29 Dec

It has been a long and winding road for Sony as the Playstation brand now surpasses its 15th birthday. For the most part, they have only seen ups during this time, with a slight downturn during the previous two years, which appears to be coming to end with the recent price cut, overabundance of unchallenged software titles, and greatly improved online experience. How did Sony turn it around? Obviously getting the price down is one of the key reasons, but another aspect I think that many will overlook (because the game industry is very short sighted) is Sony’s preventative, future-proof methods software strategy. Sony has created an unbelievable network of interrelated and high quality first and second party developers that consistently produce exclusively for them. This is something that sets Sony apart from Microsoft and Nintendo, which in a software perspective are complete opposites in two very distinct ways. I believe this will help explain the holiday season’s lack of exclusive titles for the PS3’s competitors.

First, let us look at Nintendo’s traditional approach to gaming. Throughout most of recent history, (the last two generations of gaming) Nintendo has focused exclusively on first party development for all of its hits. This has paid off to some degree, with the creation of Super Smash Bros, 3D Zeldas, all the news Mario’s, etc. Only a few of their big titles have come from third parties, and most of them worked with Nintendo on the project to some degree. This approach works well, but it also relies heavily on first party resources that have already been strained. When you have Miyamoto literally working on 7-8 games at once, is it any surprise that we only get one or two quality AAA titles per year from the big N? By limiting their console graphically this generation, they put themselves into a position where they produce high quality games, but they are few and far between due to Nintendo’s limited resources. Nintendo seems to have taken some measures to remedy this, specifically I am citing Metroid Other “M” which is a joint effort between Ninja and Nintendo. But what is really the thorn in the side of Nintendo is the lack of third party quality assurance. The days of the Official Nintendo Seal of Approval are now gone.

Microsoft on the other hand has gone the opposite direction and focused completely on third party developers as their key to success. This solves the quantity problem that Nintendo has as previously mentioned, but creates a quality problem. Now before the fanboys start posting PS3 to 360 comparison videos, understand what I mean by this. I am not simply talking about better graphics, but games that are built to maximize the capabilities of each console. Nintendo has no problems with this due to their first party development, but is limited by their machine’s lack of network capabilities, hard drive space, and processing power to truly make their games stand out from this perspective. Although I do recognize that the unique controls have the potential to do this, I still feel I have not seen the game that truly is a must have because of the controls (AKA the Jedi Game).  Microsoft has many games on their console that look great, but they only have a handful of exclusives that make me think I have to have a 360 instead of a PS3. These titles are their big four of Halo, Gears of War, Fable, and Mass Effect. What happens as a result of this is we see one of these games come out per year. This year was Halo’s turn; next year will be Mass Effect’s, etc.  In order to counteract this lack of internal development, Microsoft really has to push their third party software, which as evidence by their previous two E3’s (aside from Natal) is what they have done. I am referring to the huge displays during the last few E3s around titles such as (Tony Hawk, Beatles: Rock Band, Rock Band, Call Of Duty, Final Fantasy 13, etc.)

This is where Sony has the key to success; they have a great blend of first party and second party developers making high quality games consistently exclusive for their platform.

Here is a List to give you some idea of what I am talking about:

Japan Studios: LocoRoco and Patapon

Team Ico: Shadows of the Collosus, ICO, and The Last Guardian

Polyphony Digital: Gran Turismo

Santa Monica Studios: God of War series

San Diego Studios: ModNation Racers, NBA #, MLB the Show

Sony Online Entertainment: The Agency, Everquest

Incognito: Warhawk

Naughty Dog: Jak and Daxter, Crash Bandicoot series, Uncharted Series

Zipper Interactive: SOCOM series, M.A.G.

London Studio: Singstar, Eyepet

Cambridge Studio: LittleBigPlanet PSP, Play TV

Liverpool Studio: Wipeout HD

Guerrilla Games: Killzone Series

Evolution Studios: Motorstorm Series

Media Molcule: LittleBigPlanet

Q Games: Pixel Junk Series

Clap Hanz: Hot Shots Series

Insomniac: Ratchet and Clank Series, Resistance Series, Spyro Series.

