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Business Week on the PS3, and why it makes me angry

Filed under: Nintendo | Nintendo Wii | PS3 | Sony | Xbox | Xbox 360
Posted by Jeremy on October 18, 2006 8:33 AM
Comments (0) |

Business Week Online yesterday published an article detailing the pitfalls and obstacles facing the Playstation 3. The piece cites reasons for the PS3's uphill battle such as stiff competition from Nintendo and Microsoft, a high price point ($600), manufacturing issues, and the inability for programmers to yet fully exploit or understand the PS3 architecture.

The piece has also made me angry (and you DON'T want to get ME angry!!!). Well, I'm not that angry, just really annoyed. The reason is that in the article the author suggests that the Playstation 2's success was due to the "fact" that the GameCube was for kids, the Xbox was for the, "PC-centric acne crowd that love their games violent and bloody," and that the PS2 was a system for the masses.

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This ingrained notion that the GameCube is the kiddie system and Xbox is the violent First Person Shooter system really gets to me. It's an easy way for video game writers to quickly dismiss these systems and quickly explain their lack of success in comparison to the PS2.

The PS2 launched in October, 2000. The Xbox and GameCube launched in November, 2001. The PS2, at launch, had poor games but was backwards compatible with the Playstation. A year into its being, it had much better games and was starting to amass a vast library. Meanwhile, Nintendo and Microsoft (a newcomer to the video game world) launched their systems.

The GameCube, because it is purple, and because of Mario, was instantly categorized as the kiddie system. If you were to actually look at the launch games you'd see that there was one "kiddie" game, a Disney Tarzan game. I'd say, what these titles had in common is that they were family friendly. An adult was as likely to play 'Luigi's Mansion' or the brilliant 'Pikmin' as was a kid.

Soon thereafter, games like 'Resident Evil' and 'Eternal Darkness' debuted. Later, the GameCube would have most games that the other systems did, including James Bond and Splinter Cell games. Speaking of Resident Evil, it was 'Resident Evil 4', a GameCube exclusive when it launched, that won many game-of-the-year awards and redefined the survivial horror genre. The GameCube is not a kiddie system. It is simply easy to categorize it that way.

Then, there's the Xbox and its reputation that it's all blood and gore and 'Halo'. At the time of launch, the Xbox was the powerhouse; the PS3 of its generation, if you will. It featured a hard drive, a fast processor, manly controllers, and was encased in an agressive black box. Again, because of the shape and color of the system, it was easy to dismiss it as a system for the "acne crowd" (that really is a rude phrase to use). However, once again, the software for the Xbox was quite varied. If there was a kid game made for the PS2 or GameCube, you could get it for the Xbox. Sports games as well. In fact, many gamers soon began to prefer the Xbox as the system of choice for sports games as the graphics were better and many preferred the controller (the second generation controller, the Controller-S) to the PS2 controller.

The PS2 did indeed dominate the last generation of consoles. However, it's not as easily explained as simply saying that it was a system for the masses and that the Xbox and GameCube didn't appeal to people. In fact, many homes have all three systems and even more have two. Collectively, all three companies increased ownership of a game system not at the exclusion of one another, but in a symbiotic manner.

The reasons for the PS2 success are: It had a large installed base from the Playstation and the PS2 was backwards compatible, therefore, it did have a large library of games, just not new games. It played DVDs. It had a year head start on its competition. And, the most important reason why the PS2 was successful was because of 'Grand Theft Auto', 'Devil May Cry', and 'Final Fantasy X'. PS2 exclusives, these three games launched for holiday 2001, just as the competitors were launching their systems. They went on to sell millions of copies each, and with them, millions of PS2's. It wasn't that the PS2 was a system for the masses. It was that it had GTA3, DMC, and FFX (and Gran Turismo 3, which came out in summer of 2001). They got lucky. Sony was also smart to reduce the price of the PS2 soon after the launch of these games to keep the momentum flowing.

Sorry for the long rant. I just hate it when game writers use the kiddie/blood-gore technique to describe the GameCube/Xbox and hail the PS2 as the system for the masses. Yes, it did turn out to be that way, but it was because of good luck in getting blockbuster holiday 2001 titles. Had the PS2 failed to be compelling that holiday season, the gaming world may look different today.

Thus, the console war begins anew!

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