Sony completely dominated the console market in the last generation with the PlayStation 2. After driving rival Sega out of the hardware business, the console went on to ship 100 million units worldwide, leaving remaining rivals Microsoft and Nintendo in the dust with roughly 20 million units shipped by the second and third place finishers. Still, the history of the console market shows that leaders in one generation can often fall behind in the next. Microsoft’s launch of the Xbox 360 last November, combined with Sony’s delay for the PS3, and a lukewarm reaction to the PS3’s announced price, all put the pressure on Sony to stay on top. One thing the company can count on, however, is wholehearted support from the Japanese market. Or can they?
A recent survey of Japanese game developers puts even this in doubt. The survey was released in the latest issue of Japan’s Ge-Maga magazine, and paints a picture of dissatisfied developers in the land of the Rising Sun. According to the survey:
90 percent disagree with the PS3’s price point.56 percent disagree with the idea of having a “low-end” PS3 and a “high-end” model.56 percent think the console will not sell given its announced launch title lineup33 percent feel less confident with the PS3 after its E3 showing.62 percent feel the PS3 won’t reach its goal of 6 million units sold by March 2007.
The number of “unsure” responses to each question was less than five percent, with the exception of the post-E3 confidence question, to which 15 percent gave an indeterminate response. The real kicker is the question about launch titles. Although a console can often make up for a poor launch—the PlayStation 2 had very few good launch titles, with SSX and Dead or Alive 2 being rare exceptions—if developers feel the PS3 will not sell well for any reason, it will make it less likely that good titles will arrive later on.
What will Japanese developers do if they don’t enthusiastically jump on the PS3 bandwagon? One thing they certainly won’t do is support the Xbox 360, which has fared even more dismally in Japan than its predecessor. They might instead decide to focus more on the Nintendo Wii, or on portable platforms like the PSP and DS Lite. Another option might be one that the industry as a whole is leaning more towards: cross-platform titles. Some would say this move is already underway, with Sony losing exclusivity for titles like Grand Theft Auto. Since we all know that the real value of a console is in its games, if most games go multi-platform then the console with the cheaper price is likely to win.