R P G A M E R . C O M   -   E D I T O R I A L S

Oh Ye of Little Faith

Josh Martz

So, a few weeks ago, I felt like wandering around the internet in search of gaming news. You know, because I'm a complete idiot. I know better than to visit specific gaming sites in hopes of some sort of divine enlightenment on the status of gaming. Honestly, I do. But, curiousity pervades endlessly in my head, so onward I pressed.

I came across this little gem. Now, I should have first been alerted by the fact that Joystiq linked to it, but an insect had flown into my eye. And it was dark out.

...and I didn't have my contacts in.

The editorial, "The PS3's Worst Enemy," essentially states that the greatest threat to the PS3's advancement is not that of Nintendo's oddly-titled motion-sensing monster, or that of Microsoft's Halo-machine. In fact, the blame rests largely on the PS2, the predecessor to the PS3. I find that this is an odd assumption, partly because it's rather outlandish and partly because it's absolutely ludicrous.

Sony's had a lot of problems stirring up excitement with the PS3. Manufacturing problems, launch shortages, high prices, lackluster launch titles (Metal Gear Solid 4 isn't worthy a $660 investment) are just a few of the issues that have made gamers pretty nervous about getting Sony's Grey Goose of a console. Fundamentally, none of these are the biggest problems the PS3 has to face. The PS3's biggest problem hit me earlier today, when I was playing on my PS2.
The Playstation 3's biggest problem is the Playstation 2.

Ok, the author is off to a good start in the first paragraph. I mean, MGS4 isn't a launch title, but whatever. Yeah, Sony has a bit of a problem with their price tag, but...the hardware is really that costly. Blu-ray? Those players are currently selling at an MSRP of $999.99! It's also been noted that Sony is actually going to be ending up selling their system at a loss, much like Microsoft.

The author suddenly suffers from a literary stroke as he trips over the final period of his first paragraph, and wakes in a pile of vomit that we will call his "second paragraph." I could start whipping out information here, but let's see just why he thinks this, shall we?

Look at the release lineup for the PS2. Final Fantasy 12, God of War 2, Godhand, Phantasy Star Universe, and so on. Just this month we got the must-have Okami and the obscure-but-great Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria. These games are fun, they look beautiful, and they are adding more and more life to Sony's battered workhorse of a platform. They might not look quite as good as Xbox 360 or upcoming PS3 titles, but they're good enough to make the average gamer consider keeping their old system around for a few more months.
Sony hasn't yet made a convincing argument that the PS3 is a worthy replacement to the PS2 yet. Yes, it can output to 1080p. Yes, it will have better online and storage abilities. But these are all features Sony has told us, not shown us.

Yes, those games are fun. Yes, they are already available. Not relevant. Moving on.

1080p might not be such a great feature as of yet (well it IS great, it's just not as widespread, as those TVs can get pretty expensive), but it will be in the near future, and being the only system on the market that can support it will greatly enhance their system's potential on higher-end TVs which will ultimately be purchased by gamers - at some point. As for better online and storage...what proof do you need that a system will have a bigger hard drive?

Sony Exec: "Our system will be equipped with a 60 GB HDD."
Consumer: "That sounds amazing. How on earth are you planning on doing that?"
Sony Exec: "Well, we just stick this drive into this expansion bay. Oh look, it works."

They've also released the interface for the PS3 console, as well as deciding to equip the PS3 with Xfire capabilities - an already existing online service - so there's no worry there. At least, unless someone decides to switch to, say, AOL.

Nintendo demonstrated just how the Virtual Console is going to work, what titles will be available, and what it's going to cost us. We know we're going to see some great classics on top of the various ports and exclusives in the Wii's release lineup. Beyond that, we've seen the Wiimote in action, and though it could use some tightening up, there's a whole lot of potential there. Sure, there's still the Gamecube, but the Gamecube's lineup is already dwindling, and it looks like Zelda: Twilight Princess and Super Paper Mario will be the last big names to hit the system.

All right. I'll agree that it's much better to have actually seen something in action, but you're also displaying an enormous fallacy in saying that just because we can't see it, doesn't mean that it won't be good when it finally comes up. Nintendo's major selling point is its controller and Virtual Console. They needed to get that information out there, because they know that the technical specifications of their system are not up to par with the competition. The PS3 however, is, and they have made it damn clear that their upcoming games are going to reflect that.

