Anyone have any guesses as to what new feature the Sony or Microsoft offerings could come up with to lockout the Wii U? I mean, there's no new disc standard or input device idea that I'm missing, is there? That'd be the only case where the Wii U would be in trouble -- if there was some new feature X like VR goggles that a consumer just had to have at all costs.
I honestly can't imagine, right now, how the next Xbox is going to be that substantially different from the PS4. And frankly, the Xbox 360 and PS3 aren't all that different, either. They've become different over time, but from the get-go they were both similarly-powered, championed online-play, and were basically both competing for exclusive contracts with the Big Studios for the Big Games. Nintendo decided to stay out of this rivalry of the giants and go in a different direction. It worked for them.
This coming generation, Nintendo was forced to release the Wii U early because the Wii died an early death. Also, early release worked for Microsoft, so who knows, it might work for Nintendo, too. The PS4 looks to be focused on 1) power, 2) social interaction, and 3) downloading games. Frankly, this is the same direction that Microsoft has been going for the past several years, and I would be shocked if the next Xbox didn't focus on the exact same thing. Of course both systems will be different, and of course the implementation of social interaction and downloadable games will be different--and there's a lot of room for innovation in those implementations--but at the end of the day, the PS4 vs. Xbox 720 battle is going to be much like the PS3 vs. Xbox 360 battle. Microsoft and Sony are going to throw all the money they can at it, they're going to battle with everything they have, and we're going to keep going down the path we're on now--bigger blockbusters, bigger studios, and the death of smaller studios and innovative games that can't compete. The gaming industry seems to be following a similar path as Hollywood in recent years, in this regard.
Nintendo has chosen, once again, to side-step this battle and go for something different. Being different is always a gamble, but when it pays, it pays big. Nintendo has been stating for a couple years that they're worried about the developer. They stated that with the Wii vs. the other consoles, with the DS vs. PSP, and now with the Wii U vs. the other next-gen consoles. They're worried about how many development studios have gone bankrupt (big and small), they're worried about how even the big studios are just one failed blockbuster away from catastrophe, and they're worried about casual games on mobile devices dumbing down the gaming experience and forcing companies that used to make fun, enthralling, and deep games to make simple $2 games--disposable games where you buy them, play them, uninstall them, and move on.
It is for this reason that Nintendo has focused on indie developers for the Wii U. Virtually every indie developer that's working with Nintendo to develop and release their games on the Wii U is ecstatic about the experience. They have total control over their game, the cost of their game, sales, and everything. Nintendo is even actively seeking out indie devs who have made cool PC games and inviting them to develop on the Wii U.
As systems become more powerful and the big companies and blockbuster games in the gaming industry converge, we will begin to see explosive growth in cheap, downloadable indie games. Prior to this generation, we've seen a massive shift in small studios and innovate games to the portable consoles. This is because the portable consoles are cheaper to develop for. In this coming generation, I strongly believe that we're going to see the the industry go through enormous change. Most studios will die off except for those big development studios that make big blockbusters and can afford massive development costs, massive publishing costs, and massive advertising costs. Think like how we only have a few major studios in Hollywood publishing most of the movies. On the flip side, we're going to see a huge rise in independent game developers. Though their only choices until now have been Nintendo DS (cheap), Xbox Live (cheaper), or PC (free), they will have even more choices this next-gen as downloading indie games in the Nintendo eShop or XBox Live Marketplace will become the norm. Sony concerns me in this area, though, as their press conference completely ignored indie gaming. They focused on big budget titles and explosions and downloading those titles. Microsoft, with their PC roots, knows about developers, and I don't think we're going to see the same from them come E3. I think you're going to see Microsoft come out and embrace the indie development community at E3 and encourage it. Microsoft is still exercising more control over their marketplace, though, whereas Nintendo is going all-in. I suppose if you think about it, we're going to have three systems next-generation: 1) Wii U which completely encourages indie development and uses it as a big selling point, 2) PS4 which is the system of blockbuster hits and power, and 3) the Xbox 720 which lies somewhere in between.
Anyways, I guess I don't know where I'm going with this rant, but this is how I see the next-generation playing out, to answer your question.