Branded Stockholm Syndrome
A Secular Age (5): The Nova Effect

The Battle for the Hardcore

Xbox-vs-playstation2 In the market war for domination between Sony and Microsoft, which console is winning?

We’ve looked quite a lot at the tremendous success Nintendo is enjoying right now on the back of their decision to court mass market “casual” players, using techniques that leave me struggling to resist  saying “I told you so” when I examine the situation. What I haven’t looked at recently is the other side of the marketplace battle – the struggle between Sony and Microsoft for the hearts and minds of the hardcore players.

Now I don’t want to suggest that Nintendo have given up or abandoned the hardcore audience – they are still supporting their popular franchises like Zelda and Super Smash Brothers that don’t really have mass market appeal, but it takes time for Nintendo to produce these games, and even the Nintendo zealots need other games to keep them busy between fixes, which means you need another console on the side. (With hardcore players and Nintendo, either you’ve been sucked in and accept that you will have to have a Nintendo console alongside whatever else you decide to buy, or you hate Nintendo and would never consider buying their machines. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground). The net result is that the market war for hardcore loyalty is essentially a two company race between Sony and Microsoft.

Sony came into this round of the console wars with a huge advantage – a record-breaking 140 million PS2s sold, versus a paltry 24 million units of Microsoft’s freshman green-and-black brick. Unfortunately, this commanding lead gave way to hubris, and Sony’s insistence that they were untouchable helped drive a mass exodus from Sony fandom in favour of Microsoft’s shiny new console. The collapse of the culture of console exclusives, typified by Capcom's shareholder report statement earlier this year (“All major titles launched during the next fiscal year or thereafter will be developed as multi-platform games”) has leveled the playing field, making gaining an early lead even more important this time around. At the time of writing, Sony’s PS3 is coming up on about 15 million units, while the Xbox 360 is enjoying a marginal lead at 19 million units. (The Wii, meanwhile, is approaching 30 million units and still selling briskly).

Last week, Microsoft announced a price drop for the Xbox 360, bringing its cheapest version below the retail price of even the Wii, and Microsoft UK regional director said in respect of this: “We think that for high definition entertainment Xbox is first choice... once you get to the price points we’re now at, the mass market can see the opportunity to step into the HD world.” I particularly like the phrase “for high definition entertainment Xbox is first choice” which translates roughly as “we recognise we have no hope of beating the Wii this season, but we think we can thrash Sony’s PS3.” And they may well be right, unless demand for Blu-ray is increasing faster the sales data suggests. (They are now a more popular purchase than DVD players, I’m told, but this doesn’t say much). More farcical is the claim “the mass market can see the opportunity to step into the HD world” – sure, if they already have a Hi-def television. It looks like about 25% of households in the US have at least one HDTV and I’ve seen 20% quoted as an estimate for HD penetration in Western Europe.

Let me put this bluntly: if you chose to make a high definition videogame console at this point in time, you choose to target a fraction of the market instead of the whole of the market. That will change, over time, but who has the time to wait for consumers to catch up on the household technology when you are engaged in an epic market share struggle with your competitors?

Microsoft’s talk about hitting the mass market with the Xbox 360 is fairly ridiculous – only 18% of consumers buying a HDTV do so in order to connect to a games console according to one source; having the 360 cheaper than the Wii isn’t much of a draw if you have to spend three times as much as the console buying the new TV you need to run it on. I appreciate that the marginally improved graphics on the power consoles practically requires HD to make it look any better, but that just reiterates why banking on a step up in graphics power at this time wasn’t necessarily the best choice. The hardcore gamers are techheads who salivate at the thought of new kit; the mass market are nothing of the kind.

At least talk of the Red Ring of Death has declined.  That’s not to say that the hardware flaw which transforms Xbox 360s into a seven and a half pound brick has gone away, just that people seem to have stopped caring. Microsoft has extended its warranty, but they haven’t to my knowledge fixed the fault which causes this fatal crash. It might even have helped them slightly: it looks like the failure rate was about 15% or so; if you subtract these units from the total number of Xbox 360’s shipped, Microsoft are only about 2 million in the lead, instead of 4 million. Now that’s irony!

But no matter what uncomfortable situation is facing Microsoft right now, Sony’s bright red cheeks can outshine all competitors. It’s embarrassing enough for the multinational corporation that they have squandered away the biggest market lead in the history of videogames, without examining the manifest problems with the PS3 itself.

The main thing I want to draw attention to today is the mediocre quality of the PS3’s operating system. Japanese companies are rarely known for producing great interfaces, to be honest, perhaps because Japanese consumers are happy to learn to use whatever they are given. In the West, the geeks have more demanding standards, and like to attack any company that transgresses their ideals. Next to the 360’s OS, the PS3 seems positively inadequate – and I don’t often say nice things about Microsoft operating systems which, frankly, have a long history of being subpar.

I’m a big fan of older game styles, so I appreciate the PS3 supporting lots of 2D games in its online selection. What I wasn’t expecting was for Sony to fully replicate the experience of playing on an old 8 bit machine by bringing back loading times. Not since the days of the Commodore 64 and the ZX Spectrum have I spent so long waiting for games to ready themselves... Whereas the Xbox 360 downloads and installs demos automatically, the PS3 does neither of these things without first wasting the user's time. When you select a downloaded game, it must first install – a process which can take several minutes – time during which you must impotently sit and watch the progress bar slowly fill up. (At least most Spectrum games treated you to a loading image during this time!)

Without even beginning to dig into the corners of the situation, the poor quality of the PS3 operating system next to the Xbox 360’s surprisingly well-planned effort (it not only installs downloads automatically, it does so even when the machine is playing a game or on standby) has helped many hardcore gamers – even those previously loyal to Sony – to switch that allegiance to Microsoft’s latest console, and for the most part to remain there. Indeed, the reason that noise about the Red Ring of Death is subsiding might be because once the furious ire of the player whose console has self-destructed has passed, the majority still prefer to buy a replacement Xbox 360 if the alternative is buying a PS3.

