Which console will win 2011?

2011 is only five weeks old as of this writing, but already it seems like we’ve got a pretty good handle on how the coming year is going to shape up for videogames. Good enough, at least, to make a bunch of wild, barely founded predictions about which of the four major gaming platforms (Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo and PC) will claim victory in the next 12 months. Not in terms of sales, of course, but in terms of what they’ll have to offer gamers.

Above: This fight may be closer than it looks

In the interest of maximum fairness, GamesRadar’s four senior editors – each with a vested interest in a different platform – got together to argue over which console (and yes, we’re aware PCs aren’t “consoles”) stands the best chance of victory, and then picked a winner based on which one made the strongest case. They might be wrong – there’s still plenty we don’t know just over the horizon, to be revealed at events like E3 – but based on what we know now, here’s our best guess at how things will go down:

XBOX 360

1. Kinect grows up

The numbers are impressive: 1.3 million units sold in 10 days. 2.5 million units sold in 25 days. And the most recent announcement from Microsoft: 8 million Kinects were snapped up by consumers within the product's first 60 days of release, surpassing the corporation's own predictions and doubling the PlayStation Move's numbers during a similar span of time.

Much more impressive, however, is that the motion-control technology managed such success with what was widely mocked as a weak and kid-pandering launch lineup. Just think – at least 8 million people were willing to sacrifice $150 on the chance to play Kinectimals. Can you imagine the kind of money they'd throw at Microsoft for real games? Or how many additional systems will fly out of stores, which were already reporting shortages over the holidays?

We'll find out in 2011 with titles like Child of Eden (from the creator of Rez), Codename D (from the creator of No More Heroes), Project Draco (from the creator of Panzer Dragoon), Haunt (from the creator of Parappa the Rapper), and The Gunstringer (from the creators of 'Splosion Man and Comic Jumper). There's horror from Sega with Rise of Nightmares, mech combat from the Steel Battalion series with Heavy Armor, and serious racing simulation from the Kinect features in Forza 4. And none of these may even be necessary if the Star Wars and Michael Jackson games are any good. Hell, those two are destined for blockbuster status even if they aren't any good.

To summarize? If Kinect proves to have any staying power whatsoever in 2011, Microsoft might win with this advantage alone.

2. Exclusive sequels. Exclusive originals

Last year, I argued that Microsoft could prevail simply on the power of Halo: Reach. Sure enough, the exclusive ended up selling over 3 million copies in the first month, making it only the third game to do so this generation. (The others? Halo 3, also exclusive to Xbox, and Modern Warfare 2.)

This year, Microsoft can rely on Gears of War 3, the next entry in a franchise that has already moved over 11 million units worldwide. Of course, the exploits of Marcus Fenix have not proven quite as popular or lucrative as those of Master Chief, but they're damn close, and after a three-year wait since the previous sequel, including a painful delay, anticipation for a Gears of War game has never been higher.

Don't care for chainsaws and Locust? Forza 4 is a big deal, especially now that Gran Turismo 5 has disappointed so many racing fans, and there's a small chance Project Gotham Racing 5 could be unveiled as well. The re-imagining of classic series XCOM, from the folks responsible for BioShock 2, won't appear on any other consoles. Nor will The Secret World, an MMO by the guy who made what some consider gaming's last great adventure, The Longest Journey. Finally, there's Codename Kingdoms, the mysterious (maybe) gladiator project from Crysis developer Crytek. We know almost nothing about it, but hearing the Crytek CEO claim that Codename Kingdoms will push the Xbox 360 "to its limits" has me optimistic, to say the least.

3. The X Factor

Yes, I've resorted to this. To be honest, I can't come up with a third clear and obvious reason why Microsoft will emerge victorious in 2011. This doesn't mean that I don't think the company will dominate… just that, if they do, it will likely be thanks to one of the two reasons above. Or to the continued convenience of Xbox Live. Or to the continued appeal of Achievements. Or to the fact that this year is an amazing year for multi-platform titles in general, which should help both the 360 and PS3 and industry as a whole.

Still, Microsoft must have something else planned if it wants to remain competitive. Sony's PS3 sales are quickly catching up to those of 360, and the announcement of the NGP (or PSP2) has gamers incredibly excited. Nintendo has a gimmick as cool or cooler than Kinect with 3DS, and analysts predict the Wii 2 will emerge in 2011.

Will Microsoft jump in the handheld arena as well? Will the next Xbox console be revealed? Will the current Xbox get a price drop? Will this year's dashboard updates include something as substantial as Netflix or Hulu that we haven't even associated with a console before? Will Xbox Live Gold suddenly be free? Is someone working on a secret Kinect game that will prove irresistible to the hardcore audience? Is 343 Industries working on a secret Halo game that will prove irresistible to an audience that already bought 30 million entries in the franchise?

The answer to most of these questions is undoubtedly "no," but if even one is a "yes," that could reshape this entire debate.

UPDATE: Would you look at the timing! The same day we post this feature, Joystiq reports that 343 Industries is indeed working on a new Halo – well, technically, a new version of an old Halo – for November 15, 2011. Head here for all the tantalizing details.

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  • SOLAMON77 - March 1, 2011 9:46 a.m.

    I own all the consoles and while my most anticipated game this year is Gears 3, I also agree that Sony is the one to beat this year. They have a heavy hitting exclusive coming out almost every month this year AND just about every one of those games could only be possible on the PS3. Killzone 3 is 40GB for crying-out-loud! If that game came to the 360 (assuming it would even run) it would take 5 DVDs (assuming no data is duplicated on any of the DVDs, which is mostly impossible) just to hold all the data!
  • bkonkle - February 14, 2011 3:05 p.m.

