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The changing faces of the big three

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The first iteration of Sony was completely unlike anything ever seen before in gaming. Blending fun with adult sophistication, everything about the presentation of the PS1 said "Your games have grown up". Phil Harrison was professional, but young, enthusiastic and relaxed when addressing either public or the press. Ken Kutaragi was charismatic, forthright, and a little bit nuts. Kaz Hirai looked like he'd just stepped out of Tekken. These were execs its was okay to like, and they did a great job of putting across the PlayStation as a legitimate purchase for cool grown-ups who still wanted to have fun.

The marketing backed up that conceit beautifully. Sony made a point of advertising in as many socially acceptable, mainstream and cool cultural hotspots as possible, with ads turning up at major sporting events and demo consoles even appearing in nightclubs. Playing Wipeout in the latter environment was a genius way of convincing the world's young adult ravers that the PlayStation was truly an extension of their own, pre-existing culture.

And the ads themselves did a brilliant job of striking exactly the right tone. Clever, funny and subversive, they often had TV-rivaling production values and directorial talent, and always addressed their audience with a sly nod and a wink, even when selling a product like Final Fantasy or Spyro. Whether you were a new player or someone who'd grown up with the conventions of gaming, Sony was very, very appealing indeed. Sure, the later PS2 ads might have eschewed actual game content in favour of pretentious weirdness, but by that point the PlayStation had become a hipster lifestyle statement, so fans were willing to go along with it regardless.


After more than ten years of success, the Sony that unveiled the PS3 at E3 '06 was unashamedly arrogant and complacent. The PlayStation wasn't just the cool, subversive new wave of gaming any more; it was the one true path of gaming and its new machine was a prestige badge of honor that players couldn't afford to be without. And at 599 US dollars, Sony didn't care that few players could afford to be WITH it either. The machine was a symbol of power and excess, and there was simply no question that you had to have one.

With comments like "The next generation doesn't start until we say it does" and statements that the PS3 would instill discipline into the world through customers' need to work harder to afford one, Sony were selling the console as the be all and end all of the industry and itself as gaming's lord and master, to who all gamers must kneel if they still wanted to be part of it. This wasn't the fun and sophisticated Sony of old; it was a hard line, hardcore manifesto. With the 360 having taken ground for around a year already, it's understandable that Sony wanted to reassert itself, but everything about its promotion of the PS3, from supposed "supercomputer" hardware specs to its off-hand disregard of Microsoft just screamed exclusivity and elitism.


Following the inevitable backlash - not to mention the success of two very different rival consoles - Sony's marketing was all over the place for a while, and it seemed not even the machine's creator knew what to sell it as. It was a supercomputer. Or it was a simple console. Or it wasn't a games machine at all, it was a multimedia hub. Whatever it was though, Sony's self-assured attitude and insistence that we'd all eventually see the light remained.

But now, things have changed. As it became increasingly clear that the 360 and Wii weren't going to fall, Sony started to quieten down, and we now have a less cocky, more humble company. There's still an element of elitism, but now that persona comes largely from the machine and its content rather that showboating execs. Sony has done a good job of building a solid library of more sophisticated, artistically worthy titles, particularly through PSN download games, in some ways reverting to its original "games for grown-ups" manifesto, albeit in a more arch manner.

The ads have also improved, with a noticeable shift between the irritatingly self-indulgent nonsense of the PS3's original "This is living" campaign and the game content and fun of the recent European LittleBigPlanet ads. The tone is part old Sony and part reaction to Microsoft and Nintendo's new caring, sharing approach, but with substance as well as style these days, the company that launched a thousand memes is making itself a lot easier to like.


Click on. It's time for Nintendo. Tissues at the ready.

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50 comments

  • Mackster-901 - March 9, 2009 4:37 p.m.

    ur all fukin stupid i admit ps3 controlers brake easily and they cost 2 much but u get alot more stuff 4 da ps3 than the 360 and its jus a betta console
  • LinkSceptile333 - March 9, 2009 3:33 a.m.

    The only game I still play on the Wii is Super Smash Bros. Brawl (I've been a tourneyfag since Melee), but it is true that Nintendo isn't strong. But each console has their fault and I believe Nintendo will make a come back. And LOL at fanboys like Dawgsfan117. I fail to see how a video game console can have a sexual preference.
  • hairy truman - March 9, 2009 1:46 a.m.

    oooohhh, nintendo... i loved you so much. im quite ashamed to say now that i play COD WaW more than mario kart... i still wanna be a nintendo fanboy, because the nintendo64 pretty much changed my life, but it is sooooo hard. if i didnt get a n64 for my 6th birthday, i would probably be doing something constructive right now *shivers*. i feel like nintendo kinda abandoned me... nintendo changed(theres no doubt about that), for the worse, i painfully say
  • jtslugmaster10 - March 9, 2009 1:28 a.m.

    i also think that microsoft or apple should have been added as well for pc surely they must have changed or went a different direction in gaming especially since they have been around the longest
  • ReaperOfDarkness - March 8, 2009 9:41 p.m.

    Maybe somebody should merge these companies. Hardware specs of the ps3 without the elitist crap and outrageous price. Innovation of the wii and controller without the bucketloads of "family" crap fests and shovelware. Good licenses and good games overall of the 360 without microsofts license based fascism. Seems to me each of these 3 companies screwed up or headed in a wrong direction. The wii went ina good direction and then crashed into a wall of terrible games and "casual" BS. Sony doesnt seem to understand that a 600 dollar console makes it out of reach for many people no matter how good it is. They apparently havent learned their lesson that the most expensive top of the line product frequently loses out to the slightly lower quality product set at a reasonable price. Microsoft seems to have started to wake up from their previous mistakes at least and are turning around (hopefully). Only time will tell how this is going to turn around. My bet is that the wii is going to sharply decline as all the fans leave feeling abandoned by nintendo and everyone else will be distracted by the next fad and the hype of the wii disappears. Sony needs to realize that catering only to those with large amounts of disposable income in this type of business is frequently a losing strategy. Hardcore only means only hardcore players will buy your product and they dont provide enough business to keep you afloat in electronics.
  • sprog - March 8, 2009 8:38 p.m.

