Michael Ephraim, managing director of Sony Australia, has officially announced that the Playstation 3 is the console war king - in Australia. According to Ephraim, sales figures in the Land Down Under have shown the "PS3...outselling Wii and Xbox 360 every week, except for last week."
The recent stories like this one out of the Sony camp are becoming pathetic at best. The company who formerly touted its dominance over the video game industry is left touting a 50,000 unit sale for March and a sales lead "for every week, except for the last week." Which brings me to another issue: what happened last week? Is this a sign of things to come?
Sony has gone to the well one too many times and now it's living with the ramifications of its poor decisions. Sony may be the leader in Australia, but it will never be the leader in the United States and within a few years, will finish dead last in Japan as well. The end is near for Sony's game division and time is running out on a new plan. There is no way the company will rise to the top of the console wars, but in the United States, look for Sony to finish second.
Yes you did just read that. And just to make you a little more confused, Nintendo will finish dead last. Why you ask? It's simple: the video game industry is controlled by software developers and very few of those companies will be willing to drop the time and money it takes to develop a new control scheme for the Wii.
I know this may sound like the same old story that most Wii fanboys have been laughing at for the past six months, but as we move into the summer and the holiday season, the future is becoming all too clear.
Microsoft is leading the console wars right now regardless of Wii shortages because it offers more to the developers than the Wii or the PS3. We can talk all we want about the innovative Wii console and how it sets a new standard for the video game industry, but it is not a money-maker for software developers like the Xbox 360 is. If I was writing this ten years ago, then that argument would not only be valid, it would be true. Unfortunately, we are knee-deep in an era of cash flow dictating what we play and how we play it. And believe it or not, the Wii doesn't fit into that business model.
In order to turn a profit in this business, most developers need to take your favorite game and port it to other systems. And because the Xbox 360 and the PS3 are so much more powerful than the Wii, developers typically start their work on these consoles. Once the game is complete on say, the 360 for example, they can easily map the entire game's controls to the PS3 controller because it offers the same layout: four buttons, two analog sticks and a D-pad. For the Wii, it's not so easy. Instead, developers need to create an entirely new control scheme and some kind of interaction with the Wii functionality or else the game will be hammered by video game reviewers begging for better controls.
Now I know what you're thinking: it may be difficult, but with the number of Wiis in homes in the US, it makes sense to spend the extra time and money to port a game to the Wii. Wrong. There are a number of issues that may arise when developing and porting games and with suits dictating a release schedule and a budget that often times runs over on the original port, it quickly becomes impractical to develop a new control scheme for the Wii.
The Wii will become (or has it already?) a mini-game console that will feature big games from Nintendo and the like, but will never reach the pinnacle that Microsoft will enjoy in this generation.
So where does that leave Sony? A distant second to the Xbox 360. Over the course of the next five to ten months, Sony will be releasing a slew of wildly popular games like Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy and Killzone. Not only will these games help bolster sales of the system, an impending PS3 price drop will significantly increase the number of people who will choose a PS3 over a Wii or Xbox 360.
With that said, Sony has already done enough damage that it cannot recover from. Why you ask? It's simple: Microsoft obviously understood this business far better than Sony and wooed software developers. Microsoft understood that hardware doesn't drive sales and make a console king, it's the software that dictates who will come out on top. Sony on the other hand, rested on its laurels and thought an advanced (and expensive) device would be enough to run Nintendo and Sony out of the video games industry for good. Obviously Sony was wrong. By relying on hardware, developing for the console was difficult and the centerpiece of the device: its Blu-ray player, has been all but ignored by the average video game player who only wants to play Madden and couldn't care less about the high-def DVD wars.
So, in an age where money takes center stage and innovation is relegated to other forms of entertainment, the video game industry trudges on with executives claiming victories and fans screaming obscenities at each other in a Halo death match. And while some people believe their own favorite console will become the leader of this generation, time is running out. The Xbox 360 has an installed base that demands developer attention, while the Wii has the most entertaining experiences we have ever enjoyed and the Playstation 3 is nothing more than an expensive piece of machinery that has yet to prove its worth. But within a few shorts months, all of the cards will be on the table and each member of the pack will take its rightful place in order: The Xbox 360, followed by the Playstion 3 and the Wii.