April 24, 2009 // 3:12 pm
- The war to win the hard-core gamer has been fought bitterly between two giants - Sony the veteran and Microsoft the young upstart. The kid took its beating the first generation.
Sony laughed at him for having the nerve and audacity to compete with the champion. The kid knew it was bested, but he licked his wounds and trained harder. He came back a man, a muscled machine, and showed the old-timer he deserved to be crowned the title.
This is his story:
5) Third Party Exclusives
Exclusives will make and break a console platform. Take the GameCube for example. With high licensing fees and inadequate support, third party software were put out there to die and so the third party support dried up too. Consequently GameCube died shortly after.
On the flip-side, PS2 won the console war on the strength of its third party support. Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, and Tekken were all system-selling games for PS2. Now how many of those franchises has Sony been able to retain for the PS3? Looks like only Metal Gear.
Microsoft made a heavy investment to lure third party developers into the 360 camp. By launching their system a year ahead of PS3, the 360 was able to give developers more time to acclimate to an already familiar-looking platform architecture.
Sending out development kits early made programming even that the more easier. Conversely, the PS3's cell has been notoriously hard to program for. This and funding incentives add to the reasons why developers choose the 360 version as the lead SKU.
The benefit of being the lead SKU is that the game will be more streamlined for that platform since during the original development period, programmers had time to cater to the lead platform's strengths, processing power, and capabilities to maximize performance and tweak gameplay for that system.
Games on the lead SKU platfom tend to run better and look better than on a system for which code had to be ported to. Additionally, porting code may take a year after the 360 version's release and is not usually handled by the original development team or developer.
Nabbing exclusive third party titles, even exclusive DLC like the recent Grand Theft Auto: The Lost & The Damned, has given Microsoft an incredible edge over Sony's system. Why buy an expensive PS3 just to play a handful of exclusives, when the 360 is cheaper and has a wider variety of exclusives to choose from? Even a former PlayStation exclusive like Resident Evil has sold more on the 360 than on the PS3. It's ironic how gamers must turn to the 360 for their steady fix of J-RPGs, which used to be a PlayStation mainstay. Blame it on a tidal change.
4) XBLA & Community Games
The sheer number of titles that appear on LIVE is daunting, which is a testament to the platform's viability and attractiveness to proven developers and serves as an outlet for up & coming indie developers. XBLA and Community Games see a variety of games released each and every week, whereas Sony's PSN may not see a major release for few weeks or even months.
Not only do gamers benefit by getting innovative and daring game titles to play, Microsoft is simultaneously able to invest in the future of gaming. By way of XNA, Microsoft is able to support and open up opportunities to young creators, which in essence ensures and fosters the growth of the next generation of game developers.
3) Price & Value
Why does it still cost $400 to buy a PS3 three years after the console's release? It's a rhetorical question because the cost to manufacture the PS3 is still so high, Sony refuses to take the hit. But this late into the console life cycle and with pressure from third party developers, retailers, and investors banging down their door, how can Sony afford not to do a price-drop?
Look at the 360. The arcade unit costs $200. The 360 has a ton of exclusives and when it comes down to multiplatform games, people still prefer the 360 version. This is a make-or-break time for Sony and they're fumbling the ball so bad, it only magnifies tenfold the sound business decisions Microsoft is making. In this economy, it becomes an obvious choice to pick up a 360 versus a PS3. And don't even think about dual wielding two consoles, buddy.
With a higher install base, it all goes back to Reason #5 -- third parties love the 360 because their games consistently sell more on this system. More third party software means more hardware sales, and so on and so on goes the loop.
2) Persistence - A Lesson In Economics
It's Microsoft. They have a lot of money. A lot of money to invest. And a lot more to burn. If they don't get you on the first try, they'll come again a second time, and believe you me they will get you eventually.
The original Xbox was far from a success story. What it did was lay the ground work for what was to come. It's all part of Brand Building 101. They took their hits, learned their lessons, and jumped ship as fast as they could. As soon as the 360 was announced, Microsoft had all but given up on supporting their original green machine.
In the earlier days, the 360 was considered a still-born in Japan. Look at them today and you'll witness their reincarnation. Slowly but surely, Microsoft is whittling down Japan's defenses, renowned as a protective parent of home-grown brands.
1) Xbox LIVE
The Number 1 and most obvious reason why Xbox 360 has beaten PS3 is the quality of its Xbox LIVE service. Time and again this has been brought out as the deciding factor when gamers choose the 360 version of a multiplayer title over the PS3 one. LIVE has built a vibrant online community by offering a full-featured service that includes voice chat, achievements, friends-list, gamer nights, and weekly gamer-centric video content.
Ever since the original Xbox debuted with the LIVE service, Sony has had plenty of time to observe how Microsoft would tackle the online arena, yet even now fails to follow Microsoft's example and implement more advanced features (features that gamers perceive as basic and have grown to expect) that make LIVE such a compelling service. Achievements, voice chat, friend's list, custom soundtracks, and now NetFlix HD video streaming. Sony has been and always will be playing catch-up.
The NPD numbers show month after month a clear victor is emerging. When this console generation finally draws to a close, we may soon look back and say it only took two generations for Microsoft to beat out the veteran Sony and cement the 360 as the core gamer's console. Who is to say what new heights they can achieve in the coming years?