Thomas Whitehead: One of Sony's greatest gifts with PS3, arguably, is the free online service. How important is that in comparison to Xbox live, and how big was its role in helping the system as it was revived in the remodel?
Chris Ingram: It’s absolutely paramount! After seeing more Xbox red rings of death than I could stomach, PS3 and its free online service was a massive selling point for me and that was the real reason I finally went and dropped five Benjamin’s on it.
Mike Mason: Huge. It made me totally re-think the value of paying out for an online service. Xbox Live's £30-odd a year isn't bad, really, a few quid a month, but when compared to a free service that does practically the same thing...
Sammy Barker: Yeah, you're really starting to see people question the value of Xbox Live these days.
Mike Mason: I don't do Xbox 360 multiplayer games any more. It's always PS3 for multiplayer now.
Sammy Barker: If the hardware would have allowed Cross Game Chat, I think it would have essentially eroded all of Live's major selling points.
Mike Mason: Yeah, that's always been a sticking point. It never mattered to me personally, but it's unfortunate that Sony could never fix that.
Sammy Barker: Meanwhile, I think Sony's value-added strategy with PlayStation Plus is a much more attractive proposition. It's an optional offering that rewards you with discounts and free games. Even as an extremely active user, I get so much value from my Plus subscription. I love it.
Mike Mason: PlayStation Plus is great. I've only used it for a month or so — because of the security breach — but it makes much more sense for a paid service these days.
Thomas Whitehead: So by 2009/2010 we have a HD system, Blu-ray, free online, and an impressive range of games. Next Sony targets casual gaming, so let's get it out of the way. What do you think about Move?
My view, unimaginative Wii rip-off, but I'm happy to be convinced otherwise.
Mike Mason: Move's great, but under-supported. Some games that use it well, such as Child of Eden, are amongst the system's best titles for me.
Sammy Barker: As far as I'm concerned, Sports Champions' table-tennis game is the best implementation of motion control I've ever experienced. It's an exact simulation of the real sport. It still blows my mind today: it's just a shame so few developers use that potential. I've always approached Move as a peripheral, and I enjoy it for that.
Chris Ingram: For casuals, it’s not so great, but for the core gamers it’s been pretty dang great. Killzone 3 still amazes me today with its near perfect Move implementation in an FPS. It’s got way more potential than what Sony has given it and I really hope that we see more great Move titles in the future, after Sorcery.
Mike Mason: It's not as accessible as Wii, partially because the camera can be a pain if the lighting conditions are wrong, but it's incredible how accurate it is when used properly.
Thomas Whitehead: Sony recently said it hadn't taken off. Did it need something more original, dare I say Kinect-like, because anyone who wanted Wii-style games already had a Wii?
Sammy Barker: Potentially. I just don't think they marketed it as well as they could. Heavy Rain was fantastic with the Move too!
Mike Mason: I think it just needed more support, games-wise. It started off well, with Sports Champions and EyePet's re-release, but it petered off. Look at the way it marketed the 'big' Move games before Christmas, EyePet & Friends and Medieval Moves. £7 within weeks. It needed a bigger, continued push.
Chris Ingram: Sony just needed to advertise it better. From someone who’s put hundreds of hours in with Move and Wii, I can honestly say that it’s leagues ahead of the Wii-Mote and Sony really missed the mark on where it could’ve gone with it.
Thomas Whitehead: It's safe to say dual-shock style controllers will survive in the PS4, surely. Will Move live beyond PS3?
Sammy Barker: See, this is an interesting question. Microsoft and Nintendo's future motion control plans seem pretty certain to me. I have no idea what Sony's going to do.
Mike Mason: Some kind of motion control will continue with PS4 I'm sure, but whether it's Move in its exact form I couldn't say. Perhaps the peripheral will be forward compatible? Sony has shown off cool things that it can do with it, such as the 'film' room.
Chris Ingram: Yes, it will. Sony’s spent too much time and money developing Move to let it quickly fade away. Move will be featured on the next PlayStation with an HD EyeToy. I’m calling this one right now. It gave exclusive PlayStation FPS shooters an edge that the other systems couldn’t touch, and it’ll carry right on over to PS4.
Thomas Whitehead: I don't think we should dwell on it much, but how damaging was the PS3 hacking scandal, and Sony's actions in dealing with it?
Chris Ingram: It wasn’t. It was severely blown out of proportion. PSN came back online stronger than ever and the Welcome Back package(s) guaranteed it. I wrapped up quite a few games that I’d not had the time too during the outage (e.g. Heavenly Sword, Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, etc.). It was actually quite nice!
