The PlayStation 3 was the most hyped console ever when it first launched in late 2006. Sony had built up a tremendous fan base after the rousing successes of the PlayStation 1 and 2, selling over 200 million consoles worldwide. In fact Sony had been so dominant in the past two gaming generations that there were whispers that Sony could claim total dominance of the industry, standing as the lone console manufacturer in the near future. Combined sales of the Xbox and Gamecube were one third the sales of the PlayStation 2 alone, and Nintendo in particular was rumoured to be very close to leaving the console industry, focusing instead on game development and handheld systems.
While things are still relatively early, the console market has shifted drastically this generation, leaving fears of a single console developer in the past. In most respects the PlayStation 3's launch was considered a disaster. The console was lacking in high quality games, and even quantity of games was relatively low, which has been attributed to the difficulty of developing games for the system. It was one of the most expensive consoles ever released at $600 US at launch (surprisingly not the most expensive ever as many believe, as the old 3DO launched in 1993 at $700), which kept many gamers waiting on the sidelines until more games were released and/or a price drop occurred. Shortages at launch also put a damper on initial sales (with many consoles popping up on eBay for as much as $2,000 due to the shortages) and served to lessen the excitement surrounding the launch.
Oh 100 Million PS2 Fans, Where Art Thou?
These early woes served to further exacerbate system sales and the release of games, as the much cheaper and more unique Nintendo Wii jumped out to a quick lead in sales and never looked back. The Xbox 360 had already built up a good sized user base as well, and was attracting more developer attention. As the PlayStation 3 languished in third throughout the first two years of its life, the system slowly began losing its hold on exclusive and timed exclusive titles, which took more of the allure away from the system. Beautiful Katamari was one of the first to switch allegiances, followed by further announcements that games like Grand Theft Auto 4, Assassin's Creed, Final Fantasy 13, Tekken 6, the Virtua Fighter Series, and the Devil May Cry series, would all no longer be PS3 exclusives or timed exclusives as originally predicted.
Eventually the PlayStation 3 began to pick up steam though. Blu-Ray won the movie format wars against HD-DVD, making the PS3 an extremely attractive buy with its built-in Blu-Ray capabilities, and the PS3 was the first Blu-Ray 2.0 player on the market. Great games also began appearing around this time which really showed off the power and potential of the system in comparison to the Xbox 360, with games like Uncharted, Heavenly Sword, Little Big Planet, and Warhawk garnering high praise. The PS3 made its biggest step in 2008 with the release of Metal Gear Solid 4, one of its biggest exclusive titles remaining, as well as several new system configurations and price drops, making up a good deal of ground on the Xbox 360, though the Wii remained firmly in front.
Just Hitting Its Stride
The PS3 has continued strong into 2009 with two extremely well-received exclusives in the FPS Killzone 2 (called by some the best FPS ever), and the baseball game MLB '09 The Show (arguably the most well-received baseball game since MVP Baseball 2005). The PS3 looks to have a strong year ahead, as more highly anticipated exclusives prepare to launch within the next 12 months, including Final Fantasy Versus 13 (still a PS3 exclusive, though the main series installment is not), Gran Turismo 5, God of War 3, Infamous, and Uncharted 2, as well as other major releases like Resident Evil 5, Tekken 6, and Modern Warfare 2, the sequel to Call of Duty 4.
The recent release of the new slim version PS3 at a reduced price has seen sales of the system jump dramatically, and game sales with it. This surge in the PS3's fortunes has seen a reversal of the early trend of PS3 exclusives going to the 360, as numerous 360 exclusives have now been announced to be coming to the PS3 with additional content, including Tales of Vesperia and Star Ocean 4. Final Fantasy 14, previously codenamed Rapture, was also targetted for the 360 upon its initial announcement back in 2006, but has since been formally announced for PS3 and PC only. Other games, like Madden NFL 10, have used PS3 to PSP connectivity in unique ways (in Madden, you can draw up plays using the PSP and import them back into the PS3) to give the PS3 version of the game added features over the 360 version.
The PlayStation 3 has the potential to surpass the Xbox 360 in global sales by the end of 2009, though catching the Wii at this point will take a monumental effort. Regardless of sales, PS3 owners and those still considering a purchase should be excited about the system's future. Sony is committed to seeing the system through its planned 10 year life cycle, developers are beginning to finally get a handle on the system's power, games are picking up in both quantity and quality, and the price continues to drop.