Microsoft gave Xbox 360 XBLA, a great reason for fanboys to keep their systems on without a bunch of release titles. When Oblivion's feeling tired, owners can tap into Street Fighter II, Geometry Wars, and loads of other classic and remix games through Live Arcade. The original Xbox did have Live, but the 360 added countless features and an interface that's exponentially better than the original. The Xbox is still seeing its share of games coming out, but the 360 has already proven itself with a nice selection of exclusives and the unexpected greatness of XBLA.

Xbox Live was a great addition to Microsoft's systems, but so what? The PS3 is planning on having something similar with its Xfire setup. Besides, this still has nothing to do with the PS2.

The Playstation 3 has a lot of promises, Sony hasn't actually shown us many of them. We know the technical merits. Metal Gear Solid 4 looks great, Assassin's Creed looks great, White Knight looks freaking amazing. But beyond that... what does the system have to offer?

Please tell me this isn't a serious question. Please tell me that the first half of that paragraph was not connected in any way to the second half.

Technically it should be at the top of the heap. Fastest, most graphical bells and whistles, HDMI output, 1080p support, all of those nifty features. But beyond that what do the system have? Sony hastily added a lot of "features" like the SIXAXIS tilt controller and some form of XBLA/VC downloadable game support, but we haven't really seen them in action. Microsoft has proven the Xbox 360 to be a worthy successor to the Xbox. Nintendo has actually shown us what the Wii is capable of doing. Sony hasn't done much more but promise technical superiority and demonstrate that the PS3 dwarfs Ken Kutaragi's head.

Well, we have seen the tilt controller in action. They had a demo of Warhawk at E3 where the essentially flew the plane just by tilting the thing. And...oh no. Technical superiority. What a terrible thing to go after. But wait, I'm pretty sure Sony has had some sort of reputation due to its past two systems. Didn't the PS2 and PSX have some incredibly large userbase, not to mention a truckload of videogames for each system? I'm also pretty sure that past experiences tend to predict future trends, if Sega is any indication (Ok, that was a cheap shot...but it was valid).

Besides pretty graphics, the PS3 doesn't look like it's going to be that much better than the PS2. In the long run it might, but for now all Sony is offering is a bunch of lofty promises and a release list for the Playstation 2 will probably have more than one frugal gamer waiting a few months for a PS3 price drop and a few better titles. Unless they have a top-of-the-line high-def TV that can take HDMI and show 1080p, the PS3's most impressive graphics abilities will probably be lost on most. Without an amazing and obscenely expensive display to go with the obscenely expensive console, the PS3 will be little more than a PS2 with Xbox 360 graphics.
Okami and Valkyrie Profile are out now. God of War 2, Godhand, Final Fantasy 12, and lots of other tasty titles are in the pipe. It's still a good time to be a PS2 owner, and that makes it a bad time to sell the PS3.

Oh come on. All the PS2 did was add a USB port! I mean, it had those graphics too, but nobody cared about that! It still makes me wonder why anyone even bought a PS2, since it was basically a PSX with better graphics and a USB port. Sheesh.

But here's the biggest problem with the argument here. Yes, games are still being released for the PS2. And yes, the PS3 is almost here. Now, the PS3 can still play PS2 games. So, those who decide to buy a PS3 will not only be able to play the newer games for the newer system, but also the old PS2 games that are still coming out. Sony will eventually phase out the PS2 - it is inevitable. It's all going to come down to the games, my friend. If someone wants to play the PS3 games, they must upgrade, and they will not be losing anything (other than the money required) in the process. The Xbox360 didn't have anything spectacular as a launch title, yet it still sold 300k+ units at launch.

Whether people buy a PS3 or stick with their old PS2, Sony will still find a way to make you upgrade. Remember, just because you haven't seen something, doesn't mean it won't blow your socks off when it finally surfaces.

Ultimately, Sony's greatest problem is that of taking all of the things that it has assimilated from outside sources, such as the motion-sensing controller and the Xfire online service, and keeping it stable. They seem to be piling everything onto one plate, and while everything looks promising, it will be interesting to see if they are able to maintain all of these features, while still being able to create quality products. Third-party developers are also starting to take more notice of Nintendo's new system, and even companies like Square-Enix are starting to spread their domain of development to encompass multiple systems - something that has been rare, if not nonexistent, before. The Xbox360 has the same problem, as a large amount of their games are also available for other systems. It will be interesting to see if this change in support, as well as the feature-intensive PS3, will enable Sony to keep its place at the top of the competition.

Discuss this editorial on the message board