Level 5: White Knight Chronicles

Suckerpunch: Infamous and Sly Cooper Series

ThatGameCompany: Flow, Flower

Eat Sleep Play: More than likely Twisted Metal PS3

Relentless Software: Buzz series

Bend Studio: Syphon Filter Series, Resistance Retribution

After reviewing this list, is it any surprise that for the last two years Sony has had an outstanding software holiday line up. In addition to the list above, all third party developers have also agreed to make their games for both Xbox and PS3. When you look at this list it is a little overwhelming, but is not a coincidence. Over the last few years we have begun to see an oligopoly occur within the developer community. Many of the smaller developers have gone the way of the Dreamcast or been purchased/merged with larger companies due to huge development costs. With the recession coming on strong, many game studios have had to lay off their staff as well. The final piece of this oligopoly is the importance in return on investment. Third party game studios can no longer make money by making exclusives due to increasing development costs. I believe that Sony perceived this was happening a number of years ago, and began to acquire/build up many of these companies, successfully turning themselves into their own publisher that shares no profits outside the Sony family. Sony has invested so much into internal development, in addition to producing a machine that is capable of really capitalizing on software developed aimed specifically at its hardware specs.  In addition to all of this, many of these internal companies share resources, ideas, and equipment. If you listen to episodes of Insomniac Games Podcast: The Full Moon Show, you will hear them often discuss their friends at Guerilla Games and at Naughty Dog. Also in the credits of almost all Sony first party studios you see them thanking each other for support. At the end of the day, most of Sony’s biggest hits have come from these internal studios, while Microsoft (outside of the big four games), have all come from third party developers.

So what does this mean? Well for the most part we are going to continue to see Playstation games get better and better, and these studios will continue to produce hit games. In order for Microsoft and Nintendo to counter this momentum, it will be necessary for Nintendo to do more joint efforts with third party developers that maximize the motion controls. While Microsoft will have to invest heavily into their own internal development to build up a similar studio base in order to compete from a quality perspective. In my opinion, at the end of the day, the console with the best games always wins out, and right now I feel games like Uncharted 2, LittleBigPlanet, God of War 3, Infamous, Heavy Rain, Metal Gear Solid 4, and MAG have shown clear distinct differences in quality from anything else out there. The final thought is that console sales are getting to the point where five or six million consoles really does not make a difference for sales. Currently Microsoft has about 35 million consoles sold, Playstation has 30 Million, and Nintendo has about 60 Million. Nintendo’s game sales have formed a bit of a paradox concerning hardcore games, which I will not try to begin to explain. But as far as Sony and Microsoft are concerned, the five million-console difference is becoming less and less significant as console sales begin to rise. In two years, lets say the numbers are 60 million consoles for Xbox 360 and 56 Million for Playstation 3. That difference will become even less significant, as any Intro to Statistics Student can tell you.

No one can predict the future, but I am willing to bet Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 will come out in three years and probably sell 10-15 million copies on Xbox 360 and 9-14 Million copies on PS3. The difference will be that PS3 will have those sales in addition to a truckload of high quality, extremely well refined, software titles from their internal development studios that will be pushing the PS3 to its absolute limit, and further separating themselves from anything else on the market.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of Kipp Pietrantonio.

32 thoughts on “Why Sony is Taking the Lead in Software Quality and Quantity”

  1. Another thing that makes the Wii look bad is that the number of good and even playable titles is far outweighed by the mountain of shovelware. Same with the DS. I don’t think that the technical limitations of the Wii necessarily prevent the development of quality titles but rather make it easier for crappy developers to create Wii games.

    You’ll notice that there are far fewer shitty shovelware titles on the 360, PS3, and PSP simply because the devs KNOW that they’re making crap and it costs a helluva lot more to make a game for those consoles. I’ve also read from a few publishers and devs that porting a 360/PS3 title to the Wii is a *bitch,* which explains why with each passing day, ‘multiplatform’ means ‘360 and PS3.’

    But I do agree that Sony truly ‘brought it’ this year and based on what’s planned for 2010, I see no evidence of them letting up.

  2. Ok, Level 5 isn’t a Sony studio, it does games for Nintendo too, See Professor Layton.

    Nice breakdown, that is why I chose the PS3 over the 360, the exclusives were just too good to pass up, plus fighting games work best on the PS3, and if I want my FPS fix then I will stick to the PC versions of those games.

