December 8, 2008 // 9:08 pm
- For two game generations, Sony established itself as the industry leader: the popularity of the PSone carried over to the rampant success of the PS2.
Of course, many people expected a similar situation for the PS3, but the transition for the latest system hasn't been as seamless as people expected. While its best of times from the past two consoles hasn't lead to a worst of times now, Sony has committed a number of mistakes, such as a reversal on its backwards compatibility policy, a loss of system exclusive titles and a staunch refusal to counter price drops by competitors.
These stumbles have helped Microsoft strengthen its position as a rival in the HD gaming arena, and has also helped Nintendo reestablish itself as a major player to be reckoned with.
So what's Sony to do? While the company isn't even close to dire straights, it would rather be on top looking down than sitting at the bottom and looking up. Fortunately, there's still time for the company to assert its dominance and start to conquer its competition.
Below, we've outlined five companies that could help save Sony's standing in the gaming industry, as well as pointed out what games they could make for the gaming giant that could turn its position around. Think of it as a holiday gift from us to them.
If you wonder how Konami could help strengthen Sony's position, three words immediately come to mind: Metal Gear Solid. Konami's acclaimed franchise, which grew from the Metal Gear series on the NES, was extremely popular when it landed on the PSone ten years ago. Each successive title in the series further cemented the fact that Hideo Kojima's exploration of Snake's world (be it Naked Snake, Solid Snake or Old Snake) would drive sales on the PlayStation, and could even drive sales of the platform itself.
One only needs to look at the recent Metal Gear Solid 4 Bundle that was released in June of this year to understand this fact. The evolution of the franchise is still currently unknown; in fact, recent rumors of what the next chapter in the Metal Gear Solid franchise will be has ranged from rampant speculation of MGS4 being ported to the 360 to sequels focusing on Raiden, Meryl or other franchise favorites.
With all of that being said, let's not forget that Sony's systems have also seen a number of canon offshoots and spinoffs that could expand on the mythology of Snake's world. The PSP was the home of Metal Gear Acid and its sequel, which were interesting turn based strategy titles set in the Metal Gear Solid world with loads of cross-over potential for new games.
Portable Ops pushed the scope of the portable system as well, throwing in everything from accessing Wi-FI signals to recruiting soldiers via multiplayer battles or GPS peripherals. Finally, the Digital Graphic Novel re-imagined the Metal Gear Solid story in a visually appealing way, and also provided additional information and interactivity for fans. If the sequel, which is currently slated for sometime next year, is ever released, it too, will expand on this formula.
It's obvious that a continued relationship with Konami, and hopeful exclusivity of the titles, will remain in Sony's camp. But much more than that, Sony could also attempt to entice Konami to make other franchises Sony exclusive, or at least make the PS3 the lead development console. Silent Hill has been a popular series for horror fans, and while the critical reaction for Silent Hill: Homecoming was somewhat mixed, returning to Team Silent for the next chapter would be an excellent touch for the PS3.
Konami could also dip back into the well with classic games, such as Suikoden for RPG fans (particularly since the PS3 has been lacking in good RPGs), Castlevania, or even Contra. Resurrecting some of the older titles that Konami has been known for with a new presentation on the PS3 would be a masterful stroke.
Three more words wind up coming to mind in recent events when Square Enix and Sony are mentioned: Final Fantasy XIII. Obviously, a large number of PS3 RPG fans were extremely disappointed when it was announced at E3 that Final Fantasy XIII would be heading over to the 360. Since the PSone days, Sony's really been the primary location of Square Enix's wildly successful franchise, and has pushed many a system and game because of it.
Simply look at some of the games that were released across the first two PlayStations: Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy X, Final Fantasy XII. These three titles helped solidify the concept that Sony's system was the place for RPGs. With Final Fantasy's "defection" to the 360, it definitely took away a significant advantage that Sony held.
Luckily, Final Fantasy XIII isn't solely a one shot deal. The Fabula Nova Crystalis concept will stretch across numerous games, and while PS3 owners will be sharing Final Fantasy XIII with 360 players, Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been stated that it will be exclusive to the PS3; of course, whether this will remain so is unknown, but perhaps Sony can step in and help with some of the tools Square Enix needs to complete the game and help lock down the exclusive permanently.
