A PS3 Anniversary
Last Friday was the fifth anniversary of the PlayStation 3, European launch. Despite an extortionate price point of £425 and a significant delay - five months after the Japanese and US launches, due to a critical shortage of thingamabobs – the crowds gathered on March 23rd 2007 to throw their money at Sony. In the UK, the PS3 shifted 165,000 units within two days, with Resistance and MotorStorm leading the software charge. The rest is history.
I had decided to hold-off on buying a PS3 until the arrival of Metal Gear Solid 4, though my excitement would eventually get the better of me as I jumped the gun by a couple of months. In the spring of 2008, I took my hard earned cash to Yodobashi Camera in Yurakucho, Tokyo where I bought-in. Along with my fat console, I picked up copies of Resistance and Ridge Racer 7 along with an extra controller with which to convince my wife to join in the gaming. She was not particularly impressed when I suggested that she contribute to the cost of the extra pad! I excitedly lugged the console home and within a couple of weeks I had added import copies of Grand Theft Auto IV and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. Metal Gear Solid 4 would follow a month or so later.
2008 on the PS3 was all about three lots of four: GTA, CoD and MGS. I was instantly drawn to Modern Warfare's gritty campaign and ended up completing it multiple times. As much as I enjoyed the single player, I had no real desire to partake in social fragging; online multiplayer was still a foreign concept and one that I was initially reluctant to embrace. I lost myself in Liberty City for a solid month and Metal Gear Solid 4 was everything I hoped it would be, even if it did go a bit over the top with its cut-scenes.
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune was the next game to truly impress. My cover art snobbery had prevented me from buying a game that I had decided was probably just a shitty Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider rip-off, and it wasn't until a friend thrust a copy on me in February 2009 that I saw the error of my ways. Uncharted has since become my favourite series of the current generation, and the measure for all other action games. Uncharted 3 was outstanding and I thoroughly enjoyed Golden Abyss on the Vita, but it is Uncharted 2 that remains my favourite and is one of the finest games of any era.
It took me a little while to catch-on to the benefits of online gaming and the PlayStation Network as up to that point, with the exception of Final Fantasy XI, gaming had tended to be a solo experience or, if I was feeling sociable, one sat around a multi-tap with friends. I eventually overcame my initial reluctance and signed up to PSN, settling on a user name, Talkingbook, plucked from my music collection (The Best of the Smiths and Final Fantasy VIII: Original Soundtrack seemed far less catchy). Flower was a breath-taking introduction to PSN and along with Battlefield 1943 , Trash Panic and my personal favourite, Shatter, it made 2009 a vintage year for DL games. Resident Evil 5 and Burnout Paradise convinced me of the merits of online multiplayer and taught me that a microphone was not simply the reserve of pre-pubed racists.
My beloved black brick joined me on my return to the UK as part of my grossly over-weight carry-on luggage. Back in old Blighty, it was finally paired with a 42” HDTV - I had long delayed buying a decent set, knowing that it would have to be scrapped once I left Japan - and it became an entertainment hub for the wife and I. Highs and lows of the last two years include Red Dead Redemption, Jasonnnnn!, Uncharted 3, the death of my original PS3, Skyrim, the PSN hack, discovering the Yakuza series, pressing forward and circle for 110 hours, a roster of exclusives that has gone from strength to strength and lots more.
As the PS3 approaches the final stretch, the future of the PlayStation brand, and of consoles in general, has become the subject of much debate, as experts strive to outdo one another by slapping an expiration date on home consoles (may I suggest 03/04/18 or next Tuesday). Clearly, these are trying times, but hardware is so deeply ingrained in Sony's culture - they have always been, first and foremost, a hardware company - that I struggle to imagine them abandoning it altogether, even as losses mount (today's announcement of a SCEJ re-structuring would seem to support this). With a significant downturn in their TV business and with Apple dominating the mp3 market, Sony needs PlayStation as a pillar of their business. Unlike Nintendo, who would probably flourish as a software-only company with their household name franchises, I can't see Sony having much success in gaming without their own platform; Sony's catalogue of exclusives is outstanding, but there is no one franchise with the required mass appeal to support a software-only venture. That being said, SEGA did a pretty good job coming back from disaster, despite starting off with little more than the decaying carcass of a blue hedgehog and a collection of nostalgia franchises, so you never know.
Future uncertainty aside, it’s been an eventful five years for the PS3. Four years in, and I’m playing it more than ever, as my other consoles have been relegated to occasional distractions. With plenty to look forward to for the rest of 2012, it looks like my PS-centric gaming is set to continue for at least another year.