PS3's current competition is its predecessor
They say the darkest hour is right before the dawn. Sony better hope so.
The final December U.S. sales tallies for each console came in last week, and the news was great for Nintendo (1.35 million Wiis sold), good for Microsoft (1.26 million Xbox 360s) and OK for Sony (1.1 million PS3s).
Oops, sorry, that's how many PlayStation 2 consoles Sony sold. The company rang up just 798,000 PS3 systems.
In other words, since Sony is still struggling to break even on the PS3, the seven-year-old PS2 remains by far the company's most successful console. That's certainly a testament to the PS2's capabilities and top-notch game library. But it's also an indictment of the PS3, and a painful reminder that Sony has, so far, managed to disregard every lesson it should have learned from its past two consoles.
Anyway, what's done is done.
Sony can't go back in time and unrelease the PS3 and wait another year to get the cost of the components down before putting the system on store shelves. And it can't reverse the migration of previously exclusive titles to other systems (notably the 360).
But the company does have two advantages heading into this year. One, the war to determine the next-generation high-definition DVD format is drawing to a close, and Sony's Blu-ray format has vanquished the upstart HD-DVD technology. So the PS3's Blu-ray movie functionality should be a major selling point for the system from here on out, and it really is a great Blu-ray movie player. Hopefully, Sony will start packing in the $25 Bluetooth PS3 remote control for free with the system to emphasize the console's versatility.
The other factor in Sony's favor is that the PS3 is finally coming into its own as a game console (which, after all, is the main reason it exists). For example, PS3-exclusive Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, released late last year, deserves a lot more attention than it has received so far. It's hands-down the best game on the platform and has made me a lot less interested in the new Indiana Jones movie coming out this year.
If I can play on my own through an epic archaeological adventure with an intelligent plot, consistently witty dialogue and likable characters while fighting off pirates, commandos and angry mutants in a variety of gorgeous Caribbean locales, why should I waste my time with Geriatric (sorry, Indiana) Jones?
And there are some other gems to look forward to in 2008. Metal Gear Solid 4, of course, looks great, and I'm eager to see what Unreal Tournament III looks like in a month or two once users have had a chance to sink their teeth into the level-design tools. User-created levels and mods are one of the as-yet-unchallenged strengths of the PC as a game platform, and if that feature takes off on the PS3, it will be something no other console has.
Little Big Planet is another PS3 exclusive, and it looks like Mario for the older gamer, while Sony's online social networking world called Home could blow Xbox Live out of the water if it lives up to the hype.
Of course, a year from now, if the PS2 is still outselling the PS3, then it might be time to wonder how Sony is going to pull out of its tailspin.