    The fact that developers still haven't taken the PS3 to its performance limits yet really is a good sign for the quality of games to come in 2011 and beyond. It may not be the most popular choice, but I think the PS3 will be the true winner as the 360 begins to lag behind in hardware performance.
  • Cruddi - February 8, 2011 11:29 p.m.

    My money is also on playstation... Only cause of the NGP woo can not wait for it
  • CaptainSalmon - February 8, 2011 2:17 p.m.

    Ugh, I need to buy a PS3. I really really do. Absolutely nothing on the 360 is interesting any more, and smeg off if you think Kinect is the future. Sorry Microsoft, but I'm leaving you for your rival.
  • FanofSaiyan - February 8, 2011 1:24 p.m.

    So Gamesradar, is your final verdict your overall consensus, or is your staff split between certain consoles?
  • farsided - February 8, 2011 7:57 a.m.

    PS3 may have won the award for best console, but Tyler Nagata easily walks away with the award for best article. "Unlike the Official Nintendo Seal of Quality, Blizzard’s logo still means something" "the platform of choice for all gamers who have enough self respect to not get too excited over the latest baby Kirby adventure, Disney-branded title or console-friendly shooter." "But for the price of that costly television, you could’ve invested your cash towards a decent gaming rig that can run circles around your “next-generation” console." Brilliant. The day my 360 broke was the day I said so long to consoles and invested in a good gaming notebook. With access to Steam, Starcraft 2, and Guild Wars (gotta get ready for the next one, which could be coming out this year!) which actually have staying power and don't get replaced after around 8-20 hours of play, I'm golden. Hell, I'll probably even get Diablo 3 considering how happy I've been with Blizzard lately!
  • WickedSid - February 7, 2011 10:15 p.m.

    You know what? BIAS! Every one of the entries for the consoles is BIAS! (HEH)
  • InFeRnOg - February 7, 2011 5:12 p.m.

    "StarCraft II is the best thing that happened to real-time strategy games since the release of StarCraft I" I couldn't disagree more. While SCII has its place, I feel as though Relic's Dawn of War and Company of Heroes series, along with Sins of a Solar Empire and even World in Conflict, have destroyed SC's style of RTS. Unfortunately the strategies just aren't as satisfying and as numerous as the other RTS games provide. SCII feels pedestrian by comparison, to me at least. And no, I don't suck at it. I just don't like it.
  • Japanaman - February 7, 2011 2:17 p.m.

    Seriously?!! Nobody thinks to mention the OnLive console? $9.99 per month for games you may not be able to play on your own PC? That's fantastic!
  • kachigop - February 7, 2011 6:14 a.m.

    Come on Charlie B, just think about your argument for Kinect sales. The demographic that Kinect appeals to is the same demographic that have people buying Wii Sports. Just look at the sales of "non-family" games on the Wii that don't have Mario in the title. People will not be "throwing money" at "real" kinect games just like they don't do the same for Wii.
  • MassEffective - February 7, 2011 3:22 a.m.

    PS BABY!!! They really got a good thing going this year!so excited for all the exclusives, that i think are superior to microsoft's... and the NGP just is OVERKILL!!!!!! I am so psyched for all sony has to offer. my wallet sure is gonna take a beating this year!!!
  • lovinmyps3 - February 7, 2011 12:14 a.m.

    I agree, definitely Playstation. Their exclusives interest me much more and the NGP looks awesome! I doubt Kinect will move beyond what it is now and they don't have a handheld coming out this year. Other than Gears 3 I'm not interested in any Microsoft exclusives.
  • MaxxamusTime - February 6, 2011 11:13 p.m.

    I'm going to get a PSP 2 since it has all the games I want to play on a hand held.
  • e1337prodigy - February 6, 2011 10:39 p.m.

    I really wish Sony would rename their new handheld to something that doesn't get me confused with Neo Geo Pocket (also a handheld if you not an old skool gamer).
  • The4X - February 6, 2011 9:01 p.m.

    After "most open platform" there's "PS3 wins", duh...
  • kicking222 - February 6, 2011 5:48 p.m.

    "You may think that Portal 2 and Crysis 2 look good on your HDTV, and that’s awesome. But for the price of that costly television, you could’ve invested your cash towards a decent gaming rig that can run circles around your “next-generation” console." That's the dumbest thing I've read in a long time. I am in no way making a "PC vs. Console" argument, because it's stupid- most PC players hate consoles, most console players hate PCs, and the experiences aren't really comparable. But I WILL say that the above excerpt is ridiculous. Yeah, I COULD have invested that cash in a decent gaming rig, but then I wouldn't have anything good on which to watch TV or films, play same-room co-op games, or, really, having any experience whatsoever in my living room that supports more than one person. Not to mention the fact that it's pretty dumb to compare a high-end TV and console set-up to a "decent" PC gaming rig.
  • OHMYGODIMONFIRE - February 6, 2011 4:30 p.m.

    I personally think minecraft its-self should've been a factor for PC. When that thing gets officially released i don't even want to know how much money notch is gonna make.
  • Aletheon - February 6, 2011 4:06 p.m.

    PS3 has it this year. Amazing exclusives. Nintendo should go ahead and release Wii HD at the end of the year with Skyward Sword in HD. Instant console seller.
  • elchamber - February 6, 2011 11:57 a.m.

    I'm hoping for PSP/NGP. It actually looks pretty good. I just wished there was more there than just games. Though the games and the new handling looks awesome, I just hope there is more to do with that thing now. If it has a great new WORKING browser and keyboard, than I'd probably get on PSP... finally.
  • Gurkogg - February 6, 2011 8:07 a.m.

    People still think PC's cost over $1000 for decent performance? Put together mine a couple years ago for under 700 and it still runs current titles at highest settings easily and at 2560x1600 resolution to boot... do consoles even support that resolution?