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Fresh confabulation

Imagine the Possibilities

Sony says PlayStation 3 is intentionally mediocre, calls Xbox 360 names.


In comparison to the Xbox 360 or the Wii, the PlayStation 3 hasn’t been doing all that well in the sales department. It seems people would prefer to pay for a cheaper games console with more fun games on it rather than ‘plan ahead’ with a slightly meatier console for ‘possible’ awesome games.

Unsurprisingly, most people pick a console to play games, not because the hardware rocks – fanboys aside, this has always been the case, and it’s a fairly straight forward concept. For some reason, this logic appears to baffle Sony. Rarely has it been more obvious than this week, with some rather bizarre comments spouting from the mouth of Sony Computer Entertainment’s extraordinarily confident chairman, Kazuo Hirai.

As reported by Eurogamer, Hirai flings shit at the Xbox 360 in the latest Official PlayStation Magazine. “I can’t come up with one word to fit. You need a word that describes something that lacks longevity,” he laughs, hinting at the PlayStation 3’s ‘ten year plan.’

Given the large number of games already on the Xbox 360, plus its active independent developer community (and the ease in which someone can create and sell a game), it’s loaded with longevity. Excusing red rings of death, hardware limitations have never truly been a bottleneck of great games, which is exactly the opposite to what Hirai et al seem to think. If anything, hardware limitations are more inclined to encourage the creation of enjoyable games rather than dull pretty ones. This is when the developers can get over the processing potential of a system and focus more on the gameplay aspect.

But Hirai just keeps firing the arrows, adding that Microsoft has “never had a console that’s been on the market for more than four or five years and we’ve committed to a ten year life cycle, so you do the math.”

Well, let’s briefly do that. The Xbox 360 is Microsoft’s first profitable console, and second overall. The first wasn’t such a hit, but Sony had an iron grip on the console market at the time – the Xbox was more of a guinea pig. Microsoft quickly learned from its original console. Subsequently, it knew what it had to do and proceeded to whip out a winner with the 360, toppling the highly-experienced stalwart that was Sony in the process.

In addition, the Xbox 360 is continually adding more great titles to its long list of existing games. It’s also managing to steal previously PlayStation-exclusives into its line, with developers clearly a little wary of the reduced audience on the PlayStation 3 – not to mention that it’s a royal pain to develop for.

Putting it all together, and the fact that a majority of the good PlayStation 3 games can already be found on the Xbox 360, it doesn’t look like the PlayStation 3 has a particularly shiny future. People are just going to flock to whatever presently provides the most entertainment bang for buck, not something that might one day. Then there’s the community aspect – you’re going to grab the console your friends have so you can play with/against them. What non-Wii console do they all have?

The Bitbag spoke with Microsoft’s Aaron Greenberg for his response to Hirai’s claims, ending on this juicy morsel:

“… I can’t imagine any scenario where the PS3 can catch up with us. In fact, even if you doubled the current PS3 sales and Xbox 360 remained flat, they couldn’t close the gap until 2014.”

Back to the development side of things, Sony has gone so far as to claim that easy development tools, such as those found on the Xbox 360, are a silly idea. I’m not making this up. “We don’t provide the ‘easy to program for’ console that [developers] want, because ‘easy to program for’ means that anybody will be able to take advantage of pretty much what the hardware can do, so then the question is what do you do for the rest of the nine-and-a-half years?” Hirai rhetorically asks Official PlayStation Magazine.

Apparently, Sony has forgotten why its previous PlayStations were so damn popular. What do you do? You set about creating great games – and lots of them, because developers no longer need to continually get their heads around the hardware and convoluted APIs. Surely the gameplay concept isn’t that fruity and exotic.

Is Sony losing touch with gamers? I’ll leave you with the following telling quote from Hirai.

“We want to expand the demographics from just a videogaming audience to something that’s a little bit more massive.”


MyPetMonkey

2009.01.22 08:04

Oh dear…

I have a RROD 360 and now have no plans to change over to PS3.

mcgarnagle

2009.01.22 09:00

Apparently, Sony has forgotten why its previous PlayStations were so damn popular. What do you do? You set about creating great games – and lots of them, because developers no longer need to continually get their heads around the hardware and convoluted APIs.

Actually, the PS2 was apparently a fairly awful system to develop for. Sony had very little historical experience with providing a platform for developers, which contrasts sharply with Microsoft who have been doing it forever. The PS2 had mass support from developers in spite of the horrible platform simply because it was the big thing.

Still the quote is great, because it's the old turn-weakness-into-strength approach - our platform is a pain in the arse to develop for because it's so awesome! AWESOME!

EnthusiasticianNathan Davis

2009.01.22 13:04

Aye, agreed. I didn't mean to imply that PS2 development was easy – just that developers were allowed to explore all aspects earlier in the PS2's life, and either get their head around it or, say, create some in-house libraries. The message I'm getting from Hirai is that Sony is intentionally obscuring certain aspects of the PS3 in order to lengthen its lifespan, thus foisting more research time onto developers rather than letting them grow familiar with the system.

Funnily enough, as far as I can tell, the most challenging issue with the PS3 is dealing with its cores and trying to put them all to good use. Maybe Sony will lob some money this way, too.

Anonymous Gibbon

2009.01.22 17:38

I think Kazuo Hirai just sold me on buying an Xbox360… I was a little torn, but knowing now that Sony's not planning to update their gaming hardware for 10 years just sealed the deal.

Anonymous Gibbon

2009.01.22 18:48

This is nothing new. 3DO anyone?

EnthusiasticianNathan Davis

2009.01.22 23:20

Harsh! Not quite in the same league, but suit yourself.

For those unaware.

Anonymous Gibbon

2009.01.22 23:56

Sony has just enough exclusives(namely:Little Big Planet and MGS4) that I feel a need to buy one sometime in the next couple of years. Will be waiting a bit to see some of the great games to drop in price. The only way I see Sony really dropped the ball is with its backwards compatability game. If there would have been straight emulation across the board, I believe that it would have won this round very easily. There are still ps2 games on the shelves that would have been able to tide people over for a few years and still made Sony money.