Plus, may I say that the PS3 is an astonishingly ugly machine, only slightly more attractive than the original Xbox, although doubtless different people have different tastes in this regard.

In the battle for the hearts and minds of the hardcore gamers, Microsoft appears to be winning by a wide margin. With fewer exclusive titles to turn the tide, small extras can make a difference – the bonus downloadable content for GTAIV on 360, for instance. Other analysts say this mega-title did not generate additional hardware sales in the month of its release, but since we're dealing with hardcore players the decision to buy would largely have been executed months prior to the game launch (Microsoft announced the exclusive content at E3 two years earlier, remember). With the players for whom this was a key title, the 360 must surely have had an advantage.

It’s almost indisputably the case that the PS3, with its secret weapon of a built-in Blu-Ray player, maintains better prospects for crossing into the mass market when compared to the Xbox 360 – but remembering that the principle evangelists of any system to the mass market are the hardcore players, Sony’s ability to capitalise upon their sole mass market advantage is going to be severely hamstrung unless they do something to win back hardcore support in the next year or so. Exclusive titles will be vital to this: Metal Gear Solid 4 has already given Sony a burst of extra sales, and LittleBigPlanet may even court some  mass market players, but there's still a lack of breadth to the PS3 exclusives.  Sony may be quite surprised to find the PixelJunk games giving them a boost of appeal with the hardcore players – especially since I hear rumours that a top Sony executive chewed out Dylan Cuthbert's Q-Games for making 2D games. (Personally, I feel PixelJunk Eden is the most interesting game so far on the PS3 – and I don't just mean on PSN).

Despite gaining a crucial lead that could potentially land them in second place (after Nintendo) in this round of the infinite console wars, Microsoft have to be careful. Sony have one other advantage up their sleeve, and that’s the design of their console’s chipset which, much as happened with the PS2, is not being fully leveraged in the current games because it’s too hard to program for, and it takes a while for the programmers to work it out. In a few years time, the PS3 could be outperforming the Xbox 360 in technical terms, leaving Microsoft with the tricky question of whether to replace the 360 in an attempt to jump over Sony’s technical edge (at massive cost to Microsoft, and possibly angering the fans if it is done too soon), or whether instead to limp on through this console cycle... Honestly, though, I find it hard to believe that any step up in graphical quality (which is likely what is entailed) would be enough to turn the tide in Sony’s favour if they’ve already yielded the loyalty of the hardcore audience to Microsoft.

The battle is far from over, and Sony have more up their sleeve right now than Microsoft appear to be able to muster, but by stealing hardcore loyalty from their market rivals, Microsoft has gained an edge that could allow them to give Sony a seriously bloody nose this time around. But if it came to 360 versus Wii in a battle for the mass market, Microsoft should save their warchest and call it quits – it may be the hardcore gamer’s ideal machine right now, but even in a dream scenario the 360’s installed base is probably going to top out at about 40 million (not coincidentally, roughly the size of the installed base of Sony’s hardcore-friendly PSP handheld).

 The Wii might not have the legs to beat Sony’s 140 million PS2’s, since that was the consequence of a convergence between gamer hobbyist and mass market support which doesn’t exist now that the console manufacturers have torn the market dynamic into two very different halves, but with a good tailwind it could match or exceed the 75 million DS handhelds Nintendo have sold. I suspect it will outsell the 360 by 2:1, perhaps 3:1.

And the PS3? It’s final unit sales may depend more on the uptake of the Blu-ray format than anything else, so at least it will help Sony with the promotion of their media format, even while it teaches the multinational the lesson the N64 taught Nintendo: you still have to be nice to people when you get to the top, as it’s a long way down...


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As a pure hardware play, the PS3 is to my mind much superior to the Xbox... in particular because it doesn't sound like a jet engine taking off in my living room whenever I turn it on. The lack of an unwieldy and hot external power supply is also notable.

Of course the game here (heh heh) is won or lost with software, and that is where Sony has failed to a large degree. Microsoft has only done a bit better. And it's really too bad that you have to listen to the jet engine to play all those Microsoft exclusives.

Hey, just to point out I'm a hardcore yet middle ground on Nintendo in general. If the Wii ever has a game that makes me want one badly enough, I'd happily get it. I was hoping NiGHTS could be it, but alas no. I also have a DS.

My 360 Elite RROD'd 2 weeks ago but it's already been replaced so it wasn't too much hassle. In fact I get some slight benefits out of transferring my USA model to a UK one (as well as some loss, but overall it wasn't worth sending it back to the States, although I was impressed MS offered me all the options and were incredibly knowledgeable and open about it).

XBox Live is the best thing about the 360 though IMO.

THE DESIGN IS UGLY ??????? but it is very well implemented, it gives the black widow good airflow(thats why its oval shaped) and superior quality, ive noticed the power supply is embeded unlike MS console it is a brick u have to carry around, .. The black widow has an edge in this aspect. at the end it does not matter how it looks it matters how it was built to take on any flaw anyother console might have...................

I think the 360 is winding down and the PS3 is gaining speed. There's very little chance that those two factors will let the 360 "win" this generation, especially considering they only have a 4 million console lead. The PS3 will also be relevant longer than the 360. I think these sorts of things are more important to hardcore gamers than 2d classics and the install process.

