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The Holiday Season is coming to an end. It has been a great year for video games with console sales up from a year before. The industry has seen many games like Uncharted 3, Skyrim and Gears of War 3 succeed in the market. Even though it was a big year for both Microsoft and Sony, the biggest debate in the industry is which one is better. 2011 was suppose to be the year of Playstation 3, but did it finally top the Xbox 360 and become top console on the market? From console exclusives, to online play, to the rise in motion gaming, who won?
First things first, I need to talk about online play for both respected consoles. Last year, one of the biggest strengths for the Xbox 360 was Xbox Live. Microsoft Summer Arcade was again huge during the summer. Games like Bastion, From Dust and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet were available for a low price and were all editor choices here at Player Affinity. Along with that, it managed to improve on its online experience with the most recent dashboard update. Soon Xbox Live will be an entertainment complex that isn’t just known for playing games. In the coming months Hbo GO, Youtube, Xfinity TV (Comcast) and UFC will all be available, unlike the Playstation network.
What should have been a non-story turned into the story of the year. In April, the PlayStation Network went offline with Sony to undergo maintenance. Several days later the real story surfaced. The hacker group known as Anonymous had infiltrated the PlayStation Network without Sony knowing and stole the personal information of 77 million registered users. What made it worse is that Sony didn’t tell the public the problems for days and the network remained offline for a month. Today, even though the Playstation Network is back, it changed the public opinion of Playstation and Sony, but this affected Sony’s first party lineup the most.
First Party Exclusives
One of the many things the PS3 had going for it was the first party exclusives that it had leading up to 2011. The Playstation 3 had an unbelievable first party line up for the first half of the year. Starting off with LittleBigPlanet 2, Killzone 3, MotorStorm: Apocalypse, SOCOM 4 and Infamous 2. All together with Resistance 3 and Uncharted 3, Sony had eight exclusives hitting store shelves, but most of them struggled to sell over 500,000 copies in their opening weeks. These were all big Sony franchises and were probably expected to sell more than one million units. You would have thought it would be the blockbuster year for Sony to dominate the competition, but it never turned out that way.
Under most circumstances, I would never blame marketing, but they dropped the ball this year for Sony. Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with Kevin Butler appearing on my television set and endorsing a Sony product, but the majority of these ad segments had nothing to do with Sony’s first party lineup and focused more on the Move. Resistance 3 was affected severely by this, as it sold franchise lows to conclude the trilogy.
Another marketing failure was simply stuffing the consumer base with too many first party exclusives too quickly. It might have been better to space out its first party lineup or delay some for next year. Resistance 3 and Uncharted 3 are great games, but they overshadow Sony’s entire first party lineup. Great games like Infamous 2, which is my game of the year, were easily forgotten. It might have been better to have a limited set of exclusives like Microsoft had this year. Games like Gears of War 3, Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary and Forza 4 sold well right out of the gate.
For Microsoft, they didn't depend on first party games to support their console. They depended squarely on the success of third party games as the rise of third party developers continues to become a bigger part of the industry. For the fifth year in a row, an entry in Activision’s Call of Duty series was the highest selling video game with Microsoft being the favored platform. Continuing this pattern, Battlefield 3, Assassin Creed: Revelations and Skyrim went on to be big sellers for the 360. This year alone proves that console exclusivity is a thing of the past.
2011 was the first year in motion gaming for both Sony and
Microsoft and it wasn’t good, a lack of support for both platforms diminishing their appeal. The main selling point for the Move was how it was supposed to bridge the gap between the casual and hardcore audience. Games like Killzone 3, Resistance 3 and SOCOM
used the move, but with mix results. Yes they were good bridges, but they could
never take away or replace the controller. The same goes for the Kinect, which had some good games like Gunstringer,
Dance Central 2 and Child of Eden,
but still features a very limited experience.
What separates Move and Kinect is the technology behind them. The Kinect is really built for enhancing your home entertainment experience and has helped extended the 360’s life. During Black Friday, one million Xbox 360 consoles were sold, along with 500,000 Kinect units. Overall, the Kinect has preformed better than the Move, but both have failed to attract the Hardcore audience, with both devices yet to live up to their potential.
I am really looking forward to 2012. Oddly enough, Microsoft and Sony don’t have a lot of AAA exclusives coming out. The few and most notable exclusives are Halo 4 for the Xbox 360 and (hopefully) Last Guardian for the Playstation 3. It’s been one of the strongest years for video games, but if I am going to pick, Xbox 360 wins hands down in my book for focusing on what gamers wanted, when they wanted it, while establishing a promising future. The Playstation did have a great year, but it was far short of what was expected.
WINNER: Xbox 360