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Is the PS3 an Afterthought among Developers? |

N’Gai Croal writes that most developers seem to prefer the Xbox over the PS3, not only as a development platform, but also for their personal gaming. Even beyond the tech people, the business side of the industry seems to generally favor Microsoft as well.

He’s got a good point.

Microsoft has been very successful at winning mindshare and cultivating brand fanaticism. This also isn’t just related to the Xbox and their game development software, but all of their branded technologies, whether it’s database software or office software.

Of course this isn’t universal. Many people are equally fanatical about a variety of other technologies, one of which is, of course, the PS3.

But in the game industry, at least in North America and the U.K., Microsoft has a strong mindshare advantage over Sony.

On the other hand, PS3 still managed to outsell the 360 for the entire year of 2007, and has been picking up huge momentum so far into 2008.

What does Sony need to do to regain an equal footing among developer and industry insider favor?

  • JimmyStewart

    Personally I think one of the biggest hurdles if not the biggest hurdle has been passed. I’d imagine a lot of developers were focusing on the 360 because it had a really huge install base. It shouldn’t be that unfamiliar to the Sony fanatics. Last generation most software was created for the PS2 with the more powerful XBox being the after thought. This time the tables were turned. However, now that the PS3 seems to be catching up in sales I’d imagine the developers are starting to realize the PS3 is a more worth while investment. They can spend the money working to get the most out of the platform now that they know they have an install base ready to buy games.

    Second I’ll toss in my obligatory comment about the PS3 needing more games and better games. I’m not sure if anyone can believe the figures Sony or MS are announcing for overall console sales. But one thing I’m sure they’re looking at is how well the games on the platforms are performing. And until Sony has a real huge hit on it’s hands I think developers are still weary. They’ll look at games like CoD4 and see the advantage the 360 has and continue to focus on that platform. Once the PS3 proves that it can outsell the 360 in software on a few multiplatform titles or even to manage some Halo 3 sized numbers on some exclusives it might bring some more attention from the developers. It’s all about the games. That’s another misleading thing about console sales numbers. With the 360 you know people are buying it to game. With the PS3… I bought my first one as a Blu-Ray player with gaming as a secondary option. My second PS3 is strictly used as a Blu-Ray/Divx player.

    And finally, an issue I know nothing about. I’ve heard from a number of places that the 360 is an easier platform to develop on. Supposedly the PS3 is a lot more difficult. I’ve heard a lot about the ease of working with MS to get things rolling, but the difficulty when working with Sony. Some people seem to chalk this up to the differences between Japanese and American companies. Again, I don’t know anything about this as I don’t develop games. Perhaps this is just a huge conspiracy started by MS 😉

    These are just my thoughts.

  • Rjcc

    start selling games? have a development environment that doesn’t suck? make it easy for developers to add features like online play, voice chat, etc.?

    Maybe, just maybe, developers and gamers prefer the Xbox because it suits their needs, not because they are brainwashed fanatics. Congratulations, the ps3 outsold xbox in 2007. Unfortunately it didn’t come anywhere close in terms of software sales, and there’s still a matter all the xbox’s sold in 2005 and 2006.

    Sony’s made some strides though, soon the ps3 will have a controller in the box that doesn’t suck, and the price has come down a bit. It’s still not better for gaming than the Xbox, but it will at least be worthwhile. Know anyone I can sell my sixaxis to?

  • Rjcc

    btw, they probably didn’t want to show it because the PS3 version of rock band requires you to quit the game and install the DLC before playing it, so the in game store is pretty useless because of sony’s stupid download scheme. having to install things before play is just silly on a console.

  • Darrin

    Good post, Jimmy, but I disagree on a few things.

    – Install base is important, but developer mind share is a bigger factor. When a developer is fanatical about a particular platform or technology, he/she will push hard to work in that direction, even if it makes terrible financial sense to an outside accountant. Publishers and investors have all of the official decision making power, but the rank and file developers exert a lot of informal influence that isn’t obvious to outsiders.

