Can Sony Maintain PS3's Momentum?
If we look back on 2008 and start ticking off the top names of 2009, one will want to assume that the PlayStation 3 has the momentum. Not only does it have the obvious exclusive edge over Microsoft's Xbox 360, but it has several other factors going for it.
It's $200 cheaper than it was upon launch two years ago, the launch of the PlayStation Home open beta is scheduled for this month, Blu-Ray has won the HD movie war (and it's certainly the more preferable software format for games), the PlayStation Network and Store have taken gigantic strides, the machine is far more reliable than the 360, and yes, as we just said, the exclusives have really been impressive. We saw Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Resistance 2, Wipeout HD, SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation, Valkyria Chronicles, and LittleBigPlanet this year and we can expect Killzone 2, God of War III, Gran Turismo 5 (as recent evidence indicates), the recently unveiled Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Heavy Rain in 2009, along with Final Fantasy Versus XIII at some point. Sales are up, Network subscriptions are up, and finally, most third-party developers have gotten over their initial PS3 hang-ups that saw many poor 360-to-PS3 ports. Hence, we'd like to clearly conclude that the PS3 has snagged the momentum away from the competition at this point in time.
However, our big question is whether or not Sony can maintain this momentum. The exclusives will always act as great boosts to the machine's appeal factor, but Microsoft isn't likely to sit on their laurels and let the Network and the Store catch up and pass Xbox Live. Home is a problem for Microsoft as far as I'm concerned, and the free Network that continually receives significant updates is another issue, but the 360 may come with the exclusives in late 2009 and into 2010. Of course, we're all wondering if the 360 is essentially maxed out in terms of potential and what it can do, and at the same time, we wonder how much further the PS3 can go... Is all this Cell hype just more smoke and mirrors, or will we start seeing a significant gap between PS3 and 360 titles in terms of visuals? And what happens if Microsoft continues their policy of simply buying up third-party exclusives? Even if they're only timed exclusives (as was the case with Bioshock), it could pose a recurring problem for Sony, who doesn't believe in the practice.
But before, Microsoft didn't need quite as much money to bribe publishers to keep a game exclusive to the 360 for a while, simply due to the very low user base of the PS3. Now, with the gap very much narrowed, it makes little sense for any publisher to ignore the PS3 at the launch of a game...even Microsoft might not have deep enough pockets to lure a big publisher into timed exclusivity land again. Then again, Gears may be their ace in the hole; the Halo of this generation that insures that Microsoft will always be able to sell 360s. I can't predict the future so this is a legitimate question concerning Sony's current momentum, but I maintain that this momentum isn't an opinion at this point; it's a clear-cut reality.
12/1/2008 Ben Dutka