It’ll take two years. Eighteen months. Three years. Six months. What do all of these timeframes have in common? That’s how quickly Sony’s PlayStation 3 was going to surpass Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Despite launching a year after Microsoft’s console, Sony was heavily favored to quickly stomp out the competition because of its unprecedented success of the PlayStation 2, well over the counts of the original Xbox, Nintendo’s Gamecube and, sadly, Sega’s Dreamcast. Those timetables came and went, taking Sony a full six years before they could claim the crown to the now third-place Xbox 360.
The reasons why Sony stayed well behind the competition are well known, but the conditions in which Sony finally surpassed Microsoft are very specfiic. Microsoft has been trouncing its competition in America for the past two years while it’s ignored Japan pretty much outright. The console only has the blessing of Japan’s game developers because Japan alone can’t even support them anymore. Those developers needed to think about Western audiences, which produced moves like Capcom’s revitalized lineup on the 360 in 2006 with Dead Rising and Lost Planet or Square-Enix’s acquisition of Eidos (Tomb Raider, Hitman, Deus Ex).
Sony did think they had it all, though. The moment I knew they would have their largest struggle came during their E3 2006 press conference when, in an unexpected, tail-end-of-theshow moment, the conglomerate unveiled the console’s pricing, capped with a mimetic “Five Hundred And Ninety-Nine US Dollars”. Others thought that gamers would see through it and, as Ken Kutaragi had quoted to the press earlier, that people would “work more hours” to get it.
The fallout was immediate. Kutaragi was ousted, replaced by (now CEO) Kaz Hirai, backwards compatibility with PlayStation 2 titles was removed, and a slimmer redesign was launched a mere three years into the console’s lifespan, in part to drive down costs, in part to drive up sales. And it worked, a little.
It’s been a long road, but Sony can finally claim victory over Microsoft’s console, but with successor consoles rumored to debut this holiday, does anyone care all that much, really?