Developers struggle with PS3: A thing of the past

For a considerable time now, Sony has had to face the belief that their flagship console, the PlayStation 3, is one of the more difficult platforms to develop for this current generation. Normally one would consider this beneath Sony’s eye of perception, but because this belief affects the PS3 console directly, it has remained a burden on the electronics giant shoulders since even before the machines inception in November 2006. Now, as 2008 rolls round and going on 15 months since the PlayStation 3 went on sale, what does the future hold in store for the hardware in the minds of the developers out there?

“The development team would rather concentrate their resources on the three other platforms“. – THQ on the reason why Smackdown vs Raw 07 for the PlayStation 3 was cancelled.

Sony is no stranger to success in the videogame business; one only has to take a quick glance at the company’s last two gaming consoles, the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, to witness both the massive cultural and financial success both machines have endured over the past decade. One must also consider the words of the developers, as it is their heart and soul that is being put into a particular game, which ultimately finds itself on any given hardware, whether it be the PS3, Xbox 360, or Wii.

^ We believe PS3 will begin a new turning point as of 2008

This brings us to our current situation, as reports surface that developers are finding the PS3 hardware as a long drawn headache through development. In the end, this presents a problem. It makes developers weary of the PS3, thus creating concern and second thoughts about the hardware, which could lead them to seeking out the Xbox 360 as an alternative platform. Just think of it in terms of a relationship; if one finds the other difficult, then that person may be inclined to seek companionship elsewhere.

“I’m going to break it down simply and explain exactly why ports to the ps3 will never be as good as their 360 counter parts, and why most ps3 exclusives will likely continue to suck. Sony let their hardware be designed by a comity of business interests rather than a well thought out design that would serve the game development community. They are going to lose hard this round because of it, and I hope that in the next round they take lessons from this round and produce a more balanced and usable machine.”Jason Booth, Senior Technical Designer for Conduit Labs and former Technical Director for Rock Band & Guitar Hero

Sony’s latest console is the victim of many great one time exclusives straying away onto the Xbox 360. If the PS3 strives to lead this current console race, then it needs ensure that the developers find the console reasonable in terms of understanding the hardware. The goal for Sony is to make sure that the PlayStation 3 holds a great amount of quality exclusives so that gamers will whom do not only own a PS3, will now be more inclined to purchase one. If heavy hitters Little Big Planet, Final Fantasy XIII, and Metal Gear Sold 4 were also released on the Xbox 360, it could potentially spell disaster for the company. Thankfully, they all remain exclusive to the PS3 at the time of writing, but if the developers/publishers of those games did not feel that the PS3 is viable console to work on, the Xbox 360 might have a bit more breathing room.

“There’s no doubt that with all of the platforms that we have running here, the PS3 is the most challenging to develop on. That’s what I’ve been saying from the beginning. The PS3 is not the favorite platform but it’s going to run the game just as good. But given the choice, we’d rather develop on the Xbox 360.” John Carmack, Technical Director at id Software

Through the crystal clear water flowing through a river of oasis, things are finally starting to clear up for Sony in terms of developing for the PS3. Just take a look at this comment:

"From our point of view, we’ve had no issues with dealing with either machine; that’s what I mean by that. It seems that some games haven’t always transitioned between the two well. From our perspective leading on Playstation3 has meant Xbox 360 has given us a great product."Nick Channon, Creative mind behind Burnout Paradise

Furthermore, the outspoken Jack Tretton, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America went on record to state:

"We are now starting to see developers creating games on PS3 and then porting them to other platforms, such as EA’s Burnout Paradise. Developers are telling us that they are starting to create their games on PS3 first and take advantage of the hardware capabilities and then port down to other platforms so we are seeing tremendous progress from the third party community in terms of what they are able to do with our development kits. You will see some very nice things in 2008 coming from our third party partners…"

^ Key exclusives such as Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots will prove instrumental in PS3’s success

From this we can deduce that developing with the PlayStation 3 as the lead platform and then porting it over to the Xbox 360, ultimately makes the 360 version better than it would have been if it were the other way around. Now, while that may benefit the Xbox 360 more than it does the PS3, Sony and even PS3 enthusiasts may feel content with this revelation, as it proves that the system can facilitate a better gaming experience throughout the industry. Please do not sleep on that, because in the long run the outcome could mean that developers will in return begin to favor Sony’s platform, thus opening the door for more exclusives. This brings us back to what was earlier said about Sony having to secure a great number of exclusives for the PS3. Eventually, we predict that the Xbox 360 will become the second rate machine behind Sony’s monster.

The cost for developing on the PlayStation 3 initially was a burden to many developers, especially with the high cost of developer kits that Sony issued to companies back in 2005 and 2006. Beyond just simple developer kits, the overall cost for developing a PS3 game really gave pain to the wallets of developers and publishers alike. However, with the recent cut in the price of developer kits and more understanding of the hardware, the PS3 is starting to become a more affordable commodity to work with. With this, companies may not be as apprehensive on creating exclusives on Sony’s platform because the cost is more reasonable, thus giving them opportunity for greater profit (the number one goal for any firm, naturally)

"What we do now is create for the PS3 and 360 at the same time, and it doesn’t cost more than 10 per cent extra to develop for the other machine. Before it was costing us more, about 20 per cent, just because it was difficult to learn the PS3 hardware, but now our engines are done and we can easily develop for both machines." Yves Guillemot, President and CEO of Ubisoft

^ Burnout Paradise is one of the first titles to utilize the PS3 as the primarly development platform

So with the PlayStation 3 slowly becoming the lead console to develop on, and the price for development becoming cheaper, forward process dictates it will only be a matter of time before the console will eventually join the same ground that its predecessors, PS2 and PS1 once stood on. As we explore 2008 early on, the console will only continue to expand itself as much is happening that will create great interest in the machine. Beyond the core development, developers will also be presented with the opportunity of working with Home, a new and innovative way of interacting with other gamers online with virtual avatars. This will help the PS3 instantly diversify itself, becoming more attractive. Sony’s Blu-ray format now dominates 70% of the high definition market and with the PS3 running off of the technology, will soon become an industry standard in both the movies and videogame markets as developers slowly become more confident and acquainted with the format as time moves on.

This year will be a very solid year for Sony, as much content will be released across the PlayStation 3 and even PSP platforms. The days of developers endlessly complaining about the work that comes with the PS3 is fading. A new era is beginning and despite the Xbox 360 hitting the 17 million units sold worldwide; Sony understands that 2008 is the headway year for them.

“PS3 is such a powerful machine that the technical possibilities have a great influence over game design and in the end, the entire game experience” Square Enix