The 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) begins in a few days, so I’m going to share my opinion on the state of each of the consoles as they are now, and what might be revealed at E3 to improve things. After E3 is over I’ll look at what has been announced and see how I think they all fared.
Each console will broken down into three categories: hardware (concerning the actual console itself), hardcore software (with “hardcore” being shorthand for the dedicated gamers who read video game news sites and are part of gaming communities) and casual software (with “casual” being used to describe both the gamers who enjoy the hobby but don’t immerse themselves in it, and the expanded audience that has been attracted to gaming by the Wii).
Current Problems: In one word: Price. In many words, the PS3’s current price point is too high, making it unattractive to the average consumer. In months where the 360 and Wii sell well the PS3 sells merely okay, and in months where the 360 and Wii sell merely okay the PS3 sells poorly (as evidenced by the most recent NPD data). Even the release of the biggest console exclusive this year, Killzone 2, did not help the PS3 outsell (or even match) the other two consoles, despite them not having comparable releases.
Possible Solutions: There are two possibilities that have both been heavily talked about in recent weeks: A price cut (increasing the loss on each system sold) or a hardware revision using smaller, cheaper components (reducing the cost to manufacture without affecting the profit/loss).
Likely E3 Solution: Interestingly, Sony might do nothing to help with this at E3. Rumours (and “reliable” inside sources) point towards a slim hardware revision being in the works, but which likely will not be revealed at E3. Considering Sony’s computer entertainment division have remained adamant that they don’t intend to drop the price (and Sony as a whole being quite averse to loss-inducing tactics right now) a price drop doesn’t look too likely either.
Likely Result if No Solution is Announced: PS3 sales will likely remain the lowest of the three for the next few months, both in terms of hardware and software. At least one of the above solutions will probably be announced before the end of the year (possibly at the Tokyo Game Show), which would hopefully spur sales from that point onwards and make these disappointing figures a thing of the past.
Current Problems: Not many. The PS3’s line-up for 2009 – with inFamous (just released), MAG, Heavy Rain, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Uncharted 2: Amongst Thieves, Demon’s Souls and White Knight Chronicles all likely for 2009, and God of War III and Gran Turismo 5 possible games for early 2010 – is looking very strong. There have been rumours that the ambitious Heavy Rain may be pushed back to 2010, but even then PS3 software is looking strong.
Possible Solutions: As there aren’t really any problems there aren’t any solutions needed. Even more exclusives announced for the end of the year would make things even better.
Likely E3 Solution: Again, there’s nothing needed. Sony will likely announce a few new things at E3, but they might not be for 2009.
Likely Result if No Solution is Announced: Not much. Software will sell quite well but it’s the price of the PS3 that is holding the console back, and it remains to be seen whether or not these games can help with that.
Current Problems: To an extent it’s difficult to gauge. Sony has most of the same games being made that made the PS2 so popular, but sales of hardware and software aren’t anywhere near PS2 levels. If the games aren’t the problem then we go back yet again to the price of the hardware keeping away the PS2’s audience, who are either still happy with the PS2 or are now enamoured with the Wii.
Possible Solutions: The obvious one is to copy the Wii and release a motion control device. Rumours have pointed to the existence of a PS3 controller that can be broken apart into two pieces for independent motion control, though it’s possible that this would sit in an awkward middle ground that lacks the advantage of the Wii – that it does away with the complicated controllers that make for an intimidating experience for new gamers.
Likely E3 Solution: Uncertain. Sony might reveal their motion controller, or it might not even be out of the concept stages or ready for a public unveiling. They could also announce more games in casual-friendly genres, but if it’s the system’s price that is keeping these gamers away then additional games might not help.
Likely Result if No Solution is Announced: The current situation would likely remain unchanged, casual gamers will continue to flock to the Wii. If Microsoft announce their own motion control solution at E3 and manage to make a success of it, Sony may find it considerably harder to catch up.