    Ah i love the smell of a fanboy bitchslapfest in the evening. I'm one of the lucky ones who own all three and for me it's 360 for general gaming, PS3 for blu ray, LBP and MGS and wii to get the missus to shut the f up. I'll never forgive sony for making me pay again for a pad that rumbles. Good article btw.
  • rogue9494 - March 8, 2009 5:27 p.m.

    I definitely think the 360 controller is way better than the ps3 controller. its a piece of junk
  • Metallica - March 8, 2009 1:57 p.m.

    Ah, Sony... Tsk, tsk, tsk...
  • noogy18 - March 8, 2009 1:48 p.m.

    Those pics of J. Allard made me lol. Nice article.
  • jackrabbitslims - March 8, 2009 11:42 a.m.

    @ phoenix_wings: you know they have begun to replace the older motherboards that were the cause of overheating (which leads to the RROD) so that won't be much of a problem now. well, for people that didn't buy at launch anyway. If you bought at launch, u=fool. I always wait a year, see if there is any bugs that need to be worked out (ps2 i-phone etc.) As for Nintendo, they dug themselves a hole using shovel-ware. I can't help but feel like they encouraged badly made games being made, maybe that's just me...
  • Gene - March 8, 2009 9:48 a.m.

    @Comatose92 Good lists there, but just two bones to pick: one, the number of brilliant Xbox exclusives was far lower than 100 (it probably had the fewest strong exclusives of all the consoles owing to the games being on the PC/Dreamcast), and the Cube, I think, was a stronger console for games (I love Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life and Paper Mario 2, for example - both exclusive). And the Wii does have a few other good games: SSX Blur is fantastic, and I urge anyone with a Wii to buy it, and on WiiWare there's LostWinds and World of Goo, which are both stunning. Other than that, though, I'm completely in agreement with you.
  • DawgsFan117 - March 8, 2009 7:32 a.m.

    Look the Wii is gay and im pretty sure we can all agree on that unless u ask a seven year olf or a seventy year old. However I own both a PS3 and an Xbox 360 and honestly I like the 360 better for many reasons. The controller has a much better feel to it because of the weight(I always feel like im gonna crush the PS3 controller). Also I dont mind paying for xboxlive because its easier to use than the playstation network. They both have good exclusives and I play abunch of em for both systems but if its a multi platform release Im goin for the 36o version.
  • DJ_Funktris - March 7, 2009 10:50 p.m.

    Playstation 2? Its one of the greatest ever!
  • EvilInkarnate - March 7, 2009 10:26 p.m.

    That thing about Reggie from Nintendo was great!! However, sales have the Wii widely considered to be in the number 1 spot. I have a Wii. Wanted one so bad. Got one. I play Wii Sports and Mario Galaxy. I haven't played either of those in months. This would be longer, but I gotta go dust off my Wii.
  • hdbngr15 - March 7, 2009 8:26 p.m.

    Platypus96, youve sorta got the right idea. if nintendo started to follow through with the older wii games, it would be epic. hopefully madworld can change my mind though
  • Awesomeitude1523 - March 7, 2009 7:27 p.m.

    @ sage62: Yes none of the consoles is perfect. I agree there. But the PS3 actually has a decent line up of exclusives: LBP, MGS 4, UNcharted, ratchet and clank,Gran Turismo, KZ2, Resistance series, and upcoming God of War. But it does have some fundamental flaws. @Levy: Yes the Ps3 controllers are light, but thats one of very few flaws Yeah sorry bout the double post
  • sage62 - March 7, 2009 7:03 p.m.

    All the consoles have flaws and fanboyels can suck it. 360 is the most game heavy and has online well worth the membership which is like 7 bucks, but is the most likely to break, which is unfortunate, other then that it's in the middle of the two extremes, wii and ps3. Ps3 is more powerful, but has a general lack of good exclusives that make the most of it, combine that with mediocre online and you get a console well capable of beating the 360 but with fundamental flaws holding t back. Then the wii has been brought down by all the shovel ware, the motion controls would Be a good pay off for graphcs and stuff, if they couod do it right, most games just come off as gimmicky with few exceptions
  • Mackster-901 - March 7, 2009 6:54 p.m.

    Foolish mortals gaze upon the future and weep this is so tru, nothing can compare 2 da ps3 x-box jus has da same old things were as ps3 has the most up-2-date technolegy
  • Platypus96 - March 7, 2009 11:38 a.m.

    Wii FTW! Am the only person that thinks that? *Hides in corner*
  • phoenix_wings - March 7, 2009 7:56 a.m.

    Yeahhh, everyone that I know that has a 360 has had theirs RROD on them. Explain to me why Microsoft is FTW. Of course you can go anywhere on Craigslist or Kijiji to find the "I'll fix your RROD for $30!" ads. You guys are right about Sony's elitism, they got pretty comfortable in being able to sell The PSOne and the PS2 so well, they were kind of slacking. Like the guy that you punch in the stomach, and it really hurt him but you can see he's trying to play it off as nothing--that must have been what PSP sales were like to Sony. That kid turns around and says "Oh yeah? Well get a load ot THIS!" and he decks you in the face so hard, but he breaks his hand. Sure the PS3 has got a lot of wow-factor, but they only hurt themselves in the end by charging SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR IT. Still glad I have one though ^-^

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