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How PS3 can Win for Sony

It can’t be denied that Sony made a very impressive showing with their PS3. Compared to Microsoft’s uber-hyper-media claims of a billion users, Sony decided just to wow people with technology. Jaws dropped, bladders were emptied, Sony was declared the king of the hill. But after the dust settled, Microsoft people compared some hardware specs. They came out with some claims that the Xbox 360 is more powerful than the PS3. Since this is from a biased source, I’m going to wait for an impartial analysis before making any conclusions, but the numbers they claim are here:

Link: Major NelsonXbox 360 vs. PS3 (Part 1 of 4)
Link: Major NelsonXbox 360 vs. PS3 (Part 2 of 4)
Link: Major NelsonXbox 360 vs. PS3 (Part 3 of 4)
Link: Major NelsonXbox 360 vs. PS3 (Part 4 of 4)

Some people have taken exception to the numbers:

Link: Jerome on TechnologyXbox 360 versus Playstation Performance – Corrections for Major Nelson
Link: Beyond 3DThe most Detailed Tech Information on the Xbox360 yet
Link: Beyond 3DWTH IGN?! They posted the spec analysis from Major Nelson!!

So, it looks like the vaunted technical superiority of the PS3 over the Xbox 360 may be all smoke and mirrors, but maybe not.

Now, we all know that technological superiority does not make for a winning platform. Even J. Allard thinks so. After all, the PS2 won the last round and the Xbox was clearly a superior machine. What will make PS3 win over Xbox 360 (or vice versa) is the games. Games games games. Good ones. The platform with an obvious edge in quality gaming experiences will win.

But part of getting those games is convincing developers to write these games, and to do that, often the technical merits of a platform come in to play. Also, technical aptitude might convince early adopters (when there is no clear leader) to pick one platform over another.

So, what can Sony do to make their system more attractive, besides release quality software (including a good online strategy)?

A couple things:

1. Un-boomerang the controller. It looks stupid. And it looks uncomfortable to use. Maybe it is comfortable, who knows? But the problem is that it doesn’t look that way.

2. Add a trigger to the controller. Playing racing games at my friend Todd’s house, I love the triggers on the Xbox’s controllers. They make excellent gas and brake pedals – much better than the analog stick controller on the PS2. So swallow some pride and admit that Microsoft did something good. Change the R2 and L2 buttons to triggers. Hey, if Microsoft can fix their controller (moving the black and white buttons to the R1 and L1 positions), then Sony should be able to do it too.

3. Twiddle the hardware. The Major Nelson links above make a case that the Xbox 360 is superior in several ways. Maybe, maybe not. We know that technical superiority doesn’t make or break a system, but it sure doesn’t hurt. Sony still has a year before release of the PS3, why not tweak it a little? Add some memory. Only 256MB of general purpose memory? Double it. What about bandwidth? Developers should not have to compress data to move it around. Increase the bandwidth. And last of all, what general purpose computing power? Just add a Cell processor or two. Hey, it was built with this in mind. Okay okay, so maybe this is unrealistic, but I’m having fun.

4. More seriously, why not bump up the speed of the Cell to 4GHz? This is probably a lot more doable than #3. The Cell was originally supposed to operate at 4GHz anyway, and Sony reduced it for the PS3. Tech-On! even has a commentary about that and the fact that the number of SPE’s in the Cell has been reduced to 7 (probably to increase yields).

5. Can you make the box smaller? I think it looks sleek, but man it’s big!

That’s it! I know the PS3 will rock, even without these enhancements. And I know that #3 is probably quite unrealistic. But surely Sony can fix #1 and #2, and come out with great software, can’t they?

Link: FortuneSony vs. Microsoft vs. Nintendo
Link: EurogamerSony’s Phil Harrison on PlayStation 3