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Feature: PlayStation 3 Retrospective - Part One

Posted by Sammy Barker

The third place

As our celebrations for the PlayStation 3’s fifth anniversary continue to march on, we’ve taken a moment to reflect on some of the key events from the system’s life so far.

It’s been a turbulent half-decade for Sony’s black behemoth, with more drama packed into its formative years than the entire series of a police procedural combined. But while it’s been far from plain-sailing for the platform holder, no one could ever describe it as bland, with headline defining hack attacks and spluttering debuts all helping to define the system we love today.

In this first part of the series we cast our minds back to the PS3’s shaky launch and plot the platform’s progression right through to its reboot in 2009. Strap yourself in as we take you on a trip through time, but be warned: it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

2007: Humble Beginnings

On 23rd March 2007 the PlayStation 3 finally released in Europe. Six months later than North America and Europe, the system’s slow route to market prompted the start of a turbulent period for Sony’s new box of tricks. Despite posting impressive early numbers – a whopping 600,000 PS3s were sold in its first 48 hours on sale in Europe – the chinks in Sony’s previously untouchable armour were starting to show. For the first time in more than ten years, the industry leader looked vulnerable.

A remarkably poor E3 2006 showing loomed over the manufacturer throughout 2007. The promise of a competition shattering power-house – driven by the vaunted CELL processor – never quite became a reality, and developers quickly opted to favour the more accessible Xbox 360, creating a divide between the fidelity of early multiplatform content.

Assassin’s Creed – Ubisoft’s heavily hyped historical stealth series – was an early example of this. Originally pitched as a PlayStation 3 exclusive, the game’s 2007 release was ultimately marred by the performance discrepancies between its PS3 and 360 counterparts. The discussion – which centred on the PS3’s unusual development architecture – would go on to become a key theme during the system’s early years, and a public relations nightmare for Sony who had originally promised the world in terms of PS3’s performance.

With Sony's attention elsewhere, Microsoft implemented its strategy to erode PlayStation's grip on third-party exclusives. With Grand Theft Auto IV already pledged for the Xbox 360, the company followed up with the announcement of Devil May Cry 4. It kick-started a trend that would go on to dominate headlines throughout the PS3’s early years, with the feasibility of third-party platform exclusives called into question due to the spiralling costs of the high definition generation. PlayStation-associated brands such as Tekken and Final Fantasy both famously later made the jump.

But throughout Sony was working quietly on expanding its own first-party portfolio designed to counter the rise in multiplatform games. Heavenly Sword and Lair both released with high expectations in 2007, but ultimately failed to deliver. It was the less hyped of Sony’s first-party endeavours that went on to encourage global critical acclaim. Few realised in late 2007 that Nathan Drake would go on to become a video gaming icon, but with visual fidelity that finally proved the PS3’s promise, Naughty Dog’s Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune melted hearts.

And Sony didn’t stop there. Then Worldwide Studios President Phil Harrison quietly used 2007’s Game Developers Conference as a venue to trumpet the future of PlayStation 3’s first-party content. During a pivotal keynote, the executive revealed LittleBigPlanet, a game which introduced us to the concept of “Play Create Share” for the very first-time. Meanwhile, while Microsoft’s Xbox Live service made strides in the connected multiplayer space, PlayStation Home promised a revolutionary new platform for online gaming and social interaction.

But in spite of the excitement surrounding the new announcements, 2007 was a strange time for the PS3 and Sony’s gaming division as a whole. The platform was hindered by its expensive price-tag, and the inventiveness of the Nintendo Wii was tilting the market in a new direction. Meanwhile, Microsoft was proving the advantages of a less ambitious architecture, and putting out its own heavily anticipated software in the form of Halo 3. At the time, many analysts and journalists were calling time on Sony’s industry domination, and it was clear by the end of 2007 that the manufacturer had an uphill battle ahead of it.

2008: Growing Pains

2008 was a year of growth for the PlayStation 3. Having been heavily criticised throughout much of the previous year, all eyes were on Sony’s response. The changes weren’t immediate, but much of the progress made in 2008 laid the foundations for the system’s more stable future.

At the start of the year, Sony completely redesigned the PlayStation Store from its original web-based interface to a more functional custom application. It then added Trophy support in April; a direct response to the success Microsoft had enjoyed with achievements. The system was poorly supported in its infancy – with Super Stardust HD and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune being amongst the first games to take advantage of the digital rewards component – but it went on to become a mandated feature and, subsequently, a key part of the PlayStation experience.

Sony released 13 firmware updates in 2008 – more than any other year – serving as an admission of the mistakes it had made at launch. The PlayStation Network was transformed, and though key improvements continued to be made throughout 2009, Sony’s work in 2008 introduced the fundamentals of the service we know today. Staples such as in-game XMB and more were all implemented in 2008.

The software catalogue showed signs of improving too. April saw Grand Theft Auto IV release to staggering acclaim, while summer ushered the arrival of Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. The release of Konami’s stealth sequel actually managed to push the PS3 out of its sales slumber, with the release of a silver system bundle incentivising new adopters.

The strong software push continued into the fall, with the release of anticipated titles such as Mirror’s Edge, Dead Space and Fallout 3. The fruits of Sony’s newly implemented first-party emphasis also started to kick into gear, with the release of Resistance 2 and the massively anticipated LittleBigPlanet later in the year.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Sony’s biggest hit of 2008 though, as LittleBigPlanet was delayed at the last minute due to a controversy regarding the lyrics to one of its songs. The game (eventually) released to critical acclaim a few weeks later than intended, and went on to scoop up numerous game of the year awards.

Its success was bitter sweet though, as the man that commissioned the title in the first place, Phil Harrison, departed the company citing a difference of opinion with Sony’s directors. Shuhei Yoshida took the Worldwide Studios post and immediately got to work culling a large portion of the platform holder’s first-party projects.

