The PS3 Problem

I was thinking about the insanity surrounding Killzone 2 reviews (to which Adam Sessler’s Soapbox rant is as good an introduction as any), and it got me considering the PS3.

I have one. I like it okay. I hold no ill against the platform, and in fact I wish I fired it up more often. But Sony is #3 is a race of three, after handily dominating the previous two generations. Every armchair publisher, game developer, pundit, and engineer on the 'net has chimed in with their thoughts about what’s wrong with it - the “free” online experience is lackluster and not well integrated, the community doesn’t extend well into the platform itself, it’s harder to program than it needs to be, it’s too expensive, whatever.

But the Killzone 2 reviews and nutty responses to it got me thinking - people are going apeshit about everything you say regarding Killzone 2 because it’s perceived that the PS3 needs this game to be a megahit. To be a “Halo” that draws people to the platform for years and many sequels to come. You’re not rating the game, you’re rating the PS3. You’re not describing what you thought of the game’s merits, you’re showing how loyal you are to the platform.

The same thing happened with MGS4, and to a lesser extent with LittileBigPlanet.

Now, fanboyism will always be fanboyism, and the perceived “big” upcoming exclusives will always bring them out of the woodwork. Sure. But with the PS3, this reliance on the latest big game to be the platform’s savior seems considerably stronger, and neverending. The PS3 started off weak, but 2008 was going to be “the year of the PS3”. When it wasn’t, everyone said 2009 would be. The eventual dominance of the PS3 seems perpetually just out of reach.

Meanwhile, the 360 and Wii have established themselves to the point where we can feel free to say a big game isn’t really all that great without it being a referendum on the whole platform. Will that point ever get here for the PS3? Please? Will we be able to find flaw in God of War 3 or Gran Turismo without it being taken as some sort of tacit slap in the face to the entire platform?

Or is this going to be an issue until the PS4 is announced?

How old should a game system be when it’s okay for a hotly anticipated exclusive to be just “okay” or even “good”? At what point is the system established enough for the gamers out there to accept that not every huge game will be perfect? And can the PS3, because of Sony’s fall from the industry lead, ever really reach that point? Or are we going to have to suffer this inanity every time a major PS3 game hits the market?

It certainly would be refreshing to be able to talk about PS3 games without it turning into a referendum on the system or a sales pitch for XBox 360.

My contribution to this thread is to mention that the PS3 is doomed, thus derailing it and perpetuating the cycle.

I think it’s also partly due to a whole generation of kids who have never known an industry not dominated by Sony. To them, Sony is videogames. Similar fury (although not on the same scale) sprang up regarding the Nintendo 64 from a generation that considered Nintendo synonymous with gaming.

Yeah well, the N64 and PS3 have plenty in common. Plenty indeed!

Nintendo Fans can still bring the fury

Tycho has a typically perceptive post here:

Meh. I take your point, but I’m opting out of this fight.

I’ve got a 360; I’ve got a PS3.

Overall, I like the hardware on the PS3 more; overall, I like the games on the 360 more. There are exceptions to both verdicts. It’s not a black and white world, no matter how much we might wish it was.

But mostly, I’m just happy to own both consoles. My console war ends with me enjoying the spoils of their mutual victories and defeats.


You scamp!

Translation: I agree with you Jason, but for some reason I’m going to phrase it in a way so that it sounds like disagreement.

From the end user point of view that is all well and good, but I think what Jason is getting at is from someone who works in games media and the implications of the console wars and the backlash brought against reviewers.

In the same vein that Dave Long contends (most likely correctly) that most gamers like one or two types of games and stick with them, and that demand for variety is mostly from vocal enthusiasts, I submit that the backlash against game reviewers is limited to a vocal minority that is not representative of the majority of PS3 owners.

It’s important that whenever someone shows that they care about anything, you one-up them by being dismissive of it. At least, I guess that’s how it’s done. I don’t really read forums, they’re all just full of crap. Meh.

I’m not going to claim all that goes on in the mind of the console fanboy, but I think boiling the entire issue down to JUST the fact that it’s a big exclusive game might be underselling its long history of idiotic discourse. Killzone 2 carries with it a history of being the most disappointing Halo killer in the history of the universe - a category with a population of one. Ever since the first game’s trailer, people have been internet slapfighting over whether or not it will be awesome (in advance of its release) and whether it was as bad as everybody said (after its release) and now both at the same time, despite the notable handicap of neither argument being a particularly snug fit, given the relatively small number of people who’ve absolutely played the bloody thing and the (in my opinion) comparatively low hype for the release (when you stack it up against something like GTA 4 or Halo 3). Killzone is a phenomenon unto itself.

Now, as for the root question, I deeply suspect that this sort of discourse is where the PS3 will be at forever because it’s role this generation has been defined. It’s the new Nintendo - they get great first party titles, but nobody remembers anything from a third party on the system. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even think about buying multiplatform games on it, just because all my game account information is already collected on Live. Microsoft won that and I don’t think anything Sony does will be able to change their position this generation. As a result, Sony fans get to feel as persecuted now as dedicated Nintendo fans felt last go 'round, and we get to listen to them wig out like a teenage psychiatric patient off his meds every time anyone dares to criticize their Sacred Monolith.

I just can’t conceive of any way to change the scenario. I guess if terrorists attacked Microsoft and demolished their video games division or something the situation could turn around, but barring the proverbial Hand of God, nothing’s going to change the game. I think that the best we can hope for is that the gibbering and yelping will be considerably less voluminous with Uncharted 2 and Ratchet: Next and whatever else comes after on account of those games aren’t carrying an historical nuclear bomb on their back.

By that logic Nintendo is also the new Nintendo.

Except that Nintendo is the one geek that some of the cool kids hang out with because he lets them copy his homework, so now when the jocks try to make fun of him for being a stupid dork, he can just point at his cadre of new casual acquaintances in rejoinder.

I kind of broke a golf club on that analogy’s head, didn’t I?

I tend to agree with Tycho. Fanboys think that reviewers are judging their platform when they review a platform-exclusive game. That seems to be whats going on with the PS3 and its supposed need for a “halo killer”.

(Dusting off hands)

All it takes is one good game but I think it’s silly putting your eggs in the basket of a concept that’s been done to death. One shooter isn’t going to change anything no matter how hyper people get about it.

What Sony needs is a new, exclusive, GTA-like breakthrough. Something so compelling and new every gamer needs to drop what they’re doing and play it immediately. A retread, regardless of the bells and whistles, isn’t going to be a game changer.

That’s the impossible dream. No matter how good a game is there will always be a Tom Chick to critically look at it and go, “Meh”.