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From lumbering start to graceful finish: a brief history of PS3

Friday, 6th December 2013 09:42 GMT By Dave Cook

Gran Turismo 6 is out today and it marks what could be the end of Sony’s big, exclusive releases on its last-gen format. VG247′s Dave Cook charts the console’s history and how it impacted the industry at large.

(Note: I’m aware the console’s not finished yet, but with today’s launch of Gran Turismo 6 marking Sony’s last big exclusive, it felt like the right time to post this. Happy reading!)

”At the time, PS3′s image really did scream, ‘BOYS! ACTION! POWER! TECH! PENISES! SPLOSIONS!’ It was the man-child gadget fancier’s dream, even if – obviously – lots of females were still clearly playing it. Some might even call it a bad image.”

I still remember March 23, 2007. I had taken a bus across town to the Gamestation store where I worked. Gamers were queuing out into the car park, standing patiently in the mild morning air. They were clearly eager to get inside and it was little wonder, seeing as PlayStation 3 had finally launched in Europe. I was covering the big day for a documentary project my university was running. Once the doors opened, they filed inside and laid down £425-plus to be among the first to sample Sony’s next-generation. It was an exciting thing to witness.

But then media reports started appearing online, suggesting that the long-awaited console wasn’t quite the revelation it was hyped up to be. Games like Resistance: Fall of Man and Motorstorm received a mixed reaction from the press, Ridge Racer 7 proved that the format was showing its age, and Genji: Days of the Blade was still reeling from the ‘giant enemy crab’ fiasco. The system’s technical capability was abundantly clear, but its exclusive launch slate left much to be desired.

Don’t forget that Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune wasn’t due until that November, and before then poorly-received titles like Lair suggested that Sony’s SIXAXIS tech was perhaps little more than a gimmick. Development of Final Fantasy 13 – which was still a PS3 exclusive at this point – was proving so problematic on Sony’s complex architecture, that Square had to create a whole new tool set called ‘Crystal Tools.’ Suddenly, cracks started to appear in Sony’s proposition, and for many, the cheaper Xbox 360 with its revolutionary Xbox Live component seemed like the horse to back.

I was always a Sony fanboy back in the day, but I opted for an Xbox 360 in 2007 so I could play the timed exclusive BioShock at launch. I bought them both together in a bundle and was blown away by that first scene in the ocean. That was the moment I truly arrived in the next generation. After all, I was a student then, far too poor to afford a PS3 and still happily playing PS2 games like Killer7 and Final Fantasy 12. The fact that Square’s 13th title wasn’t coming to Microsoft’s format was a real blow, but still, it was a matter of buying a console to keep up, or paying the rent. I think I made the right choice given my circumstances.

Across the last generation I played Xbox 360 in the majority, seeing as the bulk of my friends had one. When I moved down south to start working towards a career in game critique I used voice chat and long, often boozy Call of Duty sessions to keep in touch with my mates back in Scotland. It was a strange, integral part of my life, but my PS3 was always there and always appreciated. Those week-long Demon’s Souls binges were particularly enjoyable and frustrating in equal measure. But I digress.

Despite some initial issues, Sony managed to shift over 600,000 PS3 consoles across Europe in just two days. That’s not a small number. We had just come off the back of PlayStation 2, arguably one of the most influential and successful consoles of all time. Think back to all of the franchises that console gave birth to, and all of the superb games it spawned. It really is a milestone of our industry, and together with the original Xbox and Gamecube, the industry was – at the time – a healthy, competitive place brimming with ideas.

But we suddenly found ourselves in the online generation, inspired by the first steps of the Dreamcast and – some may say, initially, the risible Apple Pippin – but the playing field had changed drastically nonetheless. Sony did well to keep PSN free, and this proved to be a real ace up the sleeve. As digital-only titles started to become recognised as viable prospects – thanks in large part to Braid’s success on Xbox Live – Sony really started to wise-up to where the online market was going. It too started to hoover up digital titles from indie teams on a regular basis, filling the PlayStation Store library with acclaimed titles like Super Stardust HD and more recently, games like Hotline Miami.

In fact, the appearance of Dennaton’s Drive-inspired ‘fuck-em-up’ on PSN is indicative of why Sony had such a firm foothold when PS4 launched here last week. Games like Hotline Miami – that can only be found on PS3, Vita and home computer formats – may not be exclusive, but they are certainly console exclusives. That looks good in the eyes of the consumer. Then Sony Online Entertainment got involved with DC Universe Online to see if the free model could work on consoles, followed by CCP Games’ shooter DUST 514. Whatever your view of those games, this showed a great deal of forward-thinking from Sony.