I don't agree with this article one bit, its obvious the author of this article is a microsoft fanboy. I disagree with the whole "got to reach the hardcore gamers" argument. They don't have much effect on the sales like you think truth be told. In the end, the ps3 is built to last a hell of a lot longer which when the life of the 360 begins to wane the ps3 will come alive as it is now. Honestly I don't have a clue what hardcore gamers you are talking about because if you ask me the real hardcore gamers seem to be buying the Wii as it is crushing the market right now. Hardcore gamers are people who love videogames whether it has good graphics or not, there more open minded to the game itself. You seem to be talking about people who aren't really into games, but people into the console war itself. You have to understand that Microsoft is doing fairly well in America but that is it, why don't look at the rest of the world, the ps3 outsells the 360 just about everywhere in the world except America (hmm must be because this is Microsoft's home turf and they have an easier marketing job here than anywhere else). Then you must also not forget that the 360 was out a year longer than the ps3 so when the next gen system arrived first, people were to impatient for the Wii and Ps3 that they bought the 360, they couldn't wait, that is why a lot of people have 2 or sometimes all 3 now because they bought the other ones later. You can't compare the sales of the 360 to the ps3 anyway because of the length of time the 360 had over the ps3, but in all truth the ps3 is actually outselling the 360 in the relative to release date hardware sales, meaning that the ps3 sold more systems in the same time period that the 360 did when looking at actual time periods, not overall obviously because 360 was out longer. So it really isn't fair what you are saying. And on the exclusive titles, the ps3 has a ton of exclusives even considering the fact that Sony lost alot to multiplatform sales. In fact the ps3 has more exclusives, the 360 has only a few big name titles and thats about all they can do, all your going to see is Microsoft building up on the few name games they have, in other words look at how many damn sequels they release, because they aren't an innovative company, they don't know how to come up with anything new. Microsoft is to damn lazy, so they use their money and attack Sony's exclusives, its ridiculous. If you think about it, ironically Sony made the 360 as popular as it is today because of all the games and developers that the 360 stole off of Sony, if the Ps3 sold better in the beginning than most developers wouldn't have went multiplatform meaning that the 360 would probably be way behind right now. And I won't even touch on Blu ray because I am sure if you have common sense you can figure out that bigger discs mean bigger and better games. One final thing is that, only in America will you see stupid people actually so brainwashed that they continue to buy Microsofts product even after 3 or more RROD episodes. Only in America folks, sorry but I want to buy from a company I trust and one that cares about consumers a little more than that, that they actually have good working systems. So I will be playing the Ps3 and Wii and while you Microsoft fanboys trade in your systems every few months, looks like Microsoft got you right where they want you. P.S. If any hardcore gamers left the Ps3 completely for Microsoft than do me a favor and Never comeback to Sony.

I think the 360 will come in second. Sony's hardware might be superior, but without the support for software it is merely a great Blu-Ray player. Considering the PS3 is $400 and the standalone blu-ray player is now less than $300 and declining, the value of the PS3 is now diminished. The sales increase of PS3 as a blu-ray player is now quickly declining.

The fact that the 360 is now cheaper and more powerful than the Wii will give it a leg up especially if there is another Wii shortage this Christmas.

i find the ps3 to be somewhat supperior to the 360. the 360 is a good machine but wi microsofts sudden change to "MASS MARKET FRIENDLY" software makes me wonder "WTF" i dont understand how a company most famus for hardcore games like halo 3 (wich i LOVE) gears 1&2 can just turn the ship around and offer all these stupid things like LIPS and that stupid camara APP that wat displayed at e3. honestly i find the ps3 to be the one that wins not in the units sold or in the mass market addoptation but sony wins by far in the software this year and in '09 iam sorry but the only thing the 360 has going for it is those JRPGS and gears 2. cmon the ps3 has LBP R2 killzone 2 socom confrontation. sony is finally cachting up in terms of software. and with this new video store in a reply to microsofts supscription based netfilx offereing i prefer my PS store. with show and movie offerering that i pay for what i want not on what i "Might want" i prefer the pay for what you want type of service than a supscription. live is a great service dont get me wrong but for the price of a new game its frankly very stupid. sony's approach is alot more interesting to a person going threw their best buy looking to buy a tv. or for entertainement devices. i always recommend a PS3 to be purchased with a new HDTV its great for the kids its great for the teen and its great for the parents. i connot really recommend the 360 unless its for a teens bedroom. in wich most teens prefer a PS3 since its more expensive and cmon they love to show it off to their friends. and with all of sonys offerings this year and in '09 i think that the ps3 will come out on top for hardcore gamers. but on hardware i am not very sure.

thanks for your time
and sorry if it seems like a rant but its my opinion

software? the black widow has a beter line up even if they got FF and GTA, games like god of war and twisted metal kilzone etc

Brad, I seriously doubt Chris is a Microsoft fanboy. You, however, sound like an incoherent, ranting Sony fanboy.

Sorry, that's just "my opinion" :)

I'm not sure if the author has a PS3. That, or maybe they're not a game. I've had a PS3 since mid-2007 and it is seriously phenomenal. It has some great exclusives (and not just MGS4 and Eden - Eden as the most interesting thing on PS3? Anyone who puts Eden ahead of Uncharted, WipEout HD, Super Stardust HD has a pretty warped sense of fun!) As for technical superiority, some games are showing it now - while I don't have a 360, it was pretty much consensus that CoD4 was the same on both systems, and the best-looking game to date. Uncharted (clearly), MGS4 (marginally) and WipEout HD (unbelievably) both out-do it in technical terms. And the argument that the time it takes to install a game or demo downloaded from the PSN store is why gamers are leaving for the 360? That's a very minor part of an interface that is generally seen to be as good, and in many ways better (PSN store, for instance) than that of the 360. Arguing that this is one of the reasons people are shifting from Sony to Microsoft is stretching it, to say the least. Indeed, the overall quality of this article is more than a little questionable.

As a PS - the loading times are only long for large games. Eden and Stardust, for example, download and install pretty quickly (connection speed notwithstanding). If the author is complaining about download (and downloading _can_ be done in the background) and install times for R&C:Quest for Booty or Siren:Blood Curse, then it should be compared to however long it takes to dump a full DVD game onto the 360 Hard Drive, and whether it's possible to still play games while this happens. Again, it's not clear whether the author has more than passing experience with the PS3.