    – Regarding “ease of development”: Developers are notoriously opinonated and often rationalize what the technologies and platforms that they like. This is obvious in any area of software. Ask a web developer whether it’s “better” or “easier” to use PHP, Java, Rails, or ASP. Ask a database admin which is “best” among MySQL, PostgreSQL, MS SQL, DB2, or Oracle. You will get highly opinionated answers that differ wildly depending on who you ask and their personal preferences.

    There is a grain of truth to this: Microsoft has an innate advantage in that they have large developer mindshare outside of games, and have a natural advantage at integrating their game development tools into other familiar Microsoft owned tool sets. Also, the PS3 hardware is more unique while the 360 has a more familiar PC architecture. But the overwhelming consensus among developers and publishers has been that the development tools are largely equal from a productivity perspective. If there really was a large difference, I don’t think we would hear that.

    – Games. Personally, the PS3 already has more games that match my tastes but this is obviously subjective. And more is always better.

  • Ross

    There is little to no community on PS3. Fix this and release home, then sony will start to even the playing field.

  • Darrin

    rjcc, I think everyone would agree that PS3 is lagging 360 in terms of friends/messaging functionality, voice chat, custom soundtrack support, and a few other specific areas. They definitely need to work on those.

    I doubt that the in-game Rock Band store will require manually installing add-ons like PSN downloads do. Actually, while I agree with N’Gai Croal that Microsoft has successfully garnered more mindshare in North America, I think Rock Band is a bad example of that. PS3 owners occassionally get DLC first, and we got wireless guitar controllers which is a big advantage.

  • Pc

    If the PS3 is just an afterthought for some developers out there, it simply means they are ill prepared, or just plain dumb and don’t know how to make good games for a real gaming machine with very unique architecture.

  • Rjcc

    Darrin – it does require manually installing the add-ons, according to I don’t have it for ps3 myseslf so I can’t verify, but that’s what they said when they tested it out.

  • Rjcc

    they updated it – it’s only sometimes.

    [Update: Just to clarify, the game does install tracks, but only when you download songs one at a time and if you wait until the song fully downloads. If you choose to ‘perform in the background’ and/or proceed to get more songs, you’ll have to install manually and exit the game.]

  • ehandlr

    18 million 360’s
    12 million PS3’s

    The difference isn’t all that much

    DMC4 only sold 40k less on the PS3 then it did the 360 in NA

  • Darrin

    rjcc, you are right about installing songs. That is an annoyance. However, I think overall, the PS3 version of Rock Band is pretty nice. However, it’s arguably a slightly better version due due to the wireless guitar so I think it’s a bad example to show the overall industry preference for 360.

  • Microsoft doesn’t do well in brand loyalty. In IT, even people who use Microsoft tend to hate its living guts. Anyone who’s had to run IIS, Exchange, or any other of their proprietary, poorly developed server-side junk is not usually happy. Windows and Office are just so dominant you likewise have to use them. The development apps and maybe stuff like World Wide Telescope are rare exceptions.

    Also, outside Windows and Office, where Microsoft got in early and (famously) abused their monopoly, they haven’t been doing well. Xbox is barely profitable even years in and Zune has floundered.

    The only thing saving them is that Sony, thusfar, has floundered worse. They lost the MP3 market to Apple, and now the console back to Nintendo.

    For developers, a cell processor on the PS3 may not be as familiar as the PowerPC in the Xbox 360. I’ve heard it described as programming for 11 size 1 CPUs (for Sony) rather than 1 size 10 CPU for the Xbox.

    All of them are crazy. Whoever first gets to market with a single development platform with complete code portability/leverage for mobile, PC, and living room will clean up from developers. Be that Zune/WinMob/Vista/Xbox 360 or PSP/Viao/PS3 or iPhone/Mac/Apple TV.

