: PS3, Xbox 360, And Wii Console Analysis

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PS3, Xbox 360, And Wii Console Analysis

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We’re a scant two weeks away from emerging fully into the next generation – in fact, come Thanksgiving, we can’t be calling it the "next" generation – and it’s time to examine where we stand. The world of gaming is about to go through yet another transformation, and one of the more intriguing aspects of this era is that the major players have reversed (or altered) roles. But regardless of where Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo currently sit, one can only speculate as to where they’ll sit in five years time.

So, gamer fans, let’s not be pessimistic, let’s not be optimistic, let’s be as real as possible. Which of the three will ultimately succeed and flourish?

Sony PlayStation 3

The PS2 was the undisputed winner of the last generation, and most attribute that to their one-year head-start on the competition, not to mention the gigantic marketing blitz that spanned back to ’99; a blitz that certainly assisted in the ultimate demise of the Sega Dreamcast. There were rumblings that this machine that would be above and beyond what anybody could possibly imagine, and Sony just built on it and built on it and built on it until the game world was in a frenzy. Did it work? Sure did. The PS2 was by far the biggest console launch to date, and Sony went on to ship 111 million consoles worldwide in the next 6 years.

But of course, that tremendous success wasn’t spawned entirely by hype and a head start. Over the course of the generation, the PS2 consistently produced the most diverse library of games, covering most every possible genre, with flagship games for each and every category. Regardless of how often the public can resort to a mindless mass-mentality, don’t underestimate the consumer- if the PS2 hadn’t delivered the software, it wouldn’t have performed half as well as it did. It probably would’ve survived (thanks to the crucial brand-name recognition), but with the surprisingly stiff competition provided by Microsoft’s Xbox, a lack of software would’ve seriously hurt the system.

However, heading into the next generation with the PS3, Sony isn’t quite as well-off as they once were. They’re facing more questions from the corporate viewpoint, as they spent a huge amount on the PS3, thus throwing them $1.7 billion into the red. They also have to prepare for a down-and-dirty dogfight with the Xbox 360, which got the year head-start this time around. Sony knows Microsoft is for real, but the question is, have they also reversed the power trend? Last generation, the PS2 had the least powerful hardware and the Xbox was king of the block, but now, the PS3 supposedly has the edge in terms of raw power.

Regardless of how confident Sony is in their fans, I initially thought that price tag would cause a problem for consumers. However, after a recent survey taken in the U.S., where the vast majority polled said they weren’t totally turned off by the $500/$600 SRPs, I’m reminded of just how much money this country has. I’m also reminded that the average gamer is a lot older than they were entering the PS2 generation, which means they likely have more money. Furthermore, Sony has a chance at finally equaling Microsoft in the online venture. Xbox Live was a superior online service to Sony Online for the PS2, but with the PS3’s capabilities, it should be a closer race.

Looking at the PS3 launch lineup, it appears very similar to most other launches we’ve witnessed. You’ve got one or two potential must-haves, a handful of solid titles, a slew of average ones, and a few cheesy "misses." Last year’s Xbox 360 launch lineup suffered from the delays of Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but ended up coming close to the aforementioned formula. Sony is hoping the PS3’s lineup will feature two "must-haves" in Resistance: Fall of Man and Ridge Racer 7, but questions linger about both. Beyond that, it feels like a pretty standard lineup.

And that’s not necessarily a good thing. Sony really needed something to push their powerful new system as something special. If they only produce a "standard" launch lineup, the rest of the system will appear "standard." And for that price, regardless of what the survey said, consumers may balk. Lastly, given the serious production issues, they’re not exactly off to a running start; the PS3 has been delayed until March in Europe, and that hardly instills one with confidence. In fact, at this point, it almost seems like a difficult uphill climb, especially with Japan taking to the Nintendo Wii like ducks to water.

But in the end, the support is there. The big-name franchises are there. It’s names like Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, Devil May Cry, and Metal Gear Solid that push consoles, and despite some of the aforementioned getting installments on other consoles, they’re more like pseudo-installments. FF fans care about Final Fantasy XIII, and not as much about another Crystal Chronicles or another online FF. There’s a boatload of potential. There’s a fully realized online program – which gets a nice boost from the 40-player battles offered by launch title, Resistance - and as of now, does have a few impressive games supposedly sitting at the ready for 2007.

They’ve got the installed userbase set up by that 100 million-plus, they’ve got the best backwards compatibility setup (and with absolutely giant PS1 and PS2 libraries, this is a major deal), and the bottom line is that the PS3 will be impossible to find for quite some time. Yes, that’s due to production issues, but if Sony meets their expectation of shipping over 1 million PS3s to the U.S. by the end of this year, it also means something else- people want one. Business functions on demand. If PS3s are going for $1500 on eBay, that product is in demand. And if the hottest titles at the tail end of the PS2 (Final Fantasy XII and God of War) can easily be played on the PS3, it’s just another excuse for the gamer to upgrade.

Sony has more stumbling blocks than ever before. The launch isn’t looking as stellar as they – or anyone – might’ve wanted. The competition is ready and willing. But the evidence is clear-

PlayStation 3- SUCCESS

11/3/2006 Ben Dutka

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