristic even
more difficult. Even at face value, it's easy for us to see how Revolution
appeals to developers, the creative force in this industry. But what we
currently cannot see, and what Nintendo MUST establish early on, is
Revolution's appeal to publishers, who control the money in this industry
and ultimately decide which games are released on which systems. So what's
it going to be...lower royalties? cheaper disc pressing? free advertising?
free dev kits? all-profit game downloads? Nintendo has to find the
Revolution's advantages in this arena and ram them down publishers' throats
until the software companies feel that they can't afford NOT to support the
system with both original titles and multiplatform games. I wish I had more
confidence that Nintendo will succeed in this task, but their track record
so far is less than spectacular.
Mike C.: What Jonny said about appealing to non-gamers like our parents is absolutely correct. Nintendo needs to present a new
image to adults with games and marketing TRULY targeted to that segment. The company talks as though it understands
this, but Nintendo's thrift has a long history.
I've said it before, but Nintendo should team up with brands moms and dads recognize, especially when they can tie that
brand to a game. They need to ditch the half-assed celebrity "endorsements" from Nintendo-sponsored parties and get
household names truly behind them. I want to hear John Stewart mention Revolution when video games come up in his
interviews. Earning the favor of worldwide-trusted information sources such as The Wall Street Journal's could be a
huge boon. People will hate me for this, but Nintendo should put more resources behind high-quality edutainment titles
aimed at adults.
Stan: Hahaha, while trying to drum up some ideas for unusual product
placement, I was just imagining a Desperate Housewives episode which
incorporates the Revolutions.
Jonathan M.: What if the castaways on Lost discover a time portal, out of which pops a
Revolution, a TV set, and a hand-crank generator with which to power both of
David: I think you left one thing out Jonny. To really attract non-gamers,
Nintendo needs a very low price point for the console and a concerted
marketing effort, but they need something else too. They need low priced
software that will not intimidate that very same market. And the console
must ship with some simple games that appeal to non-gamers and help justify
the price tag. Even if the console is $99 at launch, you can forget it
attracting non-gamers if the console has no packed in games and every launch
title costs the usual 50 clams. Low-priced, simple games must be available
for download at very low prices and similar games should be available in
stores for similar prices. These games would have very low development
costs of course, so that should help attract 3rd parties to the arena. We
must remember that a huge part of Nintendo's target audience aren't strictly
non-gamers; they already play simple PC and flash games (ranging from
solitaire to bejeweled). The equivalent revolution games will justify
themselves by their use of Nintendo's unique controller. The trick will be
making and marketing these games without offending hardcore gamers. I can
imagine the reviews now.
Brendan: I don't think it's Nintendo's intention to have our parents buy a Revolution.
Not for themselves, at any rate. (At least in my family, that is something
that is never, ever going to happen.) Rather, Nintendo wants people like
our parents to PLAY video games... something that is near impossible for my
folks with today's controllers. (My mom still hasn't figured out how to use
the "right-click" menus in Windows.) If the RevMote is as intuitive as I
think it is, Nintendo will achieve its goal of making a video game platform
that "non-gamers" can play and enjoy. The commercial success comes in when
Nintendo Revolution becomes the first choice for putting under the family
room television... not just in the basement home-theater... not just in
kid's bedroom... not just over at a family member's apartment. Nintendo
wants its new system to be at the center of the household. Our parents
won't buy a revolution for themselves, but we will buy it for them as gifts
after discovering found how much fun it is playing together.
I think of the key to Revolution's success is less about increases sales
rather than it is about increased users per unit. Increased sales come later
after Mom and Dad talk to other couples about how much fun they had playing
"that new Nintendo with the amazing little controller". One by one, more
and more families will hear about it and conclude "we've got to get one of
those for our house".
As for the actual specs, (we've gotten really off-track here!), I think
Nintendo's mere "mortal" hardware can only help them sell it as a family
centric device. High-end electronics aren't really in the same market as
"household" items. Cutting-edge technology, as great as it would be for
gamers, only gets in the way of the marketing-message Nintendo wants to build
around the Revolution. There are some people, the majority of people, who
never buy ANYTHING top of the line. They always go for the value purchase.
And I'm not just talking about the price, positioning the system as a
"mid-level" machine automatically signals to this market that this is the
choice for them.
I want to make it clear, while I think Nintendo's target for hardware specs is rock-solid form a marketing standpoint, its still terribly disappointing as a Nintendo enthusiast. I'm somewhat of a graphics-snob who gets annoyed at graphical flaws/limitations in video games. Not being able to run/swim around Isle Del Fino in "Super Mario Sunshine" is an example that comes to mind. Will the worlds Nintendo creates for Revolution be anymore expansive than on GameCube?
I'm still hopeful that when the final hardware is revealed, Revolution will indeed show us a big leap in visuals. We still have very few hard facts about the hardware specs. Sure, the 88MB of main RAM seems puny next to the 360's 512MB... but lets not overlook that its a version of the 1T-SRAM that, with only 24MB in the GameCube, was able to keep up with the Xbox's 64MB. Microsoft increased its main-memory by a factor of 8, Nintendo by 3.6. I'm still highly skeptical that the "normal" RAM in Revolution will only amount to 16MB... isn't it cheaper to go with 32MB or 64MB simply b/c more people make RAM in those amounts?
Mike C.: When you're making a console, placing special orders in bulk, round numbers are not really "cheaper" or "easier" to fill. I see no reason for more secondary RAM in the Revolution—if they increase anything it would be the main RAM.
Whatever Nintendo is planning with IBM and ATI, clearly it isn't as powerful as what the other two have. Will Nintendo win on its less-is-more gamble? Will the graphics be "good enough"? Only time will tell.
Continue discussing it in the very long Revolution thread!