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CES - The Week that Was

Well it’s hardly surprising is it? Put two of the big videogame manufacturers in a series of conference rooms at event focused on consumer technology and of course they are going to start one-uping each other.

The week started on Sunday (as per usual!), with Bill Gates delivering Microsoft’s keynote, announcing that the xbox360 had “sold” (more on that later) 10.4 million worldwide. Cue much backslapping at target’s achieved from forums across the world. Bill Gates then gives a large number of interviews, with the audience seemingly dictating as to whether the PS3 or the Wii was the main competition to the 360. Hmmmm…

Then comes Monday, when Sony announced its own success, shipping 1 million PlayStation 3’s to the North American market in 2006, also meeting their target. Cue much backslapping at target’s achieved from forums across the world. Questions were, however raised as to the PS3’s success in Japan from where we are still waiting for shipment numbers. Then SCEA’s marketing man Peter Dille raised doubts about Microsoft’s accuracy with their 360 numbers in a Gamespot interview. He also questioned whether they had been as successful as they were claiming… Then Kaz Hirai, whilst talking to a decidedly biased Blu-ray magazine, declared that the PS3 was the most powerful next generation console and made comments about how Resistance would not have been possible on DVDs. This is where things started to go a bit off, with Hirai’s comments attracting a fair bit of criticism, despite Insomniac’s Ted Price having said similar things about Resistance, more subtly, last November. There was also the surprise news that the Sixaxis had won an Emmy, leading to Nintendo fanboy head scratching.

Wednesday saw Microsoft’s Peter Moore and Chris Satchell turning up the heat, with Moore lambasting Sony’s online approach. Added to that Sony was put through the embarrassment of misunderstanding it’s Emmy award which actually went to the Dual Shock and Nintendo’s D-Pad and not the Sixaxis, something eventually explained by SCEA’s Dave Karraker. Ooops.

Thursday saw the end of CES, with Sony’s Karraker responding to Moore’s jibes by discussing Gran Turismo HD as symbolic of the good health of PS3’s online network, and revealing that Microsoft’s definition of “Sold” is Sony’s definition of “Shipped”. Meanwhile, an analyst saw the increasing numbers of PS3s in stock as “troubling”. His concerns may have been vindicated (although it isn’t at all easy to tell!) when the monthly NPD figures revealed that Sony had sold around 680,000 PS3s since launch, leaving something like 320,000 errrr… not (some will be in Canada, some sold at unaccounted stores, the rest in the delivery pipeline somehwere). Id’s John Carmack delivered his verdict on the PS3, unsurprisingly stating his favouring of Microsoft’s simpler to programme 360. Sony’s electronic’s division also revealed that Blu-ray movies would eventually include downloadable movies to watch on portable devices. And that’s quite neat… but…

And this is my point. What actually came out of CES? Apart from a lot of figures and a lot of moaning, there was very little that Sony delivered that was actually about the PS3. Why haven’t we seen anything of Sony’s games since last October? Where’s the new Eye-toy? Where’s the information about the European launch? The only new thing we saw game-wise at CES were six Midway arcade titles getting the PSN treatment, this is 2007 guys, that isn’t too impressive. Sure you can extrapolate things from what is said and sales figures (which is what the ever hungry games market has done), but they don’t really tell you things that are either true or accurate. We weren’t expecting anything the week before, but some hyping by sections of the games media and PRs for both Sony and Microsoft had certainly raised my expectations that we might see something. Sony needs to show more games sooner rather than later if it is to attract more users to the platform, especially as it looks as though sales may well be slowing.

As for Sony and Microsoft’s war of words? They’re both wrong. I’m not saying they’re both wrong in what they said, each party raised a number of good points, but that they are both wrong for basically resorting to what amount to pre-school-esque jibes. It’s just fanboy fodder. Both companies should know better.