The article does have some valid points, but personally I think the longevity of the PS3 will push it ahead of the 360. I like both machines, but I have had the 360 RRoD on me (thankfully it was replaced in warranty), but if I would have had to pay further to get it replaced I probably would have gotten a PS3 right then, trading or selling all my 360 stuff, and cutting my losses. Xbox LIVE is really good, and I paid for it once (for a year), but honestly I would rather have the extra game or whatever. I don't like feeling like I have to play on LIVE all the time "to get what I paid for", besides I have other things to do, and when I can only squeeze in game time, here and there, it just didn't feel like a sound investment. With PS3 if I want to play online, I can (as much or as little as I want), and not feel ripped off when I can't. Right now almost all multi-platform games I get are for PS3, because of that reason alone, because I can get online gaming that isn't a commitment. As for the rest I get games for the Wii, and 360 that I want to check out (that only come out on those systems), but the longevity I see in the PS3. I don't consider myself a "hardcore" gamer, even though I enjoy some of the games targeted at that audience, I would call it a "true" gamer, because I enjoy all kinds of games (with only one criteria), if I'm having fun with it. It doesn't matter what it looks like, or what system it's on, or what reviewers say, if I'm having fun with it (based solely on personal preference), they'll get my money.

This is a thoroughly misinformed article. I wonder if the author has any idea of what he's talking about when he's comparing Operating Systems of both machines. Ask any university of visual design and they would choose Sony's multi-purpose and easy to navigate interface, rather than going for the shiny and overblown Microsoft one, which commits almost every mistake you learn in your first year. (Probably that's why they are changing the design entirely). All of which doesn't even have ANYTHING to do with the Operating System at all.

I have no idea how anyone can claim that XBOX 360's OS has more features. Really. I am baffled.

Didn't read all comments but I believe one thing's for sure, at this point, the Internet is full of PS3 fanboys while 360 fanboys on the Internet stopped caring. You just need to look in any multi console website, it's flooded with PS3 fanboys defending the worst company in the world (in terms of promises and arrogance)

@ David - there was no defence of Sony going on in my response, just a critique of an averagely written and poorly researched and argue article. I actually think the 360 has some great games and when reliable, a good piece of kit (although I wouldn't buy a launch edition!), I just think that the article above is a bit rubbish. I'd have both consoles already if the PS3 didn't keep me busy enough (still crossing fingers for a lottery win so I can be a full-time gamer!)

@David, for me "fanboys" that stopped caring others say is a symptom of submission, ignorance and resignation.

And what is a "worst company in the world"? For me is a company that doesn't care about his customers shipping faulty hardware (and historically software) hoping that submission, ignorance and resignation could drive its sales.

I discounted his opinion after reading that not only does he think the blades are superior to the PS3's XMB (proper lol), be he also thinks PS3 is ugly.

More MS FUD people, and should be thrown down with the rest of the flame bait this stupid console war has excited.

Why is it that Americans get all fired up when the X360 gets dissed? It's something I've been noticing lately. Quite frankly I rather the PSN over Xbox LIVE. I'm most likely going to be buying an X360 in the near future to play some of their exclusives rather than their blatant rip-offs of PS3 exclusives (why the hell are they doing this random singing game anyway? Most people would know by now that SingStar already has a much broader fanbase, they won't be able to touch it...and then there's the EyeToy rip-off as well....for once stop thinking with the money and use some originality and imagination for once ffs), and from personal experience on some other M$ games, eg. Halo, I don't think the overall community on Xbox LIVE is going to be respectful. Please prove me wrong. And plus theres the joining fees, and the fact there's only 4 or 5 games I'm probably going to actually enjoy. This is entirely my opinion, and if you put me down as a PS3 fanboy I will not care because admittedly I am. However, that's only because none of Sony's consoles have broken down yet....

i`m a fanboy, your a fanboy ...

everybody`s a fanboy. unless you are one of those sunlight loving casuals or non-gamers you see walking down the street.

somebody could make a broadway musical about this. maybe an off-broadway production would be better.

we can see who is winning the sales war/s (i am including the war for second as an interesting question - if you include the handhelds, it becomes the battle for 4th). but who has the more hardcore? it is even atm, but that price cut ... xbox for the win, unless ps3 trumps it with an equivalent pricecut. quickly.

guess i am not hardcore ... i have put off getting either power console for this long.

Really, all these comments above me are crappy..... no one stops to use a brain before typing and insulting the article, please calm yourselves down and do somemore research before coming to a conclusion that either a) microsoft sux because bla bla blah or b) sony sux because bla bla bla....

I find it hilarious when the Sony stalwarts come out in droves. I seriously would like to peek into the alternate reality you live in where "the 360 is winding down and PS3 is picking up" -- Seriously? I know maybe two people with a PS3, and they both hate it. They spend most of their time playing Blu-rays, and then come over to my house to play Gears of War or Halo or Call of Duty (because all their friends play on XBL not PSN).

I'd also like to see how you envision the PS3 eventually "taking the lead"? How can you expect a system that isn't relevant now to be relevant a few years from now? Sony has made virtually every mistake in the world with the PS3, and yet somehow you see all that changing. Its sad you can count your exclusives on one hand, and really, out of them the only two truly unique games that come to mind are MGS4 and Uncharted, both of which are fine, fine games that I have beaten -- but, two games does not a system make.

I have a PS3 and frankly I'm pretty fed up with it. I have three friends on PSN, and like 80+ on XBL. There are almost no new games for me to play on the system. My harddrive is getting full from the mandatory installs on several games.

Why is that people say MS is money hungry? Sony shipped you a trojan horse that has a Blu-ray drive just so you could support Blu-ray in their format war -- and also so you could pay $600 for it. PS3's CHEAPEST model is still twice the price as 360's cheapest, and what do you get for your money? An inferior online service. An inferior lineup of games, and an inferior set of services being offered by a company who simply doesn't even understand what made the PS2 an accidental success in the first place.

Sony has no idea what they are doing. The PS2 was a total accident in terms of success, and Sony's constant stumbles this generation show that they can not replicate it. They thought that anything with "PlayStation" written on it would continue to lead the industry, and though they still seem to have some blind followers (as evidenced here) -- I think most people have seen the 360 as the true "successor" to PS2 in terms of software library.

In any case, enjoy your two or so exclusives you are getting this year (lets see, Little Big Planet, which is a great idea on the wrong platform seeing as how its "everything for everyone" scope is limited to just those who own a PS3) and Resistance 2 (a sequel to a really subpar game).