Fast forward to today and PS4 already has a run of post-launch releases, such as free titles Warframe and Blacklight: Retribution. They’re soon to be followed by Planetside 2, Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Nuclear Throne, The Witness and tons more. If I had to pick out Sony’s greatest evolution across the PS3′s life-span then it’s surely this. It took time for the company to reach this point, but I’m guessing a lot of you are glad it did. Then there’s a little thing called PlayStation Plus. That’s been an interesting and successful format so far.

PS Plus was launched in June 29, 2010 and promised a premium service for gamers. By far the model’s greatest asset is arguably the Instant Game Collection, which offers free games on monthly rotation. It’s actually, positively ludicrous in its design, yet so brilliant as a tool to raise awareness of studios and franchises. I literally can’t see a single downside beyond perhaps some studios taking a profit hit by being included, but even then I’m sure they’re making some money out of the deal.

So yes, PlayStation as a service has evolved drastically over the years, but what about the games? Speaking personally, PS3′s software side didn’t start off well at all. For me it lacked something punchy and marketable like Gears of War. Say what you will, but Epic’s sombre ‘Mad World’ TV spots for that game were simply genius, and the game itself improved the cover-shooting format to a point where suddenly, every action game wanted to copy it. Sony needed something like that, a name to market, a title to scream from the rooftops. Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was arguably that title.

It’s not the best game in the series but man was that a fun campaign. Nathan Drake was a lovable, wise-cracking Indiana Jones for the modern age. Naughty Dog’s proficiency behind PS3′s wheel helped the visuals sing to the point that the console was something you wanted to be a part of. Its colourful settings offered so much more than the drab decay of Resistance, and those stunts. Seriously, those stunts. The gunplay was also fun, SIXAXIS grenades aside, and the whole thing just spoke to gamers in a big way. Then came Uncharted 2: Among Thieves which – I think – was 2009′s best game and one of the last generation’s best titles.

But kids couldn’t play Uncharted. Your gran might have fancied Drake’s charm but she probably didn’t want to play his game. At the time, PS3′s image really did scream, ‘BOYS! ACTION! POWER! TECH! PENISES! SPLOSIONS!’ It was the man-child gadget fancier’s dream, even if – obviously – lots of females were still clearly playing it. Some might even call it a bad image, but LittleBigPlanet changed all of that. Media Molecule’s debut may not have been the biggest selling title of all time, but it gave that sleek black box a new message, and showed that anyone could be a PS3 gamer.

This was about the time when the console saw a much-needed price-drop, and I finally bought both the game and the unit at launch. It also came with a proper DualShock 3 with rumble and everything. I still never understood why Sony launched its PS3 pad without rumble motors. Live and learn I guess. So yes, LittleBigPlanet received insane review scores and got the people talking, spreading the word and convincing many people that it was time to return to Sony’s fold. Plus it was educational to a point, which only helped broaden its appeal.

From that point onward, PS3′s roster of games simply exploded, with an increasingly diverse assortment of games for gamers of all ages and skill levels. We saw Heavy Rain target players who perhaps weren’t up to twitch gaming standards. That’s not a put down either, because anything that gets new types of players involved is surely a positive thing. The inFamous series jumped on the sandbox trend triggered by GTA 3 just under a decade earlier, and did so with a neat moral, superhero twist. God of War 3 was just mental in a good way, and capped off a superb Sony series.

Killzone 2 and 3 showed the world that console gaming could still match the rapidly improving visuals of the PC arena, and in the eyes of many, suggested that the Xbox 360 was showing its age. Close your eyes and try to remember the first Killzone 2 trailer from E3. It gave me actual goosebumps at the time, to think that one day, all games might look that good. I finished Killzone: Shadow Fall just under a month ago, and Guerrilla Games is still showing me things I’ve never seen on consoles before.

Metal Gear Solid 4 enthralled and annoying people in equal measure with its inspired mechanics and lengthy cut-scenes respectively. Fellow Japanese releases Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch and Tales of Xillia proved that the wider western audience was capable of accepting JRPGs on their shores, while the Ratchet and Clank series continued to delight gamers young and old with its cartoon antics and fun gameplay.

PlayStation 3 is by no means perfect, but it stands as proof that Sony as a company is capable of learning from its mistakes. When you compare how the console started out and where it’s ended up with today’s Gran Turismo 6 launch, you can really appreciate just how far we’ve come. This is not to say Microsoft hasn’t achieved wonders with Xbox 360 – because it really, sincerely has – but I’m focusing on Sony here to tie in with Polyphony’s launch.

It’s been a long, exciting, and at times frustrating generation. Studios have closed, what it means to be a consumer has changed for good and ill, but through all the difficulties and disappointments, we’ve been lucky enough to witness astounding advancements in technology, the birth of cherished new IP that serve to entertain us daily, and the ability to go to places we never thought we’d see only just a few decades ago.

We’ve come so far, but we’re still only at the start.

Bring on the next generation. We’re ready for it.

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43 Comments

  1. Belmont

    Fantastic Read Dave !

    “We’ve come