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Monthly Archives: March 2007

Ok, now the next-gen can begin

On Friday I left work early, house paperwork needed to be signed off at the solicitors and what-not, and I ended up having a quick stroll through Hinckley. Now, the more technologically savvy of you out there will realise exactly what Friday was and just why I couldn’t resist sticking my head into every Woolworths and Currys that I passed. For those of you who aren’t: the PlayStation 3 was released into Europe.

I was genuinely curious about how the PS3 would do on its opening day, what with its huge £425 price tag. With a barrier such as that getting in the way of casual purchasers, I knew that it would really only be the dedicated hardcore picking up the sleek, black box on day-one and so it was no surprise that everywhere I saw last week proclaimed loudly that PS3 stock was “NOW IN!!!”, with as many exclamation marks as their Berol would allow.

While my inner-fanboy did take some evil glee in the fact that, unlike every other console in living memory, they hadn’t all been snapped up within minutes, the PS3 launch was actually unlike any in history. Despite coming late to the European party, Sony had actually lived up to their promise and delivered enough consoles to satiate demand, plus, in the process, outsold both the Xbox 360’s and Wii’s launch weekend.

There has since been some debate in the office about what that actually means: does this mean that Sony has a greater success on its hands compared to its two rivals or, on the contrary, does the stock lining the shelves in fact mean that they are not actually producing a machine the massed ranks of gamers actually want? You can spin the facts either way and it has generally been argued as such, too.

The one definite thing you can say is that despite a perceived failure of the launch with low turn outs and Microsoft boats getting in the way of the celebrations, it actually turned into quite a success for the suits at Sony. Ultimately, Sony did sell more in their opening weekend of the next-gen console wars and that’s that. Who’s actually to say that if Xbox and Wii had produced more that they too wouldn’t have peaked and had consoles sitting unloved in shops?

Personally, I’m of the opinion that it’s far too early to tell the importance of PS3’s good start and that you can only hypothesise only so much before you start going round and round in circles. It’s going to take harder numbers than those provided during the boom of a launch window to prove how well the new PlayStation is going down with consumers. Until the weekly sales figures start appearing, just sit back and admire Sony’s production department for getting so many of those pieces of kit out into the real world. I think currently Nintendo could take some lessons.

Update: I’ve had a quick trawl around and managed to find February’s NPD numbers. These are basically the sales figures for America’s video games market.

  • DS – 485,000
  • Wii – 335,000
  • PS2 – 295,000
  • Xbox 360 – 228,000
  • PSP – 176,000
  • GBA – 136,000
  • PS3 – 127,000
  • GameCube – 24,000

Not healthy reading considering the abundance of PS3s that are now available; they are being outsold by every console except the GameCube. The consolation for Sony, at least, is that the PS2 is outselling the Xbox 360 by a healthy margin.

Welcome Home

So I go away for a week and in the meantime it appears Sony have actually announced something to challenge Microsoft’s Xbox Live as the dominant online console space. During his keynote at GDC Phil Harrison unveiled Home, an avatar driven world where you can mingle with friends online and eventually launch into games together.

The core components seem to be an extension of both Microsoft’s Live and Nintendo’s Miis, in terms of online connectivity and character customisation, but with an added twist of Linden Labs’ Second Life, an MMO where users can customise the very world around them.

Users (or “players”, I can’t decide) will be able to walk around a 3D world chatting with others that they meet, wandering into arcades to play pool, taking in movies at the local cinema and comparing trophies earned in an online showcase. When bored with interacting with the others you find in your world, why not retire back to your fully customisable flat which you’ve furnished with objects available at the store and media found on your hard-drive.

This seems an incredible leap for a platform that has been so resoundingly knocked from all angles due to the poorness of its online capabilities, and an exciting leap at that.

The prospect of such a system puts me in mind of the main city areas in World of Warcraft; there was always someone there trying to say hello, people constantly had wares to sell and individuals looking for others to play with. In other words, there was always something to do and fellow users to interact with.

Now while this basic interaction is why I enjoy Live (I still leave my 360 on even whilst playing Wii just to be connected), I can foresee that there would be times when a thriving, population-based, online system could get annoying. If you’re trying to get from A to B to just to start a game with a friend and you have to traverse a fully realised world rather than just select a menu option, my patience could start to wane. Let’s hope there are shortcuts for those times when you just don’t want to socialise.

With the appearance of Home I’m not yet ready to fill in my PS3 pre-order but I will be keeping one eye out at how online things develop.