Recently at GamesCom in Cologne, Germany, Sony introduced their slimmer, lighter, better-looking PS3 to the world. It sported new features (such as the bigger 120 GB hard drive and its easy removal from the front panel) and a sleeker design which, compared to its gargantuan predecessor, looked much more appealing. But it wasn’t only the slim design that captured the attention of gamers everywhere. It was the drop in price – which went into effect immediately – that stunned consumers everywhere. At a price tag of now $299, the PS3 is now the cheapest full-featured console on the market. With it’s offerings of next-gen ornaments such as a Blu-ray player, internal Wi-fi, Bluetooth connectivity, and an upgradeable hard drive, and a $299 price, the PS3 has now become the most appealing console when put up against Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendos reigning Wii. But what does this mean for Sony’s competitors? Will it finally put Sony and its extensive console in a competitive plateau? If you’re thinking anything but yes, you should maybe get yourself checked out.
For more than a decade, Sony has been the reigning king of console gaming. With its previous consoles – the PlayStation and the PlayStation 2 – shattering worldwide figures, it was thought that the entertainment guru would never fall off it’s throne. We can thank Sony for putting Sega out of the console business, that’s for sure. Then, Microsoft introduced the Xbox 360 on November 22, 2005. It marked the start of a new era where Sony now faced aggravated competition from a business giant just as large as they were. Gaining experience from its previous console, the original cinder-block dubbed Xbox, Microsoft came into the next-gen world prepared for Sony. They launched a marketing campaign that dwarfed any and all of its competition – which they get no credit for being that it was the PS2. Sporting beseeching graphics and it being the only “next-gen” console on the market at the time, hardcore gamers drooled over the upgraded facade that would permeate their TVs. Titles like Madden NFL 06, Kameo: Elements of Power, Condemned and Project Gotham Racing 3 entranced the hardcore crowd. Anyone who was able to afford $399 at the time was getting an Xbox 360. Their new iteration of Xbox Live flaunted the online gaming service’s dashing new looks and charged users a fee to play multiplayer games online. Its online “Achievement” feature quickly became a fad amongst the Xbox community and players were conformed. With no other competitors to join in, Microsoft’s next-gen behemoth attracted even the most loyal of Nintendo and Sony fans. Of course, rushing the console ahead of its competitors also put Microsoft in barrage of problems with the 360’s faulty hardware. Consumers worldwide faced the debale of having their only next-gen console at the time die on them. The infamous “Red Ring of Death” became Microsoft’s $3 billion dollar problem which, till this day, continues to plague the software giant. As years etched by, Microsoft became determined to bring the best entertainment experience to their supporters. In 2008, after Sony announced plans to introduce Home to the PlayStation Network’s gaming space, the New Xbox Experience (NXE) made its debut replacing the older appearence of the traditional Xbox 360 dashboard. Netflix streaming service was also added. It allowed 360 owners with Netflix accounts to stream movies directly onto their Xbox 360’s. The console became determined to shut out all of its competitors by offering exclusive services which weren’t available on any other console. And, so far, it has been working.
In 2006, Nintendo launched one of the most innovative forms of entertainment of our time – the Wii. Although graphically inferior to both the Xbox 360 and the PS3, the Wii provided consumers with a newfangled means of gaming. It’s avant-garde, yet questionable at first, controls was a new form in which consumer were able to “freely” enjoy the fruits of gaming in a the most imaginative, yet welcoming, manner. The Wii quickly gained ground as consumers flocked to the more casual of the gaming consoles this generation. With enchanting party-pleasing launch titles like Wii Sports and its easy on the pocketbook pricing of $249.99 (a couple of hundred dollars cheaper than its competitors), Nintendo’s petite console seemed much more appealing to the less hardcore of gamers. Features like out-of-the-box backwards compatibility – which allowed people to play their Gamecube titles on the Wii – seemed enticing at first, but it was the Nintendo’s Virtual Console that really took the cake with avid old school gamers. Memorable titles from Sega’s, TurboGrafx-16, Neo Geo, Commodore 64 and Nintendo’s previous consoles (with the exception of the Gamecube and the Sega Saturn and Dreamcast) consoles made their way to the Wii’s Virtual Console service. The Wii’s extensive offering of “channels” (Disc Channel, Mii Channel, Photo Channel, Wii Shop Channel, Forecast Channel, and News Channel) became the craze of the system when consumers first touched on the system. After a couple of months of tinkering with the Wii Channel, for example, it became as dull as a wooden spoon. Nintendo’s biggest problem is, and always will be, the lack of respect it gets from the hardcore gaming community. Sure, it is respected because of its name and its innovative implementations, but, in the gaming sense, hardcore players have become reluctant in considering the Wii anything short of displeasing to their gaming needs. Of course, we can argue that the console was made to attract the much more casual of younger and older crowds, but if developers are also fighting this train of thought, what does it say?
Now that Sony is in the playing field of both consoles, we can definitely expect a new ball game. It’s once expensive price shoved both potential consumers and fans away from the entertainment powerhouse. Although the number of features, as compared to its competitors, once justified its previous pricing of over $499, the technologies became far less expensive to produce (i.e. Blu-ray players dropped dramatically, and there’s no such thing as $199 Wi-Fi and $299 80 GB hard drive) and Sony still lingered on maintaining its eccentric price tag. With the recent announcement, however, of the price drop, the crowd of speculating consumers can now feel the bearing of contemplation lift away.
As of now, and this is speaking from common sense and not fanboyism, Sony is offering much more with their console than both Microsoft and Nintendo. It makes us question just how justifiable those console prices really are; especially knowing that both offer far less features than Sony’s black leviathan which is now priced competitively at $299 while Nintendo maintains their $249 price, and Microsoft their fully featured 360 at $299. Sony has come back into the battlefield sporting tanks and an extra platoon of soldiers whilst both Microsoft and Nintendo are cornered with their slingshots. The once bad-mouthed console has now returned with the determination to, once again, take the throne it held for almost two decades. As great titles slowly begin to surface, and as the holidays calmly approaches, one can only imagine the sheer mayhem that will accompany it. With talks of delivering a new PSN experience in September and with titles like Uncharted 2 right around the corner, Sony is, indeed, showing the gaming industry that it is far from being looked upon as the console that could have been. They are defining and showing the industry, and the community, that their business tactics was and is the reason why they remain a gaming titan. What will Microsoft and Nintendo do to counter Sony’s massive blow? I sure as hell can’t say. Nintendo would be better off dropping their system down a hundred bucks or so, and Microsoft will probably need to either offer more features or also, dramatically, drop their console’s price to compete.
With Sony now offering a fully next-gen featured console in contrast to its competitors, a free online experience, a library of games coming that overshadows its opponents, and a price tag that warmly welcomes it consumers, it’s hard to suggest what both Microsoft and Nintendo will reciprocate with. Sure, PSN is lacking the gaming-sensitive additions that XBL currently implements like Voice Chat, a functional in-game invitation system, recordable messages, etc. But these are features that will, eventually, come to fruition. There can’t be arguments if the implementations are possible. After these things are injected into the PSN in the near future, what arguments will there be to belittle the PS3? It’s price? It’s massive size? It’s “laggy” network, as per fanboys? The “defects” it once had have been adjusted to accommodate gamers and consumers alike. It is now the cheapest entertainment system on the market that offers the next-gen experience in both gaming, movies, and sound. What the competitors will bring to the table before the holidays is beyond anyone’s guess. They just better come back with something just as impressive if they’re even considering a response. What does this all mean for Microsoft and Nintendo? It means that Sony is taking their belt off and stretching to hand out ass whippings.