"I seriously would like to peek into the alternate reality you live in where "the 360 is winding down and PS3 is picking up" -- Seriously"

Never heard of Europe then, or that little island called Japan?

Fact is, whilst Sony have dropped the ball in a huge way this gen, PS3 has already passed 360 in two of the three major territories, that's despite the huge price difference and the year head start.

360 has done a tremendous job of capitalising on Sony's early screw ups, and that's why - despite their horrendous hardware problems - they've attracted a ferociously loyal core fan base.

No gamer in their right mind would argue that either company has a bad Christmas line up ahead of them, Sony have just released the amazing Wipeout HD, and they of course have Resistance 2 and LittleBigPlanet as their tent pole games this Christmas, whilst MS have Gears 2 and Fable 2, and I'll be enjoying all of them.

The industry can only benefit from strong competition, and whilst I make no bones about the fact that I'm a bigger fan of PS3 than 360, having such strong competitors is great for everyone.

Japan's relevance in the big picture has been on the decline in the past decade. Europe and North America are substantially larger markets and overall sales have been on the decline in Japan (other than a handful of franchises).

Even many Japanese developers have realized this and began shifting their strategies to something other than "screw everyone who isnt from Japan".

As for Europe, I wouldn't call that a success story for Sony, either. Sony was already deeply entrenched in most of Europe prior to the 360's launch, and despite the absurd supposed loyalty for Sony over there, Microsoft has gained substantial ground in mosts countries in Europe. More sales for Xbox = Less sales for Sony. I would also say that brand loyalty will only go so far, and though it may have netted PS3 some decent sales in Europe, it is still largely irrelevant in North America, and becoming less relevant in Japan (those people just can't buy enough of Nintendo's crap it would seem).

I would again say that I fail to see this place there Sony will remain relevant. Other than a few blips here and there for LBP and Resistance, Sony just doesnt stack up well.

I think MS will surprise everybody by lauching the next Xbox in 2010. It will be impossible for Sony to follow suit without at least a 2-3 year delay, although Nintendo probably will.

At that point, the 360 will be priced around $150, and will thump the PS3 in terms of sales, just like the PS2 is destroying the 360 in terms of sales.

"I would again say that I fail to see this place there Sony will remain relevant. Other than a few blips here and there for LBP and Resistance, Sony just doesnt stack up well."

Well obviously I disagree. Europe is now the biggest gaming market, and 360 has failed to gain any sort of traction in key territories, which has pretty much forced the recent round of heavy price cutting, because in markets like Germany, France and Italy, 360's figures have been in free fall for months now.

I don't know if you follow the NPD's, but Sony has had far from a bad year in North America, outselling 360 for many months of the year, with most months seeing sales neck and neck.

It's funny you call European support of PS3 'absurd', as that's how many people see 360 supporters who have been through two or three machines, but keep going back asking for more. I appreciate that you (and many others) love the whole Xbox thing so much, that you just see that as an unfortunate side effect of owning a great games machine, but for the non hardcore market, they really don't stand for it, and I've had many casual gaming friends switch from 360 to PS3, simply because they were sick of the buy - repair - break cycle. It's worth noting that the 360 build quality has got a lot better, but certainly in some territories, the damage has been done.

You also have to bear in mind that in key markets of Europe (like Germany for example) PC gaming is still huge, so that knocks many of 360's big releases off the slate, as most people there would rather buy stuff like Gears, Mass Effect and Bioshock on PC.

You also have to look at the first party releases. I've just come off a 3 hour Wipeout session, and for me, that validates the price of the machine itself, whilst I haven't even finished Halo 3 yet. That's not a slight on Halo 3, I'm just saying it's not the sort of game that floats my boat, but stuff like Wipeout, Uncharted, Ratchet and Clank and Little Big Planet is what sells me the system, I'm just not a huge FPS fan.

Ultimately there's more than enough room for both machines, they both have their strengths and weaknesses, and their strong and weaker territories, but as a gamer, I think you're only going to be hurting yourself if you stick to one machine purely because of brand loyalty. Crackdown is still one of my favourite games this gen, even though I generally prefer Sony's stuff.

Ultimately, I don't see any reason to cheer for the demise of either machine, sure, we all have our favourites and that's fine, but the more choice the better, right?

I would agree that more competition is generally better. Microsoft wouldn't work as hard as it does to secure good games and it wouldnt update its featureset if not for competing with Sony.

Its hard to call Europe "gaming biggest market" because its not a singular market. Its many countries and within each country some pretty different people with different tastes. I actually think both Microsoft and Sony do your region (I am assuming, anyway, you are in a PAL region) great injustice by pretending you are all part of a big conglomerate of sameness. Not to mention the delay and price hikes that have become common. I'm surprised anyone over there will have anything to do with either company.

Ironically, I just had to send in my launch Xbox 360. It comes back tommorow, and I shipped it off last Monday, so a week turnaround isnt too terrible.

Before you jump the gun, remember that MANY MANY PS2's suffered from a disc read error issue that Sony would not acknowledge for close to two years! Sony would not cover it under warranty, and wanted absurd amounts of repair dollars to fix it. So, this ended up in me paying full price for three seperate PS2s. My launch unit, which failed after about six months. I called Sony, they told me to pretty much get over it because I must have done something terrible to my console to cause it and it was not a design flaw, and because I already had many PS2 games, I bought another PS2. This time I bought a store warranty from Circuit City. This PS2 crapped out in three months, and Circuit City replaced it. The new one failed in four or so months and Circuit City would not replace it again, so I bought ANOTHER PS2. It never did fail, so perhaps by then Sony had fixed the problem. It wasnt until another six months had passed that Sony stepped forward and offered to repair them.

I know the RROD issue is a big deal, and honestly, if my 360 had broken in the time period before the warranty extension, I likely would have risen pitchfork and torch with the rest of you. However, as chronicled above, it is not my undying love for Microsoft that makes me stick with 360 despie them having to replace mine this week. It is the game library. PS2 had the best game library that I needed to have access to, so I did what I needed to keep that going despite the console being designed poorly. My 360 lasted me nearly three years, which I am well aware is the exception and not the rule, but the whole repair/replace process was very easy and fast and free. Microsoft at the very least stepped forward and offered the three year warranty on all systems, which is really above and beyond what anyone expected.

