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This Generation Paving the Way for PS4?

*Article is an opinion of the writer and should not be seen as fuel for the “console war”, even though that will probably be it’s fate*

This generation of gaming consoles has proven a lot of things since the Xbox 360 launched. Remember the days when the PlayStation 3 was stumbling down a steep hill, with sales numbers faltering up until the price drop and the release of the Slim model? Out of the big three, Sony is, indeed, in 3rd place in total number of consoles sold, lagging behind the 360 by 5 – 6 million units (Wii is at around a ridiculous 67 million).

Because of this, people claim that Sony has lost the console war; jumping to an invalid conclusion. Keep in mind, the 360 was released in November of 2005, a year earlier than the release of the PlayStation 3. A lot of people couldn’t wait to get into the “next gen” world, and this, in turn, caused a wave of people buying the console because friends owned it. With total 360 sales nearing 38 million, and Sony closing in on 32 million (according to VGChartz, which isn’t an entirely reliable source, but the numbers are close enough for a relative sales figure within the realm of reality).

That being said, the 360 has been out for about 50 or so months, with the PS3 being out for about 38. Doing the math, that would mean the PS3 sells about 840,000 units a month (remember, the console was a staggering $600 at one point, too), with the 360 selling 760,000 per month (keep in mind, this is just total number of consoles sold over the number of months since release, there are slow months and there are big months (last calendar quarter of last year, the PS3 sold over 6.5 million consoles alone)). At this rate, within the next calendar year’s months (going by this number, and counting between March and December, being 9 months), the PS3 could potentially sell 7.56 million consoles, with the 360 selling 6.84 million.

This, of course, means that the sales figures will have to keep constant, which will most likely not be the case. This is when the Wii’s sales come in. With the casual market being their biggest push, they’ve been able to sell around 67 million consoles since launch, which is in the same time frame as the PS3. The problem with this is that their sales numbers keep falling, as opposed to rising. There is very little chance either of the other two will be catching up to those figures any time soon, though, but it does go to prove the gaming market is pretty sporadic and unpredictable.

Sticking with sales numbers, this is when they can be seen as questionable, especially on the 360 side. The 360 has an incredibly high failure rate, with the biggest culprit, literally 9 times out of 10, being the RROD (Red Ring of Death). It was so bad that Microsoft, in an effort to curb as many lawsuits as possible, had to extend their warranty for up to 3 years for that specific problem. After that warranty, most people, after having this issue, would go out and buy a replacement console as opposed to spending $150 to get theirs fixed (some even do so if their console is still under warranty).

To Microsoft’s credit, though, the turnaround for sending a console in and getting a replacement/repaired unit is relatively quick. Having experienced 2 RRODs, it only takes about 3 weeks max. The problem is, after that 3 years, you’ll have been screwed out of your purchase on something that should have lasted a lot longer. My first 360 died a couple months before they extended the warranty (this was back in 2007), and I didn’t have the money for a new one, so it just sat on the shelf while I enjoyed my PS3 (which I had actually gotten in February of that year, and spent the full $600 for my 60GB with all the bells and whistles).

Currently being on my third 360, I try to use it as little as possible, opting to play all third party multiplatform titles on the PS3, even if they are inferior (or, in Fallout 3’s case, I went with the PC version). I’m noticing a lot more problems now, issues I hadn’t even had with my other two 360 consoles. It doesn’t read discs half the time (and in Halo 3’s case, it tells me to enter either an Xbox or Xbox 360 format disc), the disc tray jams when you try to eject it (in order to open it, I have to nudge the tray around in different directions), and games crash on it all the time. I’m currently renting Forza 3 (great game by the way), and already had to reset the system about 10 times because of disc read errors and system crashing. I know a RROD is right around the corner!