That's also assuming that both games will manage to make their estimated release dates of 2009. With Final Fantasy games being notorious for slipping their release dates for additional polishing, help from Sony could expedite the release of the game (or at least possibly help the company reconsider a staggered release of the title on the PS3 first, so Sony could claim bragging rights).
On top of that, Square Enix has a large catalog of games that have done extremely well on the system. Crisis Core was an excellent game for the PSP and added extra chapters to the Final Fantasy VII lore, and the upcoming Final Fantasy Agito XIII and Final Fantasy: Dissidia will strengthen the PSP's holdings. As for the PS3, Sony could attempt to lure Square Enix to produce more titles for its audience as an extension of games that have always had a sense of belonging on PlayStation systems.
Whether it's the strategy of Front Mission, the classic RPG series Dragon's Quest, or extending Kingdom Hearts III as a Sony exclusive, there's more than enough games that were released on the PS2 that would be welcome on the PS3.
Even dipping into the classic bag and bringing out acclaimed games like Brave Fencer Musashi or Vagrant Story would help. Last, and surely not least, the technical demo of Final Fantasy VII on the PS3 was a huge hit. Sony could surely throw some money Square's way and try to negotiate for a return to Midgar.
Capcom has released a sizable number of classic and popular game characters and franchises in the gaming industry, and a large amount of them either started out on or grew exponentially on Sony's systems. Take for example Devil May Cry, Capcom's stylish action adventure game featuring a snarky half human/half demon protagonist and his battles against evil.
Up to the recent release of Devil May Cry 4 on PC and 360 this year, the entire franchise was exclusive to the PS2, and featured a hefty dose of fast paced action that appealed to many fans. While Dante might have strayed to other systems, much of the character's initial glory was only to be found in Sony's hands.
Currently, no one knows where, or how, the franchise will be expanded past the recent inclusion of Nero as a significant character in the series, but it's a rather safe bet that Dante will make another appearance on a console somewhere.
Obviously, locking the entire Devil May Cry series back into an exclusive deal might be a stretch, particularly because it did well across all three systems. However, it could be argued to Capcom that an offshoot could be made as an exclusive that was somehow tied to the franchise.
What about a game featuring Dante's two beautiful accomplices, Trish and Lady? Indeed, what if you took the recently introduced character of Nero and put him in his own series that was kept solely on PS3, but allowed the full Devil May Cry franchise to blossom on as many consoles as Capcom wished?
Pushing for some kind of an exclusive from this popular series wouldn't be completely out of the realm of possibility - Capcom was able to take advantage of the system's install feature for Devil May Cry 4, and the addition of extra disc space thanks to Blu-ray should definitely come in handy for developers.
Arguably, however, getting some of Capcom's franchises to be system specific would be a bit of a challenge, particularly because the company has made many of its titles multi-console to expand their popularity. In that case, focusing again on the older games may be one of the best ways to lock down something that is only for the PS3, or attempting to get system exclusive content.
Much is being made of the upcoming Street Fighter IV, so what if Capcom used the same visual engine for Darkstalkers or Marvel vs. Capcom? That would be a hot addition to a fighting library, even if there were specific brawlers that were only released on the PS3 if the game migrated over to the 360. Similarly, Resident Evil has had plenty of side stories, so what if a new RE: Outbreak was developed to solely take advantage of the PS3's impending release of Home?
What's more, what if it managed to coincide with a Home invasion of Zombies on Halloween? That would put a different spin on the social space. Finally, Capcom could bring back older Sony standbys, like Maximo or even revive classic characters like Strider. If Bionic Commando and Mega Man could get new life this year, what's keeping these guys back?
Electronic Arts, like Capcom, is potentially one of the trickiest publishers that Sony could try to wrangle. It's well known for producing almost every title across multiple consoles, and its position as one of the largest producers of games in the industry gives it a lot of leverage.
What's more, many of the development studios that it employs seem to frequently use the 360 as the lead development platform for its console games, making Sony's presence with the company quite an uphill climb.
It's a bit hard to change the perception of your system with their games when a lot of the developers that work there don't particularly support the games in the same way, right? This could clearly be seen with early versions of EA Sports games, which ran at 30 frames a second compared to the 60 frames a second found on the 360.
