Following a week of Microsoft-MTV multimedia blitz on the next-generation Xbox 360 gaming console, Sony today sought the spotlight for its competing PlayStation 3 in advance of the E3 Conference in Los Angeles this week.
Sony exposed more of the new machine — powered by the “Cell” processor designed by IBM, Sony and Toshiba — touting its advanced graphics and multimedia capabilities, which are bolstered by a graphics chip of 300 million transistors.
The Japanese technology giant said PlayStation 3 would hit the market in one year and would carry on its legacy of gaming dominance. However, Sony faces a formidable new foe in its pursuit of console consumption from Microsoft, which is set to release Xbox 360 this fall and announced an impressive game catalog for the product last week.
Industry analysts indicated that the two companies — which are also competing against Nintendo and its popular systems, which will soon include its next-generation Revolution console — are evenly matched, with no leader.
However, the analysts did indicate they are learning more and more about both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as the companies battle for attention, and both machines represent a leap forward for gaming and multimedia systems.
“It’s really making the road map a little clearer going forward,” Jupiter Media senior analyst Jay Horwitz told TechNewsWorld. “It means we have a sense of the devices coming down the line.”
Jay Horwitz, senior analyst, Jupiter Media, said the latest console updates represent an “evolution” rather than the typical “revolution,” explaining that the newer machines have looked beyond improved graphics and performance and now truly support connectivity and multimedia functions — “things that didn’t come to fruition in the last generation,” Horwitz said.
Challenge of Change
Horwitz said while the new consoles represent a large leap in terms of pure processing power, it is how the companies are contextualizing that improvement that might be more important.
He said both Microsoft and Sony — which incorporate greater Internet, networking, music and movie capabilities into their next-gen systems — have put the performance and graphics improvement within the framework of high-definition (HD). While Horwitz praised this move as something consumers could understand — as opposed to specifications that might not make sense — he said it would also limit consumers’ ability to leverage the improved technology.
“It is good graphics, but it’s not standard in most people’s homes,” he said. “Those capabilities won’t be realized until well into the next generation [of consoles].”
Playing To Win
Horwitz said Microsoft’s announcement of up to 40 games with the Xbox 360 release in November was impressive, indicating Sony is likely to answer.
“They’re going to ensure they have these mogul titles, and it will be a pretty level playing field,” he said. “It’s games that make the difference and what you do with the added megahertz that matters.”
Calling it “a huge launch era” for consoles, Horwitz added that the dueling demonstrations and press releases from the different companies — something Sony is not used to — and the release schedule for the new systems is less important than reaching a big enough market to support game development and viral sales among groups of consumers.
“The timeline is important, but at the end of the day, getting to critical mass — a mass market of about 10 million — that will decide who has won,” he said.
Throwing in Their Chips
Mercury Research President Dean McCarron told TechNewsWorld all the next-generation consoles coming out are a needed update to the aging graphics of today’s consoles.
“They are leveraging off some of the graphics technology they use for PCs,” he said. “It’s a very dramatic improvement. It really has brought the current consoles up to date with PCs.”
McCarron said it is difficult for companies to get ahead with graphics chips, but they are still aggressive in that they are willing to pay more for more transistors and processing power now, knowing the cost of making the chips will decrease over time.
The analyst said the companies also need increased processing power to compliment their latest graphics chips, as well as new software development that takes advantage of new capabilities, which this time around include programmable pixel shading and rendering capabilities not previously supported.
McCarron said all of the console competitors are benefiting from game development that has blurred the lines between consoles, PCs and operating systems, which might make the process of porting games to the next-generation platforms easier.