For the past year, the console wars have raged on, and so far, one clear choice has emerged as the casual gamer’s console of choice: the Nintendo Wii. Casuals have flocked to the friendly line-up of easy-to-play minigame compilations and non-traditional games, leaving the PS3 and Xbox 360 pretty much to more hardcore gamers.
But it's not the Wii that may end up being the casual console of choice. It may very well be the PS3.
Why? There are six strong reasons that could appeal to casual gamers:
1. Nintendo has lost total control over the Wii's developers. They're now content with pumping out waggle-enhanced minigames and ports instead of focusing on original titles, and in the end, it will cripple the Wii as the console of rehashed crap. The PS3, meanwhile, continues to see new franchises pushed to the front, even if they do end up sucking like Heavenly Sword. Even having that tiny bit of something new that's great from a first or third-party developer helps push the PS3 ahead of the Wii. I'm already growing sick of my Wii and have spent many more hours playing games on the 360 because Nintendo won't clamp down and tell their third parties to stop doing this. It's almost like Yamauchi is still running the show and using Iwata as a puppet.
2. Blu-ray. The PS3’s biggest selling point since its debut, Sony now stands alone in the next-gen DVD format wars. Their PS3 is already the cheapest Blu-ray player on the market, and until the 360 becomes Blu-yay enabled or Blu-ray player prices drop, will be the easiest option for movie buffs who need a Blu-ray player. However, some of these buffs might also be gamers, and the fact that the PS3 is a Blu-ray player that’s also a gaming console might make it tantalizing. Sony employed a similar situation with the PS2 – making it the cheapest DVD player on the market – and it worked amazingly well. Who’s to say that strategy can’t succeed again? All they need to do is push Blu-ray as important.
3. Free online. The Wii has free online, but it’s limited and arguably pretty complex to get to work sometimes. Xbox Live is much simpler… but also costs you $50 per year to play multiplayer. Sony has managed to take the best of both worlds, offering a simple, yet free, online connection service that will only improve as this generation wears on and Sony fixes some of the issues with their online service. Casuals may be willing to pay for their online service if they play a lot of games that use it, but the fact that Sony has free online for their games (and that games like Warhawk make great use of it) might be tempting to the casual consumer.
4. Comparable choices for casual gamers on PSN. When Xbox Live Arcade launched, it set the standard for what downloadable content services were to be, but the Playstation Network store has caught up to the 360. Many XBLA releases find their way to PSN, and the ones that don’t seem to be making the jump are a mixed bag. Some are great, while others are just awful. However, the PSN has built up a fine network of exclusives, including Super Stardust HD, Everyday Shooter and the upcoming LittleBigPlanet. XNA might tilt the advantage back in Microsoft’s favor, but we’ll have to wait and see if that happens.
5. Home as more than a gimmick. Home started out looking like nothing more than a cheap gimmick, an attempt to steal a little bit of thunder from the Wii’s Mii feature. But the more we’ve learned about Home, the more impressive it has become. Warhawk, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Resistance: Fall of Man will all have features exclusive to their Home lobbies that add an interesting twist to the service. Whether it’s being able to stroll through the game’s levels at your leisure or get together in a pre-game war room to discuss strategy for upcoming matches, Home brings something unique to the PS3 that neither the 360 nor Wii can match at this moment.
6. A strong 2008 line-up. Metal Gear Solid 4, Resistance 2, The Agency, Gran Turismo 5. All reasons to buy a PS3 in 2008, as all are expected to come out this year for the PS3 and PS3 alone. Add to that multi-platform titles like Grand Theft Auto IV, Prototype, Fallout 3 and Soulcalibur IV (with the PS3 getting fan-favorite Darth Vader), and the PS3 looks incredibly strong this year. Expect big software sales to come with increased console sales in 2008.