Heavy Rain Success: Sign Of Maturity?
Sony and Microsoft are attempting to appeal to about the same age group, but Sony fans will often say older, more mature gamers own the PS3. To back up their point, they will reference the PlayStation Network in comparison to Xbox Live; they'll say the latter has a far greater number of younger gamers and even kids. You will get this on the PSN, of course, but for the most part, you just run into more normal, relatively civil adults. At least, that's the claim.
But perhaps there's a better indicator of maturity for the PlayStation 3. Maybe a better way to gauge maturity is to check software sales numbers; what do people play most on that platform? In my opinion, the best indicator at this time is the success of Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain, which is now expected to exceed 2 million units sold. Originally, Sony wasn't overly confident and didn't predict anywhere near that number and while we can always attribute better sales to high review scores, this sales success does appear to be a solid sign of maturity. To prove it, there's one very specific question we should ask ourselves in regards to the competition: would it have sold as many copies as a 360 exclusive?
The difficulty in this is that the 360 doesn't really have anything like Heavy Rain but perhaps we can mention Alan Wake. I'm playing it right now and unsurprisingly, I really like it a lot; this is my cup of tea. I'm partial to anything when it's clear the designers put a ton of effort into the storyline, atmosphere and overall presentation. Above all else, I believe such factors are the "maturity indicators" of the industry. It may not be similar in regards to gameplay but in terms of targeted audience, I can certainly imagine Heavy Rain fans enjoying Alan Wake. ...and yet, the sales numbers for the latter aren't where they should be. Developer Remedy said the game "has the legs" to push forward, but with only 145,000 copies in the first month, it wasn't looking good.
Granted, the game didn't score quite as high as Heavy Rain, but at about 84% (according to GameRankings), plus the information that it was relatively unique and more cerebral than most titles, one would hope it could've sold more. So, the reverse question would be, might Alan Wake have sold more as a PS3 exclusive? Would it indeed be true to say the PS3 audience is simply more mature on the average? Or, if not "older," perhaps just...more intelligent? Thing is, Quantic Dream is ecstatic and always says how happy they are with their partnership with Sony. If Remedy, or another developer, wanted to make something "cerebral," and they had a choice of platform, would they be better advised to make it for the PS3? The PS3 certainly has more potential to begin with, but that's not my question.
And I'm not answering the question either way. I honestly don't know. Remedy says their game is "a breath of fresh air" (and I agree, especially in regards to the Xbox 360 library) and aren't ruling out a sequel, which I definitely appreciate. So they're willing to stick with it. But Quantic Dream - and other innovative developers like thatgamecompany (Flow, Flower, Journey) - always seem to make one thing clear during interviews: they always say such-and-such project couldn't have been done without Sony's willingness to embrace fresh, creative ideas. So, here's the last question: is Sony willing to do this because they believe the PS3 has the most mature gaming audience of all three consoles?
Or, you could always introduce the hardcore/casual argument, but I'd rather not open up that can of worms.
8/20/2010 Ben Dutka