I respect the PS3, but honestly, I just cant see it as anything but a Sony blunder in terms of their philosophy for pricing, design (IMO -- Blu-ray should not have been made a core part of the system), and their utter inability to supply a steady stream of games. Microsoft really has delivered on great games, and in the past year I have only MGS4 and Uncharted to look back on on my PS3.

@ dj i/o. maybe iam a bit biased but i dont care if you disagree with me i payed for a $600 black box so DAM right iam gonna like it you bought your machine too so i do expect you to like it like i said "its my opinion" i dont want you to like infact its in all your rights to dislike it. but when you insult me for what i belive, that my friend is just another arogant asshole who thinks only in himself so before you respond to this i ask WTF DO I CARE i dont give a shit about what you think

and thats "my opinion"

The price of the 360 is irrelevant specifically since its a stripped down system with almost everything good taken away. The arcade has nothing no hard drive, no HDMI capability so that means no HD capabilities, also means no wifi for any standard system which the adapter if there hasn't been any changes was $100. All of the things they strip away from the core makes all the difference. What can you dl off of the live market place with 256mb? What if your room is faraway from the router? It would cost you a damn good 400+ if you want wifi HDMI and a Hard drive. But then hey guess what you dont have any Disc based HD format available. The staying power of the 360 is very nill in terms of raw power and innovation. So where was the crowd that the 360 was meant to target? Any long term plans? Doesn't seem like it. Seems as if microsoft only planned maybe at best 4 years ahead because that's there cycle to change for them. I have personally the PS3 and Wii, I am also a very hard core sony fan, but I do like the 360 its a "ok" system, not that PS3 is with out its faults. But hey Why would I want to nearly 500+ to get nearly the same specs as the PS3 just to get an RROD and play the few AAA titles they have such as Halo and Fable. I don't see myself doing such, but it is nice to play on the 360. In turns of the Console wars it just started we can speculate but it's who comes out in the end is the deciding factor.

It amazes me how much people strive to find the right answer for this console war stuff. Only time will tell. Last gen ps2 won by sales but didnt have any games i personally like. FYI gamecube was for me. This gen the wii will probably win in sales but has no games that interest me being a part of the "hardcore crowd". FYI its 360. Who knows perhaps Microsoft may win the next gen and i'll be playing a ps3 or if i live long enough a ps4. In the end why do people care which one gets more sales, i personally care about the games coz most of the time thats what you do with one of these games on them. Go where the games (that you like) take you! Or upgrade you pc so that ur uber pr0 and have like the bestest looking gamez eva!

"I respect the PS3, but honestly, I just cant see it as anything but a Sony blunder in terms of their philosophy for pricing, design (IMO -- Blu-ray should not have been made a core part of the system), and their utter inability to supply a steady stream of games. Microsoft really has delivered on great games, and in the past year I have only MGS4 and Uncharted to look back on on my PS3."

As I see it, what happened with PS3, is that Ken Kutaragi was given free reign with the design, and created a monster. Games were designed as just one of PS3's functions, it was principally designed to be a future proofed multi-media and network centre for the home. Basically, they took the eye of the ball gaming wise, and ended up launching with a decent set of launch titles, but with very little to follow that up.

They let exclusives like GTA4 get away, and the machine was so radically different inside, that many third parties struggled to deliver multi format games up to the standard of the 360, and on top of that, their own internal studios had been spread so thin with PS2 and PSP, that they simply didn't have enough resources to supply PS3 with a constant supply of exclusive games.

Throughout all this, they had the temerity to be arrogant with it. The whole "next gen doesn't start until we say it does" stuff rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, their pre-rendered demo's didn't help matters (although I'd say the final look of Killzone 2 is closer than anyone expected) and of course the 599.99 tag sat like a black cloud over anything PS3 related.

That's what they did wrong.

Roughly two years ago now, Ken Kutaragi stepped down, and in the face of sluggish sales and a crippling price point, Kaz Hirai stepped in, and has turned the tide. Aside from getting the price point under control, he repositioned the console as first and foremost, a gaming device, and I really think we're now seeing the fruits of that. I'm no big fan of lists, but this Christmas period and Spring, PS3 has got a strong set of exclusives:

Resistance 2
Motorstrom 2
Wipeout HD
Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty
Disagea 3
Killzone 2
The Agency
DC Universe Online
White Knight Story
Singstar & Buzz Updates
The Punisher: No Mercy
Final Fantasy Versus XIII
Yakuza 3

.. and then you've got some more great PSN games such as Fat Princess, Flower, Crash Commando etc.

Compare that to the situation last year, and I think you'll agree, PS3 owners have a lot more to crow about.

The decisions which led to PS3's excessive price point, can be debated until the cows come home. We're already hearing developers like Id say that they're having to work around the storage limitations of 360, and as I expect these machines to be on the market for another 5 years, I think Blu Ray may yet prove to be a good investment. You've also got a built in hard drive and wireless, something you have to pay through the nose for on 360, and even stuff like the play and charge kit and of course online access, all comes free with PS3, so whilst the price of entry may be higher with PS3, so is the value you're getting.

I also buy all multi-format releases on PS3, for the online access and the fact that it's a lot quieter than 360, so for you PS3 doesn't have many games, but on my shelf I've got 27 PS3 games and I think about 5 360 games, so it really depends which machine is your main gaming machine.

Anyhoo, I rarely dip my toe in the console debate to be honest, I've been gaming for close to twenty years, so I've seen Commodore vs Spectrum, Sega vs Nintendo, Sony vs Microsoft..... gamers vs Wii :) and all it ever means is we've got great machines on the market, delivering a variety of experiences. The only thing we don't want to see happen, is a Sony, Microsoft or Nintendo led monopoly, especially with the future looking more and more like it's going to be digital distribution led. With no second hand market, and rampant DRM, we desperately need competition to keep the big three manufacturers honest.

