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"The Battle for Video Game Supremacy"

The video game market is preparing for a battle the likes of which have never been seen in the industry. Last week, Sony released the much anticipated PlayStation 2 and although the production is far behind where it will eventually be, sales have been tremendous. In fact, demand has been so high that many are selling their machines on auction sites like E-Bay, lured by the chance to make profits of several hundred dollars on a single machine.

Although the Sega Dreamcast, which was released last year, and the PlayStation 2 have been met with considerable fanfare, the real battle will begin next year when Nintendo and Microsoft release their respective machines. The video game industry is a $20 billion-a-year business and these new offerings will undoubtedly test the already crowded market.

The first of the new releases will be Nintendo with the GameCube, which is scheduled for release in the fall of 2001. The current Nintendo offering, the Nintendo 64, holds the second position among sales of video game systems. Microsoft will follow the release of the GameCube with the Xbox, their first venture into the video game segment. These units, along with the previous devices, will make for a very crowded market.

The companies realize that the consoles need to attract as much attention as possible and, as a result, they are including a variety of add-on devices for the systems. Many are including DVD players that can play movies and modems that allow the devices to be connected to the Internet.

All of the machines offer tremendous graphics and run at amazing speeds, but the Xbox appears to be the leader if you are comparing only specifications. For example, the Sega Dreamcast can crunch 3 million polygons per second and runs at a speed of about 200 MHz. The PlayStation 2 operates at 300 MHz and displays 25 million polygons and the Nintendo GameCube has been thought to use a 405 MHz chip and displays 12 million polygons. The Xbox will offer 150 million polygons and will utilize a 733 MHz chip.

It should be noted that the Sony and Nintendo systems utilize a chip that was developed specifically for the video game market. As a result, the differences in speed between the processors may not hold as large of an advantage as you might think. However, you cannot disregard the tremendous number of polygons the Xbox will be capable of pushing.

While hardware is important, it is software that will eventually determine the winner in the new video game market. For example, the first of the devices, the Dreamcast, is an excellent machine. Despite great reviews, it continues to suffer like previous Sega offerings. It has several very good titles, but it lacks a single knockout title that make people want to go out
and buy the machine.

It is in this area that Sony excels. It has support from most game companies including the largest, Electronic Arts. Electronic Arts does not develop for the Dreamcast and is not going to produce titles for the GameCube but it appears they may develop for the Xbox. The Xbox will also have support from 150 developers that should provide a large number of titles. Nintendo, on the other hand, develops a considerable number of titles internally and has not released information about their developers.

The upcoming year will definitely be another banner period for game players. It will be interesting to see if a single company will distance itself from the competition or if the marketplace has enough room for several companies.

  - by Clayton Crooks

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