Anticipated titles such as The Getaway 3 and Eight Days were amongst the first to go, prompting outrage at the time. Yoshida later stated that his intention was to transform developer Studio London into the centre of Sony’s casual output – a strategy that was underlined when the developer released Eye Pet in 2009.

Subsequently, 2008 will be remembered as a year for change. While the PlayStation 3’s commercial fortunes didn’t improve dramatically, Sony spent the time securing the foundations for the system’s future. It was inevitable, then, that 2009 began the PS3's revolution.

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User Comments (13)

LeonChamp

#1

LeonChamp said:

2009 was a vintage year for PS3, it was the year I jumped ship from xbox 360 (after suffering ther dreaded RROD!) And although I got my 360 repaired I straight swapped it for a 40GB PS3, I have never looked back, thats untill My ps3 laser died two hours into uncharted 3. I was never going to give up and paid £70 for a repair (which was refunded by my house insurance!!) I have loads of great titles as well as two Move controllers and 1 navigation controller (nunchuck!!) And now my kids see it as a upgraded Wii, with eyepet etc. I love my PS3 and look forward to PS4. Also saving up for a Vita and Wont be buying Wii U (I have owned every Nintendo console, but will skip this one)

get2sammybAdmin

#2

get2sammyb said:

@LeonChamp Yeah, I imagine a ton of readers jumped on board in 2009. It really was the year that the system's fortunes changed.

Yankeejer

#3

Yankeejer said:

I bought mine in 2009 as well. But that was my plan all along, once the price was more affordable.
I also have owned every Nintendo console, but will be skipping out on the Wii-U. I honestly just haven't heard anything that is a significant upgrade from the Wii. Besides I have played enough reiterations of Mario, Mario kart, smash bros, mario party to last a life time. Don't need another slightly improved knock off.

Stuffgamer1

#4

Stuffgamer1 said:

I bought the Metal Gear Solid 4 bundle PS3 in 2008, which followers of the feature will remember as the last model to ever include PS2 support. Yes, THAT'S why I bought it, not because of the game it came with (which I still haven't played to this day). It took me a little while to grow to love my new PS3 over my existing 360, but after the latter went RRoD the second time and was showing signs of wanting to do it again, I'd had enough and got rid of the fool thing altogether. Though there are some high-profile XBLA games I would like to play, I stand by this decision overall.

The first game I really wanted to get on my PS3 was indeed Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. My first Platinum Trophy (though that can be said of many people since it was the first to exist), it was a great game at the time (though it looks poor compared to its sequels now).

Sadly, my old machine died (YLOD) in late 2010, and I had to lose BC picking up a Slim (the Move bundle).

Splat

#5

Splat said:

I was late to the party only had my PS3 since November. I debated PS3 or 360 for awhile in the end went with the PS3 and could not be happier. There are so many games I have yet to play but on the plus side all those old PS3 classics are cheap now and still brand new to me. :)

Splat

#7

Splat said:

Uncharted 3 is top of my must have list. Besides that off the top of my head Arkham Asylum,Arkham City,Infamous 2,Heavy Rain,Grand Theft Auto 4,Mass Effect (series) and Assassins Creed (series). That said the list is pretty much endless. My favorite Wii game of all time is Monster Hunter Tri so also looking for something close to that.

seeafish

#8

seeafish said:

I like games. That's why I like PS3. The sheer number of quality exclusives is staggering, and I love it.
Bought mine in 2009 by coincidence, as it was the first time I could afford a used one heh. Have since got a new slim with move bundle and 17 platinums later I can say that I love the damn thing.
Sure the 360 has a better layout and UI, but who cares when I don't have 10-12 AAA exclusives to play every year. And as I've decided that this is my last ever console, I'm looking forward to the amazing end of life games that are on there way.

Ginkgo

#10

Ginkgo said:

Bought mine in early 2010 because I wanted to play Heavy Rain. It was quickly followed by Assassins Creed II and I was hooked. I had no interest in the early days and the price was just silly. But the game ads in 2009 changed my mind. Was a PC gamer before then.

I now own a PS3 slim 320GB, Play TV, 4 Move Controllers, 1 Nav Controller, Sharp Shooter, Sony 5.1 Surround system, Logitech GT steering wheel and Hostas Flight stick. I even built my own gaming table for the wheel and flight stick.

My family room has effectively been taken over. Couldn't be happier! ;-)

Slapshot

#11

Slapshot said:

I'm jumped into the PS3 boat quite early and it's been a long rough ride, but the top of the mountain sure is pretty. It's been a great life for the PS3 and it's only halfway through. Can't wait to see what next! :D

hamispink

#12

hamispink said:

My brother bought the MGS4 bundle in 2008. I was really blown away by the games because I had, for the most part, skipped the previous generation of consoles(I owned a ps2 late, but most of my play was spent with my ps1 and on ps2-gamecube at friends houses). It seems strange but I effectively jumped from ps1 to ps3! I bought my own ps3 in 2009 just 3 weeks before the slim was released with the $100 price drop, though It was still worth it :D

Kayoss

#13

Kayoss said:

Got my first PS3 on launch date 60gb backward compatible with PS1 and PS2 games. It got the YLOD but I was able to mod the PS3 with an internal Fan 2 years ago and it still running strong now. I had a Xbox360 and had to send it in twice due to the RROD. Xbox have a great online service but the variety exclusives are limited and not as inticing as the PS3. Now that I use Netflix and Hulu on my PS3, the free PSN service become more important. I dont want to pay twice to access my netflix with xbox live. I own a total of 3 ps3 (for each room) and my nintendo wii is now in the closet. Maybe after my kids are old enough, I can pull that out for them.

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