Arnold's Press Pause and Rewind: March 25th
So probably the biggest news event of the week was Devil May
Cry 4 becoming a multiplatform release for the PS3, X360 and PC.
Needless to say, the gaming community was in an uproar following
the announcement. On one hand, the PlayStation camp was furious
that they had lost an exclusive, on the other hand the Xbox camp
was happy and quick to wag a finger in Sony's face, and on the
third hand...PC gamers didn't really care at all. Historically,
console ports have never really fared well on PCs and most
recently Capcom's efforts have gone largely ignored (Resident
Evil 4 and Devil May Cry 3), considering how horrible they were.
But to be fair, Capcom did say that the PC version of DMC4 would
be done internally by Capcom, and not outsourced.
While this is a good move for Capcom, whose efforts on the Xbox 360 have paid off really well, this is bad news for Sony, who's losing a big exclusive. Sony needs to continue spending money on the PS3, aside from just advertising and manufacturing the console now. Sony has to start investing into exclusives, even if it means taking a hit. Because if Sony secured Grand Theft Auto IV as even a timed exclusive, that'd allow their userbase to grow considerably. And they'd make up the money invested by having a larger install base of gamers who are buying PS3 software, buying PlayStation Network software, and buying peripherals. On top of that, because the PS3's userbase would increase, developers and publishers would be much more willing in releasing games exclusively for the PS3, without having Sony beg and plead.
Quite frankly, Sony got a little arrogant and they thought that publishers would come to them (as opposed to the other way around) and that they'd *want* to publish their software exclusively on their PS3. But now that the X360 has a userbase of over 10 million gamers, how could any profit-minding publisher ignore that? How could Rockstar ignore the fact that when they publish GTAIV they'll have 25 million to sell it to, as opposed to 10 million? Ken Kutaragi has been accused of not pursuing exclusives and demonstrated the arrogant behavior I mentioned a few sentences back - and now it's come back to bite them.
Namco revealed the new Ace Combat, a franchise that has never seen light outside of a Sony console, for the X360. Thankfully, it seems like Metal Gear Solid 4 and Final Fantasy XIII remain PlayStation 3 titles; but with so many variations of FFXIII approaching, who's to say that one of them won't land on the X360? Likewise, Metal Gear Solid games have always been a timed exclusive for Sony, and MGS4 will likely be no different. But Sony needs to play their cards right; start throwing around those moneyhats in attempts to secure exclusives or timed-exclusives, have that userbase grow, and *then* watch publishers willingly want to publish exclusive titles without being offered incentives -- the incentive will be Sony's large userbase, as it was on the PS2.
Thankfully, Sony's 1st party efforts are arguably the best between Microsoft and Nintendo. God of War has amassed a following so large, that not even Sony could've predicted such success. The MLB games are renown as the very best baseball sims on the market. Resistance has become Sony's "Halo". The slightest mention of Killzone 2 generates more buzz than any other FPS in development. Likewise, the unveiling of Ratchet and Clank had everyone's jaw on the floor. On top of all that, Sony's two largest flagships will undoubtedly be Gran Turismo 5 and Home. Losing such exclusives puts more pressure on Sony's developers to churn out games that aren't just grade-A, but triple-A. Though that doesn't mean Sony can sit back and rely on the strength of their 1st party titles; they do need to start securing exclusives and turning X360 exclusives into multiplatform titles. Because I fear that if the PS3 loses any more support, things may go south for the black beauty.
Additionally, Sony shouldn't continue to bank on Blu-Ray as the driver of sales for the console. Simply put, the very vast majority of people aren't ready to make the switch from DVD to Blu-Ray, just yet. DVD has only seen a notable market presence for 7 years, even though it's been available for nearly 10 now. While yes, DVDs are quite dated when compared to the quality of Blu-Ray, it's still not old enough to be retired. It's nice that Blu-Ray players do play DVDs, but I wouldn't expect a serious penetration of Blu-Ray players and movies into the market for another two or three years.
In the meantime, here's some wishful thinking - a way Sony can drop the price of the PS3 without getting its early adopters pissed off. Drop the 60GB to $500, and offer the early adopters a free 1st party game of choice or a peripheral of choice. There are many ways Sony could figure out who their first buyers were, the easiest one would be to track down earliest PlayStation Network IDs registered. Or if a user doesn't have a PSN ID, have that customer provide another bit of information that Sony could use. Like I said, wishful thinking, and unlikely to happen.
In any case, of all three consoles, I still find myself anticipating PS3 games the most. Sony's 1st party efforts go beyond what I mentioned above, such as Drake's Fortune and that has me very excited. Metal Gear Solid 4, Gran Turismo 5, Final Fantasy XIII, Ratchet and Clank, Little Big Planet, Home, Hot Shots Golf 5, and Ninja Gaiden Sigma are all at the top of my list right now, and there's definitely stuff I forgot.
3/25/2007 Arnold Katayev