The troubles of the PS3

The au courant love to dish on the PS3: sales have been less than hoped for, Sony's losing money on each console, Kutaragi was moved out as CEO and chairman, and the vaunted performance over its rivals hasn't been as much of a differentiation as hoped. It has produced insecure fanboys, and fanboys who mock them.

But what's the real problem?

The real issue is architecture. It's just too different from anything else out there for a community of developers to get behind it. Yes, it's very powerful, and in dedicated hands, that power may be able to be unleashed. And there will be some game to come along and take advantage of that, which will show the world the real capabilities of the console.

But, yawn. In the meantime, original games on the PS3 are pretty similar to original games on the XBox360, but the telling thing is that among games on both platforms, the XBox360 version is always better. Why is this?

Because developers want to sell as many games as possible. They don't want to sell to just XBox owners, or just Playstation owners, they want the whole world to be able to buy any game. To do that, they develop for multiple platforms. And when developing for multiple platforms, designing with the traditional Intel and Motorola chips in mind is worlds easier. There are developers that know these chips laying around like cordwood, while there is no global pool of expertise on the Cell processor.

If you're a coder, do you even want to become an expert on the Cell? Does it have a future? Or do you want to be an expert at hardware that you know has lots of current applications? You can code for games, or for PCs, or Macs, or whatever, when you know PowerPC and Intel.

So developers make XBox360 games and port them to the PS3, and the port is worse than the original. But it hardly matters, because PS3 sales are down. And so you see a spiral beginning, subtle now, but it could get ugly, unless the PS3 gets a Killer App, and Soon.

Of course, I got one, mostly because despite its game machine innards, it's still the cheapest Blu-Ray player you can get, and I was sort of wanting one. And for me, Virtua Fighter 5 was like a siren song.



IEEE Spectrum’s gaming blog was retired in 2010, but it is preserved here for archival reference.