@ Alex

Sorry, dude but, your wrong, at lest on one point the X360 Arcade version does have HD function. My son has one and it connects via an HDMI cable to his HD tele. The point about the HD is valid, things are just far too big to down load without one, But eh the arcade version is entry level for folks that are not so well off and mybe don't have broadband anyway and just want a cheap console for their kids to play without on-line.

BTW I have all three and IMO the 360 is the best. Their are simply not enough games that I want to play on the PS3 at the moment. Although I have to say the LBP is the game I'm most looking forward to, it looks the nuts! lets hope more developers copy this idea of letting us be more creative...That's exactly why the Sims has always been so popular!!!

@david. i couldn't agree more, finally a decent unbiased opinion on the whole thing. Very good point about the no second hand market and drm issues. We are already getting a taste of digital distribution with XBLA, PSN and Wiiware. However what does this mean for retailers? Will they all pack up shop? I'm not so sure. I mean i'm typing in a virtual newspaper right now and they're still around?

I think Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have all made deals with the big retailers for the foreseeable future to ensure the longetitivty of retail disc releases. Also, whilst broadband acceptance is on the rise, we are still in a period of time where less than half of the people who buy a next-gen console ever even connect it to the internet. Last I checked, Xbox 360 was at about 50% of all console owners connecting to Xbox Live at least once.

Also, as technology progresses, file sizes will only get bigger. I think it is premature to look to an age where we get all our games online and never go to the store. Consoles are designed to be accessible and the non-gamers simply won't stand for sitting around three hours while the new hot game downloads and installs -- this is why they do not play games on their PC.

However, once broadband picks up in acceptance and speed, and more people realize the online awareness of their consoles -- and I'm talking a good ten years from now -- perhaps we'll start seeing the gaming retailers have something to worry about.

As for David -- I feel like we have both expressed the points we wished to make and I feel like theres no point in continuing. You obviously are a sharp guy and you know your stuff; I doubt either of us will convince the other to see things our way, so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

In the end, we all win, because it sure is a good time to be a gamer.

It's all good mate, and I think we've both expressed our points well enough.

I honestly don't know what the future holds re- digital distribution. It's hard to imagine places like Gamestop just vanishing, I mean it's not as if CD stores have disappeared in the wake of iTunes, but then music isn't platform specific, and if they continue the business model they currently have with PSN/Arcade/WiiWare, then the idea is clearly to have a game shop plugged into your console 24/7, with the console manufacturers being the gate keepers.

To be honest, whilst I think future generations will giggle at us for once relying on these little shiny discs, I simply don't like the idea of not owning a physical product, which I can see, feel and play, without the reliance of a net connection, or being bound by some draconian drm.

On top of that, I think it'll be sad going into the high street and not being able to browse cd's, dvd's or games and coming home with the odd surprise bargain. Don't we live enough of our lives in front of a screen? Personally I'm always grateful for a day in town, and - sad though it may sound - one of the highlights is browsing the entertainment stores.

I maintain it will be a long time off until we see a complete switch to digital distribution. The broadband infrastructure just isn't strong or flexible enough on a world wide level, to justify abandoning physical media, and as Jeremy rightly points out, games are only going to get bigger in size, so broadband has to match that, and for it to work on any sort of successful level, ISP's need to scrap the current download caps imposed on customers. My ISP caps me at 20gb, so I'd only be able to download half of MGS4 in a month lol

Anyhoo, it's coming, but I think it will remain an option to physical media for a long time to come, and not a flat out replacement.

That's the thing... Everyone that buys a PS3 it's, even in some unconscious level, a sony fanboy... They had a PS1, a PS2 and now a PS3... And will have a PS4... Independent of hardware they will always take Sony... And the best? None of them will never accept any quality of 360... Even the tiny thing nothing it's better than sony's. But that's ok... I have both systems and i like and dislike things in both of them but i have to agree that sony it's really down on me lately... The list of games for this year on 360 it's better... And i really hope that next year we can turn the table for sony!

Dear all,

We had about a thousand extra visitors this weekend. Lively discussion, although tumbling into partisan psychology all too often, as perhaps was inevitable. Far too many responses for me to comment on them all, so I'll just make a few key points.

Firstly, I'm not saying the Xbox 360 has beaten the PS3, just that the Xbox 360 has an edge with the hardcore gamers at the moment, and that Sony have a lot to do to turn this around. I'm not saying they can't, but they haven't yet. And to be clear, in terms of sales figures the Wii has a vast lead so all this fighting is about second place - *second place* - it's not even "FTW" as the internet likes to say. :)

Secondly, there are many different aspects of the OS for the two machines, but the way the PS3 handles demos is clearly inferior to the way the 360 handles them. By all means pick out whatever aspects of the two OS' you like or dislike, but when I find myself sat in front of my PS3 waiting 7 minutes for a demo to install I scratch my head and wonder "what was Sony thinking?!"

I'm sure if the PS3 is pushing your buttons you can ignore this kind of faux pas, but as someone who is getting more from the downloads than from the PS3 games on disc, it stands out to me as an unnecessary irritation.

A few specific points...

Rik: "Hey, just to point out I'm a hardcore yet middle ground on Nintendo in general. If the Wii ever has a game that makes me want one badly enough, I'd happily get it."

Interesting! The middle ground is so often invisible, because the partisans make the most noise. Glad to hear there *is* a middle ground out there! :)

noname: "its obvious the author of this article is a microsoft fanboy"

LOL! This is the perhaps the funniest thing I've read in my comments ever. :D I have a PS3 but I do not have an Xbox 360, neither am I likely to buy a 360 any time soon. If I am a Microsoft fanboy, I am not very good at it!

Axe99: "Anyone who puts Eden ahead of Uncharted, WipEout HD, Super Stardust HD has a pretty warped sense of fun!"