Of course, thanks to fan complaints and a ramping up of skills, this came around, but Sony could help balance this out by providing additional developer support with their PS3 kits. If it could be pointed out that many of the technical limitations that are found on the 360 (whether that be processors, disc space, or console reliability) are alleviated on the PS3, this could be a huge boon for Sony.
Sony could attempt to push its system as a better location for specific titles that could take advantage of the extra space or power that the PS3 affords. Black 2 on the PS3? Imagine the fast paced action of that shooter ripping its way onto the system (and only that system) because of the space that Blu-ray and the power the SPUs affords Criterion.
Now that Mercenaries 2 has been released for the PS3, imagine an optimized version of the game with better visuals and more destruction for Mercenaries 3, which gets a staggered release in Sony's favor. Perhaps even make a side story within the recently released and acclaimed Dead Space universe, or convince EA that the PS3 is the only system for sci-fi survival horror, which could ensure that Isaac Clarke's adventures against Necromorphs remains solely on the PS3.
If all of this fails, Sony could attempt to convince EA to be a system where many of its classics are released for download and portable play. Everything from Mutant League Football to Road Rash to Syndicate would then be more than fair game as a PSN download, and fans would eat those games up.
Of course, if you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself...Sony could do a number of things to right the ship and help re-establish its superiority. First of all, this would involve reversing a number of the problems that were mentioned at the start of the article.
Dropping the price of the console to compete with that of the 360 would immediately give the company a shot in the arm of sold systems, which could easily translate into increases in software sales. By the same token, re-establishing some form of backwards compatibility, whether hardware or software emulation based would definitely help push the hold outs that are hanging onto their PS2 towards an upgrade.
It's easier to bring along those gamers that aren't first adopters or hardcore gamers and convert them to your cause when they realize that all the money they've spent on their titles won't be wasted making the switch to the latest and greatest thing, especially in this time of economic distress.
Sony will also need to spend some money to lock down some exclusives that aren't in-house studios or developers that are tied to Sony in some ways. Insomniac, Naughty Dog, Guerrilla and Sucker Punch are great studios, but they can only produce so many AAA titles in a specific period of time to shore up the exclusive titles that seem to be leaking away from Sony's ship.
At one point or another, Sony will need to at least try to compete with Microsoft for external exclusives or risk being trapped with a majority of multi-console titles ranging across its system.
Whether that means making additional programming knowledge on the Cell available for developers or simply laying out extra money or opportunities that can't be matched on other systems, Sony's got to combat Microsoft's deals, which currently seem much more aggressive and seem to be working on many publishers.
Sony should also re-examine a number of approaches that it's been making towards a number of its products to strengthen its overall gaming presence. The number of peripherals that Sony has spent time and money on only to abandon them or only distribute them in some regions is incomprehensible. Take a look at the PSP GPS, for example.
It's been released in Asia and in a couple different regions around the world, but hasn't made it to America despite being shown in working form at numerous shows. Similarly, a keyboard peripheral for the PSP has long been rumored, but has faded from view. On the flip side, Sony hypes up features that aren't nearly as important.
Home may eventually be a success, but thanks to the numerous delays, problems and other issues that seem to have plagued the virtual online space, it's doubtful that it will be as revolutionary or as frequently used whenever the service is released.
Finally, Sony could spend a lot of time expanding on its currently available items, strengthening its position for its fans and making a brand new set of evangelists to go out and spread the Sony word to their friends to help convert them to its systems.
Releasing a catalog of classic PSone games on the PSN would be a huge help to the PS3, and if tied together with the PSP would allow gamers to play titles both at home and on the go, which would be a huge ace up Sony's sleeve. Along the same lines would be much more PSP/PS3 interactivity, which has been mentioned in passing at various E3 and TGS press conferences, but somehow seem to continually evade significant steps forward.
Add to this some expanded (or even redesigned) Cross Media Bar elements, such as more custom soundtracks or using the entire screen instead of the top right corner for alerts, time and controller battery life. Making the system more intuitive with its Cross Media Bar, without shackling it to Home, would go a long way to promoting the PS3, and if elements like the mandatory trophy system could be put into place, surely some additional fixes to the Cross Media Bar aren't out of order.
Finally, the picture below is of Dante and Nero, and more pics can be seen at the link at the top of this news article.