They’d never admit it, but the upper-executives at Sony Computer Entertainment were no doubt glued to Nintendo’s pre-release Wii U press conferences last week. After a disappointing E3 showing, the competitor pulled out all the stops to convince consumers its latest platform is worth paying attention to – and judging from the reaction, it looks like it was fairly successful too. But with the new console set to shake up the industry later this year, what impact will it have on the PlayStation 3? And what can Sony do to ensure that its aging system’s final years in the spotlight are as successful as possible?
Ironically, price will be the PlayStation 3’s greatest asset this Christmas. It’s a strange situation considering the system has struggled with cost ever since its initial announcement – but the PS3 already holds a significant value advantage over its latest competitor. A 160GB PlayStation 3 Slim currently costs around $249.99 in North America – that’s dramatically less than the 32GB Wii U’s $349.99 price point. The concerning thing for Nintendo, is that the PlayStation 3 is only going to get cheaper.
Where's the advantage in investing extra in Nintendo’s platform to play a series that’s already established on PS3?
Rumours point to the PlayStation 3’s price-tag finally hitting the all-important $199.99 position this holiday, with the heavily touted Super Slim hardware refresh set to arrive in time for Christmas. In fact, depending on how aggressive Sony wants to be, the system could go lower than that. Outed alongside the Super Slim itself, speculation is rife that the manufacturer’s set to release a budget 16GB [or 12GB, we're not quite sure yet - Ed] SKU, which could theoretically drop as low as $179.99. Considering the PS3’s ability to multitask as a Blu-ray player too – a feature the Wii U doesn’t offer – that gives Sony plenty of potential to market towards cost-conscious families this Christmas.
Of course, many would argue that the Wii U is a brand new platform so naturally it’s significantly more expensive. But in addition to price, Sony also has the advantage of sharing the majority of its software library with the new platform. Some of the Nintendo system’s hottest new releases already have established fan bases on PS3, with the likes of Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty developing strong followings on Sony’s platform over the years.
It’s also interesting to acknowledge the language of third-party publishers when talking about the Wii U editions of their latest games. Activision’s Jason Ades noted in an interview last week that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 will be “on par with any other HD console” on Nintendo’s new platform. Unless the game makes outstanding use of the system’s touch screen, where's the advantage in investing extra in Nintendo’s platform to play a series that’s already established on PS3?
Nintendo also failed to mention how it was going to cope with Call of Duty’s staple feature: multiplayer. It’s taken years for Sony to build the PlayStation Network up to the same standard as Xbox Live, and it's not hard to imagine Nintendo facing similar struggles. True, the platform holder may be keeping quiet while it rattles out the final details of its infrastructure – but for a platform set to release in around two months, it’s surely a topic that Nintendo should be touching upon.
Similarly, it’s becoming more and more important for platform holders to take note of Sony’s PlayStation Plus offering. Nintendo has confirmed that it will be offering a premium promotion for those that purchase the Premium Edition of the Wii U, but as of yet, it’s unclear what this will offer outside of digital discounts. While the PS3’s alternative includes an added cost, it rewards subscribers with at least three free digital titles a month (many of them originally Blu-ray releases) in addition to regular discounts and cloud save storage. It’s a package that’s already caused many to reconsider the advantages of Microsoft’s Xbox Live service – and, once again, adds impressive value to the PS3 experience.
Indeed, legacy also gives the PlayStation 3 an inherent advantage over the Wii U. Sony has significantly increased the amount of retail collections it has released over the past few months, and it’s hard to argue with some of the value on offer. Currently you can purchase all five God of War games for a slender $39.99. Obviously it assumes that you have an interest in Sony’s first-party titles, but for new console adopters, the value of the PS3’s extensive back catalogue gives Sony’s platform another leg-up over its competitor.
It’s going to be difficult for Nintendo to demonstrate the advantages of its new machine’s hardware when there are so many exceptional PS3 games on the horizon
And that legacy extends to more than just value, but also knowledge. Developers have had over five years to work on Sony’s box of tricks, and despite the Wii U’s slight hardware advantages, that means studios like Naughty Dog and Quantic Dream have had plenty of time to etch every last drop of juice out of the console. As such, there’s no Wii U title currently announced that trumps The Last of Us, Beyond or God of War: Ascension from a technological perspective. Wii U will have its moments of course, but it’s going to be difficult for Nintendo to demonstrate the advantages of its new machine’s hardware when there are so many exceptional PS3 games on the horizon.
Still, despite those obvious arguments, there will still be some sweaty brows within Sony Computer Entertainment. The Wii U was always going to sell to die-hard Nintendo fans, but the platform holder has essentially cemented the system’s success in Japan with the announcement of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. Boasting Vita-like cross-platform functionality between the 3DS and Wii U will almost certainly mean that the system will sell out overseas and, Tales of Xillia 2 aside, it’s hard to imagine a single PS3 title that will be able to compete with the Capcom juggernaut this holiday. There’s a very real danger that Sony’s platform could get trounced in its home territory over the coming months.
That concern aside, though, Sony’s position seems stable for now – at least, certainly in the West. As the PS3 strides towards its twilight years, expect the platform holder to lean on the system’s outstanding catalogue and value for money this holiday. The software line-up is geared towards families, with Wonderbook and LittleBigPlanet Karting both set to make their debut, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the hotly rumoured PlayStation 3 Super Slim took that messaging even further. With games like Beyond and The Last of Us on the horizon, too, Sony won’t be overlooking the fanbase that’s driven its platform for the past six years. Wii U will be a sell-out at launch – Nintendo fans will make sure of that. But for the average gamer looking for a new console this Christmas, the aging PS3’s still going to make for a very attractive choice.
How do you think the PlayStation 3 is going to fare against the Wii U this Christmas? Will you be purchasing games like Assassin's Creed III and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 on Nintendo's new system? Do you intend to spend less on PS3 this year because of the Wii U's imminent arrival? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.