    The Wii can have good games, but the developers need to step up and make those games, and Nintendo needs to FINALLY help out those developers understand the console. I would say that 75% of my Wii games are 1st party games, and the rest are the stand out 3rd party games, with 1 or 2 2nd party games in the mix.

    Microsoft REALLY needs to get some more studios and put out more games for me to even be remotely interested in their console for my own purchase. Halo is decent, GeoW is just too BROWN for me (and too much testosterone), Fable has gotten weird since the first game, and I might just play Mass Effect on PC. Microsoft has RARE, but they need to tap into their talent much better than they have. Microsoft is just trying too hard to get everyone to get their console, but they need to get more genres of games other than FPS, TPS, Racing, and RPG; there needs to be more Platformers, puzzle games, arcade type games….

    Microsoft and Nintendo have their work ahead of them. Sony definitely were thinking ahead, probably the result of their 10 year lifespan for each console stand point. I hope that no matter what console it is, that there are quality games that I can play that are unique and interesting.

  3. I think you’re missing the point that Sony has had consoles for three generations while MS just for two, and they’ve already gotten a Metal Gear and a Final Fantasy (or two? or three?) on their console. And out of that list, a lot can be countered with Xbox Live Arcade titles like Shadow Complex and Geometry Wars, and Microsoft got strong third/second party Alan Wake, GTA IV DLC, Dead Rising, Crackdown, Forza, Left 4 Dead, etc. They even have some JRPG exclusives like Tales of Vesperia or Lost Oddyssey, at least in the US.

    Sony’s doing it right because they made the console cheaper, but it’s they haven’t had a complete turnover for the better. At best, Sony had 5 or 6 great exclusives this year, and most of them are sequels, even sequels from past generations. Sony’s stepping up, but the war’s tight and the competition doesn’t seem to be doing much good for the industry…

    1. From the point of view of what I want out of a console, I think Sony is ‘winning’ in terms of system capabilities, features, and the library both current and forthcoming. Of the currently out 360 games the only ones I’d ever buy would be the Mistwalker titles, the Squenix RPG’s, Perfect Dark Zero, Gears of War 1 and 2, GTA IV DLC, Mass Effect, and Dead Rising. Upcoming title-wise, I’d get Mass Effect 2 and Alan Wake if it ever comes out.

      But the PS3’s exclusives just offer more considering my gaming trends. And the fact that it’s a BluRay player is awesome. And the free online kicks ass.

      Examining what the PS3 had in 2009….
      Bomberman Ultra
      Demon’s Souls
      Fat Princess
      Killzone 2
      Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2
      PixelJunk Shooter
      Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time
      Uncharted 2

      I was impressed and definitely pleased.

      1. If i had to buy a console, i’d too buy a PS3 (and surprise surprise, i did), but it’s not overwhelmingly better than the 360 or the Wii and it’s not worth the extra money. I still don’t find any reason to watch anything on a quality above DVD and all the games could easily be made for a 100-200$ (i just don’t know how much they cost these days) cheaper console. Free online is actually the only great thing about the PS3, but considering the price difference, you can just spend that on Xbox Live Gold and you’d have about three years of gaming.

        I bought the PS3 for two reasons, the 360 doesn’t last that three years and playing PS2 games’ sequels. It’s somewhat ok, but it would’ve been the same if i bought a 360. I don’t see how the PS3 is leading in quality if the amount of good retail and downloadable titles is about the same and the quality of online playing is about the same. They’re about the same in quality. Then it’s just a question if you like Gears or you like Uncharted and that’s got nothing to do with quality, because both are kickass games.

        1. Upcoming PS3 JRPGS (Most of em exclusives)

          Atelier Rorona
          Last Rebellion
          TRINITY: Souls of Zill O’ll
          Agarest Senki Zero
          Angel Love Online
          Ar Tonelico III
          Daikoukai Jidai Online
          Tales of Vesperia
          Tears to Tiara: Kakan no Daichi
          Tears to Tiara Gaiden: Avalon no Nazo
          Trinity Universe
          White Knight Chronicles 2

        2. For a change, the comment system is completely broken, and i cannot reply to necronzero so i reply to myself.

          How many of those i might be able to play in less than the 5 years it’ll take me to learn enough japanese to understand them? I remember White Knight Chronicles from when? 2007?