It's funny, it (the PS3 hacking scandal) seemed like the end of the world at the time — but I don't think anyone cares anymore. The situation was blown out of proportion.
Sammy Barker: It's funny, it seemed like the end of the world at the time — but I don't think anyone cares anymore. The situation was blown out of proportion.
Obviously being without the PSN for a month was awful — but there was no real harm done other than that loss of time. And Sony compensated more than adequately.
Mike Mason: It was pretty bad. They lost a lot of consumer confidence for a while, and I think it hit at a really bad time, as the system was back on track and confidence was at a high.
But in hindsight, things worked out alright. Sony handled the situation as best as it could.
Thomas Whitehead: I do agree with you guys, it seems to be long forgotten. Sony has spoken about PS3 having a few years in it yet. Do you agree?
Mike Mason: Yeah. I don't think we'll be seeing PlayStation 4 until the end of next year at least. This year's about PS Vita.
Sammy Barker: Yeah, I agree. It'll hit $199 in the States this year and that'll give it a final push. I have an inkling that the PS4 is further along than we think though.
Mike Mason: I'm sure Sony isn't in a particular hurry now that PS3's in its zone. We'll probably hear tinkles about it next year, but I'll be surprised if we get anything more than teases this year.
Chris Ingram: PS3 is just now gaining its true potential. Why would Sony jump off the cliff when it’s just now reaching the top?
Thomas Whitehead: Can you see a PS2-style existence when PS4 is around? People still picking up a cheap PS3 for some retro thrills? Does it have that same 'aura' that PS2 has enjoyed?
Sammy Barker: Yes, because Sony's very good at targeting new markets. The PS3 is just picking up pace in places like India, so I think it'll have a long tail there.
Thomas Whitehead: How on earth do you know these things, Sammy!
Sammy Barker: It's true! SCE recently put out a Bollywood and cricket game specifically designed to target those markets.
Mike Mason: Sammy is part of the PlayStation Network, or so it seems. To answer the question, yeah, but I doubt it'll have as long a lifespan as PS1 or PS2, though.
Chris Ingram: Yep, I think it will. There’s so many great games on the PS3, heck I’ll still be trying to catch up on all the PS3 games I missed when the PS4 is out.
Thomas Whitehead: When you look at your PS3, now that the system is five years old, how would you sum it up in terms of how well it has aged and developed? Did Sony get this one right, worthy of its predecessors?
Sammy Barker: I'm always impressed by how many things I use the PS3 for. From games, to TV catch-up, to chatting with friends, to fitness (of all things), it's an amazingly diverse machine.
Chris Ingram: My PS3 is on every single day. If it’s not for gaming, it’s for Music Unlimited, Netflix, Hulu Plus, watching Blu-ray’s or wasting time in PlayStation Home. From someone who’s owned a PS3 for four of those five years, I’m astonished at how far it’s come when I think of it today. I don’t think Sony is given the credit it deserves in this regards either.
Mike Mason: It's come a long way, and I think there are still some places Sony can take it before it’s obsolete. Having said that, I love my PS3 but in a different way to my PS2. PS2 was all about an incredible software library; with PlayStation 3, I enjoy it as a multimedia device as well as its line-up. There's rarely a time when the system isn't on in my flat.
Sammy Barker: Great minds!
Thomas Whitehead: Has it redefined what it means to be a 'games console' in that sense, even more so than its rivals?
Mike Mason: Yeah. I used to use my 360 as a DVD player, but never on the same level as PS3. Seriously, I don't think I could do without it now: Love Film, iPlayer, Blu-rays. It practically looks after all my entertainment.
PlayStation 4 has a lot to live up to!
Chris Ingram: Other than Blu-ray, it’s about neck-and-neck with the Xbox 360 today I reckon, but it actually did refine its meaning: remember the Blu-ray (PS3) vs. HD DVD (360) war? XBLA has better weekly updates when it comes to streaming video content though.
Sammy Barker: Sony's always wanted to dominate the living room, right? PS3 does that. The worry is — what happens when Apple start knocking?
Thomas Whitehead: If Apple release a games console, one of the main three will go.
Sammy Barker: Sadly, I tend to agree.
Mike Mason: And it's not going to be Nintendo...
Sammy Barker: It must keep all three of them up at night though.
Thomas Whitehead: Hm, it could be messy in any case. I think Apple is due a dip though, frankly.
Mike Mason: Even if it's a dunking Apple, I don't think Sony, Nintendo or Microsoft want to think about the possibilities.
