Sony Signs Rockstar for PS3 Exclusive

Perhaps hoping that lightning can strike the same company twice, Sony announced Friday it has signed an exclusive deal with Rockstar Games, maker of the famous and infamous “Grand Theft Auto” (GTA) series, to bring a new upcoming franchise exclusively to the PlayStation 3 (PS3).

The deal is a rarity in the industry, as game developers wait to see how the current generation of gaming consoles shakes out.

“We are announcing that a new franchise from Rockstar Games will be exclusive to PS3,” Michael Shorrock, director of 3rd Party Relations at Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), posted on the company’s official PlayStation blog. “As part of our longstanding relationship with Rockstar, and the incredible success for both companies with the cultural icon that is ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ we’ve agreed to the PlayStation exclusive rights of the next franchise from the Rockstar studios.”

Neither Sony or Rockstar has released even the slightest detail about the forthcoming franchise, except to say it is not “LA Noire,” another Rockstar project currently in the works.

One Hit Wonder or Hit Factory?

Since the release of “Grand Theft Auto: London 1969” in 1999, Rockstar has ridden a tidal wave of success that was matched by the controversy generated with the launch of each of the series’ games. That good fortune has not necessarily continued with the release of the firm’s other games, such as “Red Dead Revolver” and “Midnight Club: Street Racing.”

However, Rockstar has a proven track record of pushing the envelope with its wares, exemplified most recently when Britain and Ireland banned the sale of “Manhunt 2,” while in the U.S. the game received an “Adults only” rating, causing Sony and Nintendo to shun it from their systems.

Executives at Sony are putting their money, literally, on Rockstar because, as Shorrock blogged, to be successful in the gaming industry requires the ability to look ahead, identify talent and provide titles that will give consumers new kinds of experiences that will set the bar for the rest of the industry.

“Rockstar has a heritage for doing just that,” he continued. “We have had incredible success with the ‘GTA’ franchise and are happy to continue to offer those titles on our platforms, and even more excited about what’s to come from the current and future relationship between our companies.”

The exclusive franchise will capitalize upon the PS3’s Cell technology and built-in Blu-ray high-definition DVD drive, Shorrock explained, two components that have designers at Rockstar excited about creating something for the platform.

“Rockstar really wanted to make a game that you can truly only do on PS3, harnessing the power of Cell and Blu-ray disk, and this deal lets them do just that,” he wrote. “This is really a win-win situation for both companies.”

Keeping It to Themselves

Notwithstanding the bump in sales Sony received near the announcement of a PS3 price cut weeks ago, sales of the PS3 have continued to underwhelm. Oft-cited problems include a lack of compelling games as well as exclusive titles made specifically for the console. While it’s impossible to say whether the Rockstar deal will boost sales of the PS3, “exclusive content is a strong purchase motivator for these systems,” Michael Gartenberg, a JupiterResearch analyst told TechNewsWorld.

“We know that three things drive sales: low price points, exclusive content and a wide variety of content,” he explained. “So if Sony has something other consoles don’t have and it is a hit title, that’s huge. It’s one of the reasons why the PS2 (PlayStation 2) did so well, was on the strength of the ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series that at the time Sony had and wasn’t available elsewhere.”

The flip side, Gartenberg pointed out, is the possibility of having a exclusive content no one cares about at all.

Add in the news that David Jaffe, former creative director for SCEA, has formed a new development studio called “Eat, Sleep, Play,” which will design three console/handheld games for Sony. It appears the company is lining up “both the guy responsible for one the biggest franchises on the PS2 and in times past Rockstar saw a lot of success with its games on the Sony platform,” Paul Jackson, a Forrester Research analyst, told TechNewsWorld.

“Potentially for both sides, it’s a good deal,” he stated.

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