I just read the Eurogamer coverage of the Japanese PS3 launch, where the acute shortage of units has led to many shops running a ‘lottery’ system - basically if your number is picked out of a hat, you get to buy one (and which edition you get - 20Gb or 60Gb - is determined at random). Am I the only one thinking that this situation is just totally bonkers? How did we get to this stage? In any case, it looks like the Japanese release was something of a damp squib anyway due to unit shortages, even with the last-minute price cut.
The production issues are entirely their own fault for insisting on persuing a technology-led agenda with Cell and Blu-Ray. Blu-ray is likely, in many people’s opinions, to suffer the same fate as Sony’s other proprietary formats like Betamax, Minidisc, ATRAC and MemoryStick, and Cell, whilst technically fairly intruiging, is not looking that much more powerful in practice than the simpler 360 setup. I think the whole tech-spec war is over now, and many punters have realised that all those stats don’t amount to a hill of beans in the end - the differences are just not perceptibly significant enough any more. The PS2 may have been able to win over the earlier Dreamcast because of it’s inclusion of faster texturing hardware, but the world has moved on since then. Will the differences between the PS3 and the 360 really make that much difference to most? And that price point is enough to give anyone pause.
PS3 vs 360 is definitely the battle here, since the Wii is another kettle of fish entirely and has a good chance of carving its own significant market irrespective of what the other two are doing. Microsoft and Sony are keen to portray it as a ‘second console’ system, ie inferring it’s a lesser form of gaming life that you might want to tack on as an afterthought to their ‘real’ gaming systems. With any luck the market will show that Nintendo’s enertainment style of thinking is where the future lies, rather than the technology-led thinking of the past, in the same way the DS is crucifying the PSP in the market (despite what Sony would like you to believe). Personally I don’t intend buying either the 360 or the PS3 right now - the Wii will quite happily feed my ‘living room’ gaming and I have a PC for other gaming styles. Occasionally something takes my eye on the 360 (like Dead Rising), but not enough to warrant buying one - like many people my age the days of having lots of time to lavish on 3 gaming systems are long gone.
I personally think that the PS3, from an everyday consumer angle, just looks like a more expensive 360 with a few fairly hard to quantify ‘improvements’. Sure Blu-Ray allows more content over DVD, but once you get to a certain level, are you just burning space for the sake of it? Do you even have time in your project to fill all that space with meaningful content, or will you just use it for slightly higher res textures or something else which isn’t gameplay enhancing? I know where my bets are. Lots of people have wondered where all that space as gone in Resistance : Fall Of Man - it doesn’t look 10 times better than a 360 game for all that storage space its using, although until release we won’t know whether it’s 10 times the game content (I doubt it). Year-on-year, the potential for selling products based on technological one-upmanship decreases and I’m not convinced PS3 will be able to sneak under that limbo bar. Has it missed that particular boat now that MS pretty much already soaked up the ‘next-gen’ fever a year ago?