October 2, 2008 // 3:25 pm
- It's just something that I have noticed occurring behind the scenes over the last year that I think is worthy of bringing up, as it indicates a growing faith in the PlayStation 3 console from developers and publishers across the globe. It does not mean that the Xbox 360 is any less important, just that the PS3 is definitely starting to get equal-footing on multi-format games.
Go back six months and more, almost every game that was multi-format was given to journalists on Xbox 360. Code came in for Xbox 360 debuggers (the devices on which we play unfinished games), promo copies were for the Xbox 360 and almost always games were demoed to us on Microsoft's console when out at junkets across the world. It's just the way it was.
Obviously being a multi-format publication, we actively chased PS3 versions of these games but they were rarely forthcoming, and if they did make it in, it could be months later. I sit alongside both the editor of Australian 360 Magazine and Official PlayStation Australia and often see the frustration as the latter continually hassled for code that was already sitting on the former's desk in the opposing format.
So why did this happen? It is my belief that the Xbox 360 code during this period was simply more reliable. When you're giving media access to your game, you want it to run as smoothly as possible, play to the best of its ability and hopefully not crash at all (which early code as a tendency to do).
In the end, this is your best shot at getting a positive response from journalists. So with developers getting a year's head-start on the Xbox 360 and the PS3 architecture proving to be somewhat challenging to master it simply came to be that the former's code was the more predictable beast.
Makes sense, no? And if we had to guess we would have said that the code coming into the office throughout 2007 for games available on both formats would've been around 80% Xbox 360 and 20% PS3. Hell, maybe even 90:10. It really was that much of a difference, even right up to the final box copies that arrived post-release. To be honest, it was like most publishers preferred that journalists didn't experience their game on PS3 if they could help it.
But that was then, and as we indicated above, there has been quite a momentum shift in 2008.
Looking back, the indications were actually there very late in 2007. You'd be sitting with a developer playing the Xbox 360 version of a game when they would triumphantly trundle out with a PS3 and offer you a look at that version too - strutting in like they had just fucked Jessica Alba in the bathroom, before muttering a 'not quite as far along yet' proviso. It would be followed by a knowing nod, an unspoken understanding between journo and code-jokey that parity between the games was the goal, but that it was easier said than done.
Yet it was July this year at E3, with hundreds of half-finished games under the one roof, that the shift became most apparent. I didn't spend a whole lot of time down on the show-room floor as I had wall-to-wall booking behind closed doors with the developers themselves, which makes my observation all the more pertinent.
Here individuals talked proudly about their product and then thrust a PS3 controller into my hand: this was new! And I'm talking big games too. Not to say that the X360 was forgotten... not at all... but the ratio was more of a 50:50.
Since then this trend has continued. Rather than constantly seeing my Xbox 360 debugger jumping between freelancers and copping a daily hammering, my PS3 debugger now rarely gets a chance to pick up dust either. Asking for a game will get a 'do you want PS3 or X360 code?' response. And when envelopes pop onto our desk with the promise of games locked within, from preview code right through to box copies, it's just as likely to be PS3 as X360.
Some of you are probably thinking it has something to do with the manufacturing costs of Blu-ray discs being higher that DVD - obviously a concern when you are producing large numbers of something. This is not the case. I hate to say it PS3 fans, but a big chunk of multi-format code that comes into our office on PS3 comes on a humble DVD. Because it fits... of course it does, it is also on Xbox 360 after all. They just slap it on a Blu-ray disc for the final release. I think there is another reason.
From a punter's perspective you will not really notice this change for another six months or so: at the moment it is still mostly a behind the scenes phenomenon. But I expect that this new found confidence will see an increase in the number of multi-format games that go PS3 as the lead-format, and that the amount of bickering about who has the better frame-rate and the more detailed models will become less relevant. The difference between multi-format games across the two formats will shrink to a point where it becomes extraneous.
But what if it continues to swing? What if it evolves to be a 30:70, or 20:80 swing the other way and media find themselves exposed primarily to PS3 code, and Xbox 360 only on request? I think that'll come down to the way console sales trend over the coming months.
At the moment Xbox 360 is doing well thanks to a kickass Christmas line-up, but if it can't maintain that run into next year - and to be honest it isn't looking that hot in terms of exclusives next year - and the PS3 can deepen its install base on the back of SingStar, Buzz, LittleBigPlanet and co, then I think we will see an increase in the amount of PS3 exclusives. Timed, and not.
As it stands right now though, my observation reveals something very positive about gaming: that the playing field is even and we're about to enter a period of great, top quality games across both formats.