          Comparing how many JRPGs (and in japanese, to boot) has the PS3 is like argueing for the 360 by saying it has more shooters. It doesn’t mean anything because they both are aimed at different people. If i’m japanese i don’t want a 360, no matter how good Gears of War and Halo are. If i’m a frat boy, i care two sh1ts about yet another RPG with characters with hair colors only achievable by heavy doses of radiation. It’s like saying there’s not enough Mario games on the 360 and PS3. Oh wait, i’d actually like a Mario game on my PS3 😛

  4. @zkylon: I speak japanese, french, english, spanish, finnish and gaelic. time for a change and learn more languages don’t you think?
    Also, I’m not japanese and I fancy good JRPGs… unlike XIII which I’m returning pretty soon. Can’t wait for Ar Tonelico III though! And the 360 has like the same quantity of shooters the PS3 does nowadays XD
    PS3’s library is growing INCREDIBLY fast.

    1. To be honest, if you’re really into Japanese RPGs (and can manage to import them and play them in their original language) your choice is pretty much made for you. It’s a given that the Ps3 has a massive userbase and a negligible 360 userbase, so it should be no surprise that many of these games are exclusive to the Ps3.

      In my opinion, the decision whether or not one purchases a Ps3 or Xbox 360 is mainly made by what the other people in your social network have. If all my friends have a 360, there would be no reason for me to get a Ps3. Conversely, getting a Ps3 would be a given if my friends have one. There is plenty of fun to be had on either, and at this time, I do not believe the exclusives on one platform outweigh those on the other platform significantly in terms of quality or quantity, assuming you are not overly fond of a particular genre that is represented more on a particular platform.

        1. Oh and Zky, you couldn’t reply because the system doesn’t allow that many replies to ‘nest’. It would form an endless amount of box-in-box-in-box-in-box that would leave little room for actual text 😉

          You probably can’t reply to this message either…

      1. 100% disagree – unless you’re into shooters, sports games, or fighting games.

        Most of the people I know have an XBox 360, and several don’t have a PS3. But the XBox’s library is so short on GOOD games to my eyes that there’s no reason to have it. So even though my friends play it, I don’t really have any reason to use mine(I bought it for my wife about 3 months ago and have played it for 45 minutes total – she loves fable 2… so she uses it).

        Its all about the exclusives. There are a lot of cross-platform games coming out… so for them what console you have doesn’t REALLY matter. But the exclusives are what really make the call. If you like halo, why would you want a ps3? Whereas if you’re interested in ff vs 13 or god of war 3 or MAG… why would you want a 360?

  5. while I agree with most of what you wrote there’s a couple of things are dead wrong

    first, you wrote:

    “At the end of the day, most of Sony’s biggest hits have come from these internal studios, while Microsoft (outside of the big four games), have all come from third party developers.”

    three of the the four games in question are also from third party developers: Mass Effect is from EA, Gears of War is from Epic (their Unreal tournament was released for PS3), Bungie was never part of Microsoft and now Reach will be their last Halo game before going multiplatform and 343 takes over the franchise, only Fable could be called second party, but no first

    second, you wrote:

    ” In two years, lets say the numbers are 60 million consoles for Xbox 360 and 56 Million for Playstation 3″

    you, same as everyone else, keep forgetting that the 360 was released a year before the PS3, and a year and a half on PAL territories, if you take out the 360 consoles sold during that time you’ll realize that PS3 has ALWAYS outsold 360 worldwide while they were both on the market

    and the gap is getting smaller, so in two years it won’t be 60 to 56 million like you wrote, the PS3 will probably surpass the 360’s numbers including the year head start (without the year head start it has left 360 behind some time ago)

    and third, you wrote:

    “The days of the Official Nintendo Seal of Approval are now gone.”

    I disagree, while Nintendo games might not appeal to hardcore gamers they’re all of extremely high quality, all Nintendo first party games in particular, I don’t have a Wii only because it’s not HD but Miyamoto’s genius is not something you want to underestimate

    other than that, great article

    1. The days of the official Nintendo Seal of Approval ARE gone. They use a completely different seal.

      It used to actually read “Nintendo Seal of Quality”. Back when they literally regulated the games that were playable on the system. Now it just reads “Official Nintendo Seal.”

