There have been dozens upon dozens of lists compiled to explain the reasons behind the PS3’s ten million deficit behind the Xbox360 in the console wars. These lists have provoked endless debate, with issues such as the delayed release date, the perceived arrogance of Sony, install files, the quality of PSN and myriad other qualitative factors and specifications. There are however, one or two aspects that few, if any have considered thus far and I would like to briefly outline a few of these overlooked elements that I believe have conspired to Sony’s underwhelming economic performance. The extended causes and effects that surround these issues are seemingly infinite and so each paragraph is simply an introduction to the fundamentals of each proposed reason, rather than an exhaustive analysis.
It is common gamer knowledge that the 360 took a only few months for modders to ‘crack’ and that the PS3 is as yet a solid fortress against hackers. Though I’m sure its dependent on which circles you involve yourself in, I personally see piracy everywhere. I do not have a single friend who has never knowingly downloaded something without the copyright for it and similarly, about a quarter of my friends with Xbox360s (easily twenty people) have their Xbox360s modified to play copied games. Xbox piracy is rife, yet somehow Microsoft continues to declare profits and soaring sales of both the system and its games, with the Xbox attachment rate three games more than the PS3.
I believe that despite the obvious drawbacks of such a rampant black-market, the benefits actually outweigh them. All of the aforementioned friends of mine also have at least 7 or 8 legitimate games each, and of course they lined the coffers of Microsoft in the first place when they bought the console itself. The piracy surrounding consoles actually boosts interest and demand, via enticing people who would otherwise not purchase any games machine at all and also generating peer interest in the games. The install base is increased as well as general public awareness and a feedback effect occurs, further propelling the success of the console. Perhaps much of Sony’s easy-to-chip PlayStation and PS2 success derived from the piracy that thrived on them, in contrast to the pirates-nightmare Nintendo 64 and the Gamecube, and also the successful but piracy-infested PSP.
In the glory days of the original PlayStation and its successor, mascots for the Japanese giant were everywhere. With exclusive IPs like Crash Bandicoot, Lara Croft, Kratos, Solid Snake, Liberty City, Dante, Pro Evo (Winning Eleven), Silent Hill, Final Fantasy, Tekken, Resident Evil and Tony Hawk. Sony had franchises to be cherished and held at arms length from its competitors. Here in the distant future of 2009, Sony have lost every single one of these characters and series at some point or other, with the exception of Kratos.
Having to share and even lose its best IPs is bad enough, but perhaps more importantly, Sony loses a sense of continuous identity that its rivals enjoy so much. Like them or loathe them, it is inconceivable to imagine Mario, Link, Marus Fenix or Master Chief on a Sony console, and with the attachment of these characters to a single platform comes a legion of loyal fans and therefore a stable base of consumers. Sony’s loss of identity is perhaps another overlooked reason why the PS3 is in third place this generation.
UK TV advertising
I don’t know what the US or global commercial for videogames are like, but in the UK Microsoft has a monopoly on TV adverts. I do not mean this in the sense that there are no Sony adverts, but Microsoft has managed to negotiate some kind of authority on titles that are multiplatform. At the climax of every commercial for a multiplatform game, it always appears to say ‘available on Xbox360 now’, and says nothing of the PlayStation 3 version. I watch it when non-gamers are in the room and they praise the game, suggesting that they would like to play it. Xbox claims all the credit for these games, like Rock Band, Resident Evil 5 and Call of Duty: WAW which have all been advertised for the 360, omitting the PS3’s existence.
Sure, this cost Microsoft a few beans but it is advertising such as this that has the greatest effect upon the ignorant populace and it would be easy for Sony to reclaim some of the credit that their machine rightly deserves in general third-party commercials. There is still the possibility that I have simply missed all of the PS3-favoured editions of these adverts, though I suspect it is a result of some savvy Microsoft marketing in order to mislead uninformed consumers, a bandwagon that Sony should get itself on.