Sony just has to keep doing what it’s doing and avoid the mistakes of the past. Continue to pull in interesting exclusives, help out smaller developers and provide more attractive options to them, keep pushing its first party studios to deliver experiences that can't be found elsewhere. PlayStation is still a powerful brand name.
Thomas Whitehead: Back to PS3. Do any of you have a 'wow' moment with the console that stands out and stays with you to this day?
Mike Mason: Mine was last week. The entirety of Journey will always stay with me.
Sammy Barker: Yeah, Journey really is an incredible game.
Another that sticks with me is the Poseidon boss fight from God of War III. If you ever need convincing of how powerful the PS3 is — just play that. I know I'm not supposed to swear, but holy s**t.
Mike Mason: And Uncharted 2's opening sequence.
Sammy Barker: Yeah, or when the office collapses in Uncharted 2. It's nuts!
Mike Mason: Oh, and Child of Eden! I know I mentioned it earlier anyhow, but that was an amazing experience for me, played in a totally dark room only lit by the TV and Move's orb.
Chris Ingram: More like ‘wow’ moment(s) for me! Sitting heavy chested through certain cutscenes in MGS4 with tears streaming down my face, wanting badly to let go and bawl my fool-head off one minute and then holding back obscenities from the excitement when I realized that I was about to [SPOILER] take the controls of a Metal Gear in a full mech-on-mech battle. I can list a ‘wow’ moment for each of my fingers and toes in the Uncharted series alone too!
Thomas Whitehead: To use a dodgy analogy, I've always thought that PS3 was a filet steak, 360 a Sloppy Joe and Wii a Happy Meal. PS3 seems to have a wow factor in some of its exclusives.
Sammy Barker: I think that's a good analogy Tom. Sony makes the Ferrari for me.
Thomas Whitehead: Will that be the PS3 legacy? The flash console of its day?
Chris Ingram: Journey and the Uncharted series will never be forgotten!
Sammy Barker: Potentially. I think, like Mike mentioned earlier, it'll be remembered for some of the experimental stuff. Journey, Heavy Rain; they all feel key to the system's ethos.
Mike Mason: Following on from that, I'd like to think that it'll be looked back upon as a console that really started pushing just what games can do, emotionally and narratively.
But then again, it might go the other way and we'll forget all that in favour of the continued takeover of Call of Duty.
Thomas Whitehead: It also invented the system update mini-game. Sorry, I couldn't help it!
Mike Mason: It taught software engineers how not to do system updates!
Thomas Whitehead: Does PS3 perhaps start Sony on its road to gain its own niche market, with that ethos you refer to of experimental games? Maybe that will help the company survive long term?
Sammy Barker: It'll help them differentiate, for sure.
Mike Mason: I hope so. Its eventual attitude with PS3 helped, and it seems to be a direction it likes: which is good, because I'm a fan of that direction too. I'd love Sony to establish itself in that field.
Chris Ingram: I think so. Sony went all-out big, as well as small and unique with PS3 and PSN. They’ve really gotten a firm hold on the core gaming market, and by that I mean the gamers who play games as a primary hobby; those who enjoy playing a wide range of titles. It’s created a market where developers feel free to be unique in their creations, because they know they’ve got a large, stable user base that enjoys experimenting with new ideas. That’s been Sony’s standout triumph with PS3 and Vita for me.
Thomas Whitehead: Final question: despite all of its trials and tribulations, can Sony look at the PS3 (in context of PS1 and PS2) and be pleased with its achievements and status?
Mike Mason: It can look at it as a learning experience if nothing else. I don't think it quite accomplished exactly what Sony had in mind at its conception, but overall it's been a great system that moved in some extremely positive directions that maybe weren't necessarily planned for.
Chris Ingram: Heck yeah it can! It’s been a long bumpy road for the PS3, but just like in life itself, the rough times are what make us stronger in the end. Now that it’s got a little brother around (Vita), we’re assured that we’ve got plenty more fun times ahead of us too.
Sammy Barker: I think so. Kaz Hirai (and Shuhei Yoshida) really did do an incredible job of resurrecting the platform. I can only imagine what they can achieve when they launch a console in the same frame of mind. I personally think Sony is best poised for the next generation, from a first-party stance. I can't wait to see what it comes up with.
Thomas Whitehead: Thanks guys, it’s been a pleasure as always.
The team are now going to go and watch some Blu-rays and TV on their PS3s, and maybe even play some games. We'd love to hear what you think about the all-in-one PlayStation 3 experience in the comments below: its triumphs, failures and what it may do in the future.