Xbox 360 Could Save PS3 From Decimating Game Developers

You’re probably already misconstrued regarding the aim of this article. But let me key you in on a very obvious fact: The video game industry would've died real fast, if the PlayStation 3 pocketed the majority of third-party developers, exclusively. That’s why the Xbox 360 is the perfect savior for what could have been a disastrous “next-generation”.

Marks of the video game industry know flat-out that third-party exclusivity is a surefire way to differentiate one platform from the next. Said exclusivity really reached a peak during the Xbox/Gamecube/PS2 era with games and series like The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay, Square’s RPG library for the PS2, or THQ’s Smackdown Vs. Raw series. But that’s back when games – on a financial average – weren’t reaching the $10 million mark, with the exception of Halo 2’s movie-like budget of $20 million buckaroonies.

But now the game has changed for the gaming industry. “Next generation” means bigger graphics, more processing power, greater multi-threaded programming support, and a heck of a lot of artists. On average, developers need a $10 million idea that makes $100 million in sales. This has become exceedingly difficult for any developer that doesn’t have first-party publishing support, or isn’t exclusive to a large third-party publishing company, such as Electronic Arts, Capcom or Ubisoft.

Speaking of Capcom, even they show reservations in the market’s integrity for third-party exclusivity. Just look at Devil May Cry 4...once a PlayStation brand powerhouse, and now it’s on a back-up reserve for the Xbox 360. It’s not even funny, actually, how a publisher will announce that a third-party thought-to-be-an-exclusive title will soon appear on a rival console a couple of months down the road. Bethesda’s Oblivion, and THQ’s Saint’s Row are also part of the third-party ship-jumpers. However, as you may know, those titles have gone (and are) going from the 360 to the PS3.

Nevertheless, it’s the Xbox 360 version of a multi-platform title that saves the publisher’s costs. Throughout 2007 any title appearing on the PS3 will only have (as counting from sales estimates) less than a 1.5 million unit sales maximum in the U.S (because that’s the amount of PS3's currently sold in the US). While that might seem like a lot, you’ll have to break that number down according to the game’s market appeal, and whether gamers who don’t own the Xbox 360 version are willing to shell out another $60 greenies for the game.

But let’s look at this from a more pragmatic standpoint: Developers can’t afford to tank on an expensive system that WILL NOT pick up sales until mid-late 2008, after it takes a price drop. As everyone already knows, the Xbox 360 and XNA technology – in conjunction with the Vista platform – offers developers an easier route than usual for porting over PC titles to the 360, or vice versa. As some of our guest posters have pointed out, it only makes sense for any [small or medium] developer to port titles across the PC and 360, whenever applicable. And if a game is made for the PS3 first, it makes even more sense to port it to the 360, because you instantaneously add the PC into the equation, and that spells more profit either which way around.

Bladestorm, WarHound, Assassin's Creed, Army of Two, Cipher Complex and Strike Force Red Cell are just a few projects in the works using this very, multi-platform release tactic. This is even after some of them were originally announced as platform exclusive titles. Heck, even Sony’s own (un)official blog isn’t safe-betting third-party exclusivity for the PS3. As they stated, directly from the site, “One rare third-party game that should be exclusive to the PS3 is Square Enix’s latest epic RPG, Final Fantasy XIII.” ...'Should be'? Hmph.

But let’s not forget: Third-party exclusivity was already an issue back during the days of the PS2 and Xbox. So you can basically double the risks of third-party exclusives for this “next generation”, because if the hardware isn’t selling then the software sure as heck isn’t going to sell. And currently, Sony has a problem with getting the PS3 off store shelves. While Kojima might be persistent in keeping MGS 4 a PS3 exclusive, I wouldn’t doubt that frame of mind would start changing if the PS3 doesn’t hit the 5 million installed base mark before this fall.

As it stands, the PS3's port of most games will piggyback off the success of its rival counter-part. And with rising costs of multi-threaded programming, only a powerhouse publisher can afford to make anything exclusive for the PS3, right now. Even Gearbox is getting hung up on the MT processes with Brothers In Arms: Hell’s Highway for the PS3. I’m not joking when I say that it’s not just a pain, it’s a mind-throbbing mess to try and make a decent game with amazing graphics while trying to utilize all those darn SPUs.

The good news, however, is that the PlayStation 3 does have longevity in its design. It’ll never be as easy to program for, or as port-worthy, as the Xbox 360 (i.e., think Unreal Engine 3 in comparison to the Reality Engine, with the PS3 being the uber-cool Reality Engine). But designers will have to hope that the fewer exclusive titles they produce for the PS3 come holiday season 2008 and 2009, will be more immersive, buy-worthy and kick-butt than the nearly 1000 or so games that will be available for the Xbox 360 by that time.

Actually, I’m starting to sense some deja vu here...hands down the PS3 will have better games after the next three years, but I fear they may be over-shadowed by the variety of titles on the 360. Sort of like the Xbox’s powerhouse capabilities in comparison to the lesser capable, but more popular, PS2. Only this time, it looks like the PlayStation 3 will be the Xbox of the group.

Will Usher

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend.