Playstation 3 Outlook

There have been a bunch of articles this week describing Sony’s upcoming game console, the Playstation 3. Almost every single one of them has been negative: pushing back launch dates, officially cancelling previously-promised features, and also a hands-on take of the console that is, in the reviewer’s words, unremarkable. Playstation “poser fans” are quaking nervously, but the real fans remain hopeful, mostly considering the fact that beating the XBOX 360 isn’t going to be that difficult.

I discussed the alleged Fall (September 16, 2006 for US is the unofficial take at this point) release in a previous post, which is contrary to Sony’s promise of a Spring release. A Sony executive recently denied any postponement of release, but a Spring 06 release is honestly looking doubtful at this point, unless Sony is keeping some serious news confidential from everyone. I honestly don’t believe the release date matters. As long as it delivers better performance and graphics than the 360, no one will care when it comes out. Though I must admit that if the Merrill Lynch estimates of a Q1 2007 release are correct, Sony may be in for trouble.

More notably than the pushed-back release date, however, was the report Kikizo released regarding the PS3. They received hands-on experience with a device of comparable specs to the PS3 and tried out the early versions of many of the system’s upcoming games. Their conclusion is worrying at best, as they state: “Sony’s showings of PS3 to date have been seriously sexy. But the reality, while still impressive, is nowhere near the leap beyond Xbox 360 Sony wants you to believe, and it seems many projects are still at an early enough stage for things to start getting a little worrying.” So, they are basically saying that the PS3’s Cell doesn’t meet expectations: fans expected it to blow the 360’s measly dual-core processor out of the water. My take on this is simple: either the developers are not fully taking advantage of the multi-threaded nature of the Cell, or the early versions of the games played are buggy in terms of performance. I simply refuse to draw any real conclusions based on some review of beta hardware and software. In short, PS3 will be better than the 360; that is not really the question. Rather, it is more of a matter of how much better it will be. This article seems to think that it won’t be that much better graphically or speed-wise, but I tend to think first-party games especially, when they are finished, will use the Cell to its advantage and tear the 360 to shreds.

The Taipei Game Show I talked about in my previous post (where I incorrectly cited the date) has come and gone, and still no real PS3 footage. This is surprisingly to me, as I really expected to at least see some real-time content from a real Playstation 3, or at least something close to one. This leads me to believe that there are indeed hardware issues that will take time to resolve. However, one must consider if Sony is just playing a really smart game. While it would be ignorant to believe the PS3 will release in Spring 06 and knock the socks off everyone in all of its glory, it would also be ignorant to dismiss the theory that Sony may be purposely witholding information. Hype is generally bred by suspense, and Sony’s lack of official statements surrounding the PS3 may just be their way of letting the hype germinate. Many companies have been known to purposely withold their biggest surprises, mostly because the unanimous wows when the official info comes out are enough to get even the most uninterested person to contemplate putting the product on their Christmas list. If Sony is playing the public will be seen soon enough, and I think it would be a brilliant move on their part if my speculations are true.

Today, more news has surfaced, though it isn’t directly related to the Playstation 3. Official documents from Sony have been leaked regarding a possible God of War sequel. The insanely popular original God of War was one of the best action-adventure games I have ever played, due mostly to its cool use of Greek mythology. The ending of the original, which I will not spoil here, definitely left room for a sequel, and let’s just say it would be an awesome sequel. If you beat the game you will know what I mean. Anyway, the “official documents” that were leaked were summarized by 1UP. The jist of their article is “The sequel’s allegedly coming in early 2007…on PS2.” The early 2007 (February) part is nothing to be wowed about, but the fact that it will be released on Playstation 2 is troubling, and this is where this revelation ties back to PS3. Games don’t usually get released on an “old” system any later than six months after the release of a “new” one. So, games shouldn’t be coming out on PS2 six months after PS3 is released, especially not high-profile ones like God of War. This leads me to believe that the PS3 launch date will indeed be later than the Spring. Also, I would like to note that company “leaks” are often media ploys, and are purposefully done by the company. Perhaps this God of War 2 leak is yet another chapter of Sony’s Machiavellian plan to dominate the console market. Or maybe it is just a leak.

The conclusion of all my above babbling is one of mystery: when it all comes down to it, no one really knows anything real about the Playstation 3. Whether it will be leaps and bounds above the XBOX 360, or when it will be released, are all questions that will never be answered fully until Sony officially states it. When they actually will is up for debate, but I would become very worried if nothing official is released at this year’s E3. Only time will tell…