        1. There was SOME, but for the time, there really wasn’t that much shovelware on the NES. Its fun to look back now and laugh at what we used to play for fun, but the fact is, those games WERE fun back then despite their frustrating controls and terrible spelling. In the 80s, we were happy as pigs in poop to be playing games with as many colors and in such fine detail at HOME. For the time those games were actually pretty decent. There wasn’t the level of shovelware that there is now on the Wii.

          I’d honestly say that the majority of the official Nintendo Seal of Quality games on the NES were playable.

        2. Randy, Shovelware was hard to do back in the NES days because there wasn’t much you could rip off 😉

          Nowadays every game is ripping stuff off just about… like virtually every shooter out…

      1. Nintendo, back in the NES days, regulated these games a few ways.
        One of those ways was only allowing third party developers 5 titles a year. This forced third party developers to only publish their best 5 games in order to get the most out of the agreement. Konami actually was allowed an additional 5 games (under the ULTRA label) since most of their games were huge hits.

        This 5 title rule was genius because it forced devs to only publish their best in order to survive.

  6. Fact of the matter is: The Xbox 360 is still leading in these areas. That might change in the future, but the 360 has about 100 games over the PS3 that have scored 75 or higher on metacritic. I’m not saying we should just obey metacritic, but the PS3 is definitely not leading… YET.

    I think the PS3 has a bright future, but only time will tell if it will become the next PS2. So far it isn’t looking like it will land anywhere close, in my opinion.

    1. You can’t base a fact on an opinion.

      Stating that ‘the xbox 360 is leading in good titles’ is an opinion, not a fact.

      To me there are 13 games on the 360… 2 of which came out today, that I want to play. There are WELL over 20 on the PS3. To ME, the PS3 is leading in terms of good titles.

      As to becoming the PS2… Sony doesn’t WANT the PS3 to be the next PS2… they still HAVE the PS2 to be the PS2.

      Also… the XBox 360 has FAR more shooters than the PS3 does… shooters almost always get above 75 on metacritic because they’re almost all the same game so they all get the same scores… but thats another story

    1. That question apples to MS too, Nintendo is just standing in the corner laughing at both Sony and MS counting all their money. Sony and MS are in a dick waving contest, they have been for quite a few years.

    2. Size doesn’t really matter I think… Nintendo is the swinger here, getting alot of action with people it doesn’t care about enough to even TRY to remember a name the next morning… Sony has a nice group of people it ‘hangs out’ with on a regular basis… and well… Microsoft kinda seems to be that guy of who rumours are going round that he’s caught an STD and is therefore not getting that much love 😉

  7. Good article.
    I agree on the overall truth: Games sell hardware & the console with the better games will move the most hardware.

    This is still true when it comes to the Wii. Wii Sports is one amazing title that transcended the current gaming market and appealed to demographics who have never really played games before. The Wii, with the blockbuster Wii Fit, owns 80% of the female gaming market, and it’s the first party titles which Nintendo has survived on in the past. Today they are not surviving but thriving on their first party games. They have taken a weakness by all accounts and turned it into an insanely successful business model. Nintendo SHOULD work better with more 3rd parties to create awesome games and unique experiences that would appeal to us. The thing is, Nintendo doesn’t have to. They are truly playing with power.

    1. My problem is your stating Wii Fit as a game. Its not really. Its a workout assistant. Calling Wii Fit a game is like calling a treadmill an entertainment console. So no, Nintendo doesn’t own 80% of the female gaming market… World of Warcraft does.

      Wii Fit was a brilliant use of a gaming console, yes, but I don’t really see how you can call it a game.

      However, Nintendo is thriving in terms of sales, but they’ve alienated their entire original market. People have mostly STOPPED taking Nintendo seriously. Yes, they have a ton of money… but what are they doing with it? Making more minigame collections. Eventually people are going to just stop caring unless Nintendo does something big soon. Hopefully Metroid Other M and the new Zelda will help to change this, but without some change… Nintendo will eventually run out of steam.

Comments are closed.