  • Darrin

    Rene, There are no shortage of IT people who are forced to use Microsoft products and hate it. I’m one of them. I’m taking a break from working on an ASP.NET/SQL Server/SharePoint project now, on my Saturday, and I hate it.

    However, everyone else at my company and most IT people that I know are *fanatical* about Microsoft and they hate absolutely anything that opposes a Microsoft product.

    There are definite people on both sides of the fence in IT and it the video game arena. But I believe N’Gai when he observes a Microsoft advantage in brand mindshare. The masses are fickle, though, and that zeitgest mindshare does shift unpredictably.

  • it’s been out longer and Microsoft doesn’t support the XBOX at all. It’s 360 or nothing.
    The year long head start is just that a head start. The blue ray strategy is getting game consoles into the hands of non gamers. This benefits non traditional game developers. N’gai talked to traditional developers, of course they’re going to say they want the status quo. They probably think the wii i a great platform to develop on because all they are doing is recompiling ps2 games an selling them brand new.

  • I’m glad my experiences have been so different! The only people I’ve ever met who loved Microsoft, who even wanted it in the farm, were consultants who made money selling Exchange/CRM/Sharepoint services, and younger programmers who really want visual studio on their desktops.

    The vets have innumerable reasons for holding grudges, be it some perceived betrayal of VMS when they launched NT, to continued promises of vaporware like Cairo and WinFS, to the viruses and lack of stability on anything running IIS on the web, to the existence of IE 6, to the nightmarish admin overhead, and it just goes on and on.

    For me its the lack of integration from the one company in the world who really could provide end-to-end solutions. Just the other day I had to explain, again, to a sales person that CRM will launch another IE instance and then try to close the original one every time they log on. They asked “why?”. I had no sane answer.

    Again, in my experience the only real advantage Microsoft has is that no one is ever fired for buying the perceived standard. (Cash incentives from Redmond in the way of cheap starter packs probably open some doors before people realize the steep extra licensing fees they’ll get caught for later).

    Outside Windows/Office, I don’t even think they’re the odds on favorite anymore in most areas, including the 360.

    (Though I hope Ozzy and hopefully some new blood can use that as inspiration for renewal, the market needs competition).

  • mpz

    That article and many before have mentioned how much ‘nicer’ ms are to them. Game ‘journalists’ have also stated it with respect to their own work.

    I wonder what that actually means.

    e.g. are they throwing a lot of technical people their way because they have near-bottomless resource to draw from. Are they taking less in royalties on game sales? Are they just taking the out to dinner and plying them with alcohol and women?

  • Darrin

    mpz, good point. I assume “nicer” means MS has more sophisticated PR teams. They are better at tracking which issues are important to whom, they are better at knowing which PR or dev support materials to send, what to say on an interview, and when/how to wine & dine someone.

    Microsoft is used to this kind of high publicity, political tech battles. They have a lot of experience with controlling press reaction and public image.

    Sony doesn’t. Sony is used to making TVs and consumer electronics. Those fields don’t get anywhere near the publicity and political tech battle that the PS3/360 battle is generating and that Microsoft is used to.

  • I recently bought a new PC with Vista, because my old one was starting to act up. I’ll admit that I love the look of Vista, but as Gary has pointed out, it’s a complete rip-off of the Mac interface. But that’s what MS do – they plagiarise everyone else’s technology, and sell it as their own.

    I don’t use my PC for gaming any more, just browsing and video editing. I would have bought a Mac, but the prices remain extortionate. A similarly-spec’d Max would have cost DOUBLE what my PC cost me, so it wasn’t an option.

    I’d use Linux, but the simple fact is that the software available is limited. That said, I will be upgrading my PS3’s HDD in a few months, and I’ll be installing and trying Linux on that.

  • Darrin

    Rip-offs are fair game in technology. Vista imitated a lot of GUI stuff from Apple. C# is fundamentally a clone of Java. Sony should imitate Microsoft regarding PR practices or whatever they are doing to garner such favor.

    Rene, definitely count yourself lucky.