Monday, December 15, 2008

Dexter, Bioshock and the problem with PS3…

I finished watching Dexter last week (the first series anyway). I just wanted to post that this has to be one of my favourite new series that I have watched lately (I know that it’s onto its third series – but I’m playing catch-up). It is, however, a bit of a hard sell. After all it is a series with the main character as a serial killer, which you are expected to sympathise with, but without going into the specifics of the series, it works, and it works pretty damn well! By a combination of great characters and fantastic scripts it had me gripped. I would really strongly recommend that everyone gives it a go, and at least stick with it for a few episodes.

I've also got to add that Michael C Hall is absolutely fantastic as the lead role, giving a great performance for a character that spends most of his time faking being "normal".

I'm just hoping that the second season (and also the third) are also of an equal high quality. I'll likely star watching these next year.

Also completed Bioshock yesterday, which I really enjoyed. I was, however, a little disappointed by it’s ending. It seemed a little rushed, clichéd and also rather easy. Compared to the initial stages of the game, I felt that the last quarter of the game seemed to lack in style and challenge. Other than this, it was a fantastic game, and I’m looking forward to the sequel which was trailered at the end of the game. I’ve also got the DLC to give a go, which looks like it will be interesting.

I read (online) the following comments made by an analysis on CNN Money which made the following points:

“So why is the PS3 flopping so badly?

1) It's the most expensive console on the market, $150 - $200 more than its rivals. Even if you believe the video game industry is "recession-proof" (it isn't), a tanking economy makes consumers more price-conscious.

2) The PS3's big bonus is its ability to double as a Blu-Ray player. Too bad no one seems to care about hi-def DVDs. The differences between Blu-Ray and DVD are hard to see on a TV less than 50".

3) The PS3 just doesn't have any must-have titles exclusive to the console. "LittleBigPlanet" has generated decent buzz but isn't a game-changer, and neither is Sony's new virtual world "Home."

There's really only one option left for Sony to remain in the game: deep price cuts, and not just for people with good credit. Tell yourself the PS3 has superior graphics if it makes you feel better, but a $400 console with a mediocre game library simply cannot compete against an Xbox 360 priced at $200 in this economy.”

While I definitely don’t agree with points 2 and 3, I do agree with point 1.

I shall address each

2) I would say that Blu-ray is actually doing rather well for a still relatively new format. In the UK The Dark Knight sold 20% of its initial day sales on Blu-ray (several hundred thousand), which isn’t too shabby. While I doubt that Blu-ray will completely replace DVD, I think that it will likely live alongside DVD for those growing numbers who prefer a Hi-Def experience. As for the comment “The differences between Blu-Ray and DVD are hard to see on a TV less than 50”, this is frankly wrong. Even on my smaller 26” LCD (when I owned it) I could easily notice the difference. While a good HD upscaler does good work of a DVD, Blu-ray is still a big improvement. Maybe he needs his eyes checked!

3) I wouldn’t say that the PS3 has any less must have exclusives than either the Wii or the 360. What I would say is that maybe Sony hasn’t quite captured the imagination of the general public like the Wii has with the likes of Wii Sports and Wii Fit, but then again neither has the Microsoft. The PS3 has some fantastic exclusives, namely: Little Big Planet, MGS4, Uncharted, Disgaea 3 only to name a few. Again like the 360 exclusives, these appeal to a certain audience, but not necessarily to casual gamers (I would argue that Little Big Planet is not a casual game, even if it looks like one). I’ll likely post my thoughts about Home now that it is open beta in a few days, after I’ve had a little more time with it.

1) This is it… This is Sony’s real problem. Money. You get a hell of a lot with a PS3, and if you bolted on the extra’s that a PS3 (those that you can) the value of the PS3 looks reasonable, even good (hell I didn’t resent spending the original purchase price for it). The problem is that most people just don’t want these extra features from a games machine, they just want to play games.

As much as I hate to say it, but in the current economic crisis the PS3 is going to lose at its current price (and I have to add that by UK standard the US price is cheap). The general public just can’t warrant the cost and this is hurting the PS3 sales. Even if it had the best exclusive games and the best features, it would still be the price which is holding it back. The PS2 sold at its best when its price was below the magical $200.00 mark and I don’t think that the PS3 is going to start selling big until it also reaches this milestone.

I think that the situation is made that much worse at Christmas. Quite frankly the PS3 is too expensive as a Christmas present and as such the sales for the Wii (massively) and the 360 have far exceeded the PS3.

The price of the PS3 really needs to come down a LOT by Easter next year, otherwise I doubt that Sony will ever be able to make up the ground.

I feel I must add, amongst this doom and gloom, that I still think that the PS3 is a fantastic machine and deserves so much more in sales.


Sinbad said...

Yep, as I mentioned in my review 18 months ago, Bioshock is great up to about 75% through, at which point it becomes disappointing. Both the System Shocks suffered from this too - it seems hard to take the atmos and make the kind of climax gamers expect without falling back on simple boss fights. Still a great game on balance though.

About the PS3, price is definitely the major factor in it losing out. This is Sony's own fault, in choosing to develop a lot of it's own custom hardware which is expensive to make, when really it didn't need to.

I have to say that as a very casual movie watcher, Blu-Ray doesn't mmotivate me very much. I've seen it at your place, and it's definitely nice, but I can easily live without it, even with a non-upscaling DVD player. If I had a DVD upscaler, which are dirt cheap these days, I think I'd have even less reason to buy Blu-Ray. There are plenty of home cinema enthusiasts who will pay the extra to get the full cinema experience, but there are also lots of people who won't care very much. So while to say no-one cares about HD isn't accurate, it's also fair to say a reasonable proportion don't - unless it's only a very small premium.

On the exclusive front, I think the PS3 has got it a little wrong to attract the masses, because many of the exclusives are aimed at niches or the wrong audience. MGS4 seems a bit of a 'fans game', a bit of a Marmite experience. LBP is great, but it's really on the wrong system to attract a big audience - it would have sold a truckload on the Wii because it matches the audience better, IMO. Disgea is definitely a niche game too. The 360 has plenty of exclusives that appeal to both hardcore gamers and people like me who are not as hardcore as they used to be but still like playing - XBLA is particularly good at drawing people back in, with Pac-Man CE, GW2, N+ etc. People generalise and say 360 is just shooters, but the fact remains it still has the biggest selection of high-rated exclusive games this gen (so far). It doesn't cover the niches as well for sure, although recently JPRGs have been coming out on it more often, but that's not an issue for the majority of people.

So it's kind of a triple-whammy - high price, features that are good but not necessarily what everyone wants to pay for, and a bit thin on the ground for good mainstream exclusives. It was a tough decision for me last year and I marginally came down on the 360 side, but I think if I had to make the choice now, it would be the 360 by a bigger margin, and I think a lot of others are going that way too.

Bazlurgan said...

I didn't think about Sony's custom components, but you likely have a point there.

As for exclusive games, I really do not think that the 360 has any better exclusive games to attract the masses. Certainly for me, the only exclusive games that I regretted not being able to play were Bioshock (no longer) and Dead Rising. As for XBLA, I would argue that the PSN now has a very similiar showing, with some excellent games, such as the Pixel Junk games, Everyday Shooter, Siren, Flow, Super Stardust (amongst others).

Anyway, given the choice today, I'd still go with the PS3... Anyway, apples and oranges and all that :)