For the better part of ten years, Sony was kicking some serious butt with the Playstation and Playstation 2. The former sold over 101 million units, more than triple the amount of the second place console in that generation, the N64, and the latter sold over 155 million units, more than seven times the second place console in its generation in the original Xbox, eventually becoming the best selling console of all time. With marquee franchises like Grand Theft Auto, God of War, Grand Turismo, Final Fantasy, and Metal Gear Solid, Sony was the cream of the crop when it came to video gaming. Due to that fact, there was unbelievable hype when it unveiled the PS3 at E3 2005. Even though the Xbox 360 would have a one year head start against the PS3, launching in November of 2005, that year long wait was worth it for most Sony fans.
Then came the first bump in the road. At the E3 2006, then Sony Computer Entertainment America bigwig, and current Sony CEO Kaz Hirai uttered the now infamous “$599 US Dollars” quote in regards to the price of the 60gb version of the console. Compared to the $399 price tag for the 20gb Xbox 360, gamers were perplexed at such a high cost of a game system as there hadn’t been a console that expensive since the days of the 3DO and Neo Geo AES. In retrospect, we all know that $599 was actually a bargain for gamers. Not only did that model have blu-ray player, it had wifi, HDMI support, multiple flash card readers, and a full functioning PS2 and PS1 built inside of it, altogether costing Sony $900 to manufacture. At the time though, the gaming community wasn’t quite so forgiving when it came down to brass tax, with many Sony faithful switching over to the Xbox 360 based on price alone.
Still, though the price was a speed bump, it wasn’t a colossal pothole, with the hype of its upcoming November 17th launch continuing to draw excitement. On launch day, the PS3 seemingly sold extremely well, with people camping out days in advance just to get a hold of Sony’s new hardware. The future looked bright….for 48 hours. Then the Wii was released. After Nintendo’s GameCube came in last in sales the previous generation, there was mild expectations for the Wii, even with its gimmicked motion controls. But to everyone’s surprise, the Wii came out of the gate scorching hot, selling considerably well above predictions. The PS3 sold 197,000 units in its first two weeks, compared to 600,000 units for the Wii. In addition, the 360 up to the point of the PS3 launch had sold around 10 million units. Even with that minor set back, Sony still believed it could lead the charge. They were the ones behind the PS2, the best selling console of all time, how could they lose?
Well, not only was the Wii quickly passing them by, but ironically, a mistake previously made by Nintendo with the N64 was about to plague Sony. As history has shown, it takes about a year for a console to find its footing and really start releasing some triple A titles. So launching a console a year after the competitor puts you even further behind the 8-ball. As I mentioned earlier, this happened between the N64 and PS1, this time, it occurred with the PS3 and Xbox 360. The first year of the 360’s lifecycle was rather pedestrian with Crackdown really standing out as the only must have title. But ten days before the launch of the PS3, the first blockbuster for Microsoft’s console was released in the Gears of War. The PS3 launch had considerably less memorable titles such as Genji: Days of the Blade, Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire, and Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom. Even the Wii had the critically acclaimed Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess to tip its hat to.
Another reason that Sony was faltering, was due to the unique Cell Processor that powered the PS3. That sort of technology was foreign to most developers in contrast to the Xbox 360’s Xenon processor that was quite similar to a PC processor, something developers were extremely familiar with. Because of that, while a vast majority of multi-platform games graphically looked better on the PS3, they also had a ton more bugs and glitches in comparison to their 360 counterpart. That fact just further widened the gap between Xbox and Playstation, making the choice between the two apparent to most gamers.
It quickly became clear to Sony and to the gaming public, that they were a distant third in their generation, and things could possibly go from bad to worse if there weren’t major changes that came down the pike. Up next was a reclamation project of sorts for the Playstation team. Console redesigns were on the horizon, in tandem with some killer exclusive titles and price restructuring. Stay tuned for part 2 in which Sony slowly digs its way out of the gaming graveyard.