With problems still persisting, this goes to show that the 360 sales are quite possibly the result of buying a new system to replace damaged ones. If they had better QA, and the systems were more reliable, the sales might actually be down a few million units. The PS3 has a few possible problems as well, with one of the more common ones being the “Yellow Light of Death” hardware failure, but even that’s more isolated than even the RROD. Sales as a result of YLOD wouldn’t be nearly as significant as that of RROD sales.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s look at a possible conclusion to this generation of consoles. Nintendo, obviously taking the top spot, has proven that a good marketing campaign at the beginning, and pushing family-oriented gameplay down everyone’s throat (and with Nintendo itself being a household name), you can sell millions and millions of consoles. Too bad they lack the sheer number of good, quality games and, instead, are focused on quick-buck titles like mini games and licensed characters. Out of all the consoles, they have the most shovelware and their metacritic overall score suffers because of that.

With the unreliability and constant hardware failures of Microsoft’s 360, a lot of current users might look the other way by the time the 8th generation of consoles hit the market. Die hards/fan boys will no doubt jump ship to Microsoft’s next console, but that’s to be expected of any system. I might skip out on it myself, because when I owned an original Xbox, one failed on me, too (plus, Microsoft pretty much dropped all support of the system when the 360 was released, and the original Live service on Xbox will be discontinued on the 15th of April this year, so I would expect the same kind of treatment next generation).

This all leads to the PS3. The system may not have the best failure rate, but it is far better than the 360’s (jokingly (or am I?), the Wii’s extremely low failure rate might be due to the fact that once you buy one, it just sits on the shelf, and without using it, the hardware won’t fail :P). For what it’s worth, hardware is definitely one of Sony’s strong suits. It’s very reliable, too. The majority of original PS3 owners are still on their original 60GB with little to no issues (I was having a first-try disc read error, but after blowing the dust out of the system, I no longer have any issues).

Sony’s other strong point is a very strong first-party software lineup. With great games, both in the back catalog and forthcoming releases, Sony is, again, picking up on sales. Sure, the sales numbers aren’t as high as the 360’s, but always keep in mind that it’s quality over quantity, and the PS3’s exclusives almost always deliver on the quality front (well, most big-name titles anyway). The best part being, a lot of the back-catalog exclusives are Greatest Hits now, so new users can pick up masterpieces like Metal Gear Solid 4, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, and Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction (etc, etc) for $30 or less. Given the games the system does have, it’s got the highest overall metacritic score of all consoles. Don’t get me wrong, the other two consoles also have some great exclusive titles, but nothing compares to Sony’s lineup (in my opinion anyway).

The future-proofing of the PS3 is another huge advantage. Back when it first came out, a lot of the tech was unproven. People questioned Sony’s motives with the system having HDMI, cell processor and blu-ray support, stating things like HDMI wasn’t necessary and blu-ray was going to fail. Assumptions were proven false. Later versions of the 360 now include HDMI ports, Microsoft responded to the PS3’s blu-ray drive with the (failed) $200 HD-DVD external drive, and the Cell has proven to be one heck of a powerhouse, supporting many civil and military applications (and they’ve done wonders with Folding@home/Life with PlayStation), and with developers finally getting the grasp of its capabilities, good things are bound to come. Then you have the easily replaceable hard drive…

All of this leads me to believe that this generation is but a stepping stone for Sony’s next console. This generation has shown that Sony still has about the most reliable hardware out there; they deliver quality titles, and take risks that usually prove to be beneficial as time goes on. Back when the original PlayStation was released, it sold roughly the same amount of consoles in the same time frame as the PS3 is in right now. It, too, took a lot of risks with unproven technology (CD/disc-based gaming), but led to the greatest feats in gaming history to date, the PlayStation 2. The real question is, will the PS4 be the console to dominate the next round of gaming systems? Being a Sony fan myself (read: NOT fan boy, I just grew an undeniable preference), I certainly hope so!

As a side note, hopefully they get a more unified community setup like Live by then, though, but it’s not the end of the world if it isn’t. They also need to lock games to, at least, the PSN ID as opposed to the hardware itself. Those are probably 2 of the biggest things PS3 users wanted to see this generation, so hopefully Sony will please the fans. There are also other lessons Sony should learn from this generation, including how to market games and consoles alike (their ad campaigns are far better than what they used to be at least), as well as forming better relationships with developers and lending a helping hand to ensure their version of games are on par with the competition. If they can manage this in the next generation, then they will undoubtedly be on top again.