Anyone who puts Uncharted, WipEout HD and Super Stardust HD ahead of Eden has a pretty warped sense of what's "interesting"! :)

It's clear to me that you play games for fiero, the feeling of triumph over adversity, and these games push your buttons. But I wasn't saying Eden was more fun than these other games (although for me, it certainly is) but that it was more *interesting*. This word for me implies something new and unexpected.

Uncharted is a platform adventure with gunplay. I was originally enthusiastic about buying it, but as it became more and more apparent that it was about the gunplay and not the platform adventure, it ceased to be interesting to me (and totally failed to keep my wife's attention), and I soon gave up.

I have never enjoyed a WipEout game, so I can't imagine I will be starting now, and I am extremely sceptical that a sequel can be that interesting - although I don't doubt you can get your kicks from it.

And as for Super Stardust HD, I actually have enjoyed this, despite being a twin sticks shooter - the stock-in-trade for downloadable shooters these days. But really, it's no more interesting than the many other twin stick 2D shooters that litter the downloads of both machines.

Eden, on the other hand, is really different from anything I've seen before - even other 2D platformers. It's a genuinely original game, and nothing on the PS3 thus far is really as interesting (in the sense I am using the word). Without pushing the discussion away from interest and into fiero, can anyone name something on the PS3 that's more interesting than Eden?

Jeremy: Thanks for your well-measured comments.

"Japan's relevance in the big picture has been on the decline in the past decade. Europe and North America are substantially larger markets and overall sales have been on the decline in Japan (other than a handful of franchises). Even many Japanese developers have realized this and began shifting their strategies to something other than 'screw everyone who isnt from Japan'."

This is a spot on observation. For a long while, the Japanese home market was lively enough that Japanese developers could develop for the home market and everything would be fine. But then the numbers started to slip - and now it's not all plain sailing for the Japanese companies.

As you say here, most have realised that to get the sales figures they have to appeal to the US market - if I had to cite one factor behind the redesign of Resident Evil 4, it would be the need to make the franchise more relevant for the export markets, and for the US in particular.

Microsoft will never do very well in Japan, but then, it's not a priority market for them. But Sony can't live off the Japanese market alone - they must make in-roads elsewhere, and any success by Microsoft is a problem for Sony.

"I actually think both Microsoft and Sony do your region (I am assuming, anyway, you are in a PAL region) great injustice by pretending you are all part of a big conglomerate of sameness."

Here here! Treating the European market as one region creates all manner of problems - but treating them separately is too expensive in the eyes of the publishers. So those of us in the European region have to grin and bear it while the US market gets priority treatment as the largest single marketplace for videogames.


Thanks to everyone who participated, and especially those who did so politely! :)

re: HDTV sales. There's a colossal cup of Kool-aid from which many a sip has been taken. Current-gen graphics are markedly superior on SDTV to previous-gen graphics. The rhetoric re: HDTV is just that--things that pr folks say and presumably cackle when they see them repeated as nauseum (as is much of the above). It's an argument that's designed to affect how the product is perceived. The author correctly identified the spin in the "games drive hdtv sales" survey; 18% is not a lot; the survey itself was an online survey (i.e. not random). And, most interestingly, 30% of respondents (i.e. people who purchased an HDTV) said they were not going to upgrade to *any* HDTV content.

re: Blu-Ray. Just once, I'd like to see folks wise-up re: Blu-ray. Blu-ray is not analogous to VHS. Betamax was drawn from the US market not because it had a 40% share (like HD-DVD), but because it was not selling in the US. The transition to HDTV has a lot of consumers flummoxed (as evidenced by the 30% of people buying HDTV with no real reason to do so), and the clearly stated belief was that the home electronics and film industries were driving potential converts away with a format war. The fear was that disks would remain a niche market rather than continue the massive sums DVD sales has brought into film studios. Blu-ray is not DVD, and it isn't going to provide Sony a route to sell 140 million PS3s. The students where I teach already download most of the TV they watch. I doubt anyone will be entirely successful at convincing them to pay for it. What the author documents above re: the splintering of the VG market is I think the same thing that's happening for media.

re: software. Didn't the PS2 version of Madden 09 (!) sell more copies than either the PS3 or 360 versions?

Jon: thanks for your additional commentary here, although from your use of the term "the author" I'm thinking perhaps that you won't be coming back to read any reply I post... :)

But in regard to your question, yes, plenty of PS2 titles outsell the equivalent titles on PS3 and 360 right now, especially those with mass market appeal. Lego Indiana Jones is the most recent one I noticed, but it happens all the time. The fact of the matter is, there are many more PS2s in circulation, and right now the argument to upgrade them for the mass market consumer is quite weak.

Thanks for stopping by!

Heh, I barely use my PS3 at all at the moment, mainly due to the lack of decent RPGs for it. (and *ahem* a working modchip).

But from the perspective of hardware and OS design, there are far more pros than cons to me in the PS3.

Sure, both consoles are developed by evil empires, but the PS3 has many opening-up features that I hope will succeed into future consoles.

Being able to install any flavour of linux, for example, with official support, and also the use of a standard laptop harddrive internally, and so forth.

Sure, my preferences can be dismissed as a niche hardcore market, but similarly I dismiss the mass market - I only care if my preferred console is popular enough to survive and have the games I want developed on it, regardless of its place against its competitors.

I'm sure you're introspective enough Chris to realise that your complaint about demo installs is just a minor irritation, compared to the much more glaring flaws like how you previously couldnt access your friends list from in game, etc, which has been fixed in firmware updates. (although other such flaws may remain - I dont play my PS3 enough to notice them! :P )

Then again, I always game in a multitasking manner, so I guess I dont mind the installs since I'll just websurf on the PC or whatever.

zeech: Minor irritation, yes. But also, major embarrassment because there simply was no need for it to function this way. And it's far from the only OS problem, either: I can't get the PS3 to talk to our media store (every other electronic device we have has no issue) and none of my friends have been able to get their PSPs to run downloaded PSP demos from the PS3.

I find the whole OS on the PS3 to be in a very poor state indeed.

Best wishes!

Heheh, is your media store based on a microsoft OS, by any chance? :P

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