A Look at the Industry - Part One

By Steve Dixon

Earlier this week, the cold guy posted an article on the Game Cube and it's competition. I figured I could expand upon his observations a bit, and make a few predictions. Since there's so much information to digest here, I'm going to break this editorial in to three parts, each examining a different console.

Ice mentioned that there are four major players in the arena right now, but there are really only three. The Sega Dreamcast, in spite of being IMHO the best platform in five years, is completely out of the runnings. Sega has discontinued support for the console, and killed several games (Toe Jam & Earl 3, Shenmue II, Jet Grind Radio Future, the list goes on), opting to port them to the X-Box. They've also taken a 'platform-antagonistic' stance which we'll discuss later.

So with Sega out of the picture, let's take a look at the big three.

Sony Playstation 2
The oldest (and arguably most powerful) console on the market, The Playstation 2 is in many ways a perfect sequel to the original PSX. Like the PSX, it suffered a troubled launch in both Japan and the USA, with hardware problems, copyright problems, DVD support problems, and a weak launch title selection.

Also like the PSX, it's EXTREMELY difficult to program for. Games currently on the market are only using about half of it's full capabilities, simply because the code is so hard to write and optimise. With the PSX, we didn't start seeing what the console could really do until 98 and 99 when games like Metal Gear Solid, Wipeout:3 and Final Fantasy VIII were released. So it's not unreasonable to expect that we won't see the PS2's full power until *next* fall's (2003) lineup.

Once you get past the coding issues, though, the PS2 is an incredibly powerful machine. While the X-Box is much stronger on paper, the PS2 could - in theory - outperform it by quite a bit.

Additionally, Sony followed Sega's lead, and like the Dreamcast, the PS2 has a couple of special functions. The PS2 features decent backwards compatibility for the PSX/PS1 console, so you can play PSX classics like Final Fantasy VII or Gran Turismo 2 on your PS2. It also includes (some) DVD support, letting you watch DVD movies. The playback quality isn't as good as a nicer standalone DVD player, but Sony wants you to buy one of those, too. :)

PS2 - Key Developers
- Squaresoft
Square is far and away the number one player in the RPG genre, and while their first PS2 exclusive title The Bouncer was a sore disappointment to many, Final Fantasy X has been a huge hit. Further, Final Fantasy XI is already well underway (currently in the early testing phase), a followup to Xenogears is in the works, and there are rumors of a new installment in the Mana series. Square is taking their games online, too, with FFXI taking place in an online environment (Think Everquest or Phantasy Star Online) assuming Sony brings forward the promised broadband adaptor. There are a million Final Fantasy fans that'll follow Square wherever they go, and Sony recently purchased a large chunk of Square to make sure they stay loyal.

- Konami
Metal Gear Solid is considered to the the best game in the PSX library, with MGS2 for the PS2 being held in high regard. Konami has considered taking the series to the X-Box as well though, instantly costing Sony one of their top properties. And another similar problem for Sony is...

- Capcom
They've already announced they're taking Resident Evil to the Cube, and while I have reliable sources telling me otherwise, they aren't planning on bringing out any new Versus games for a while. Rumors are also flying about Devil May Cry heading to the X-Box and Game Cube, which could be a major loss for Sony.

So my predictions for Sony?

- Squaresoft isn't going to change platforms, but Final Fantasy XI is very probably going to be a flop. How many PS2 users have broadband internet access? And how many of those folks are going to shell out the extra money for a broadband adaptor, when Sega gave their users a FREE 56k modem right in the box?

- There's going to be a continual flow of so-so games coming from the usual suspects, and I have a feeling we're going to see the same sequel happy attitude towards games like Twisted Metal that was present on the PSX.

- Sony will LOSE at least two major arcade developers over the next two years. Namco, Sega, Capcom... can't keep 'em all.

- I think we'll see a new game from a noteworthy series with high speeds and techno music...

- The rumored Price Break from $300 to $200 isn't coming any time soon. It'll hit this fall, and will only be a $50 drop.

So those are my predictions, let's see how many come true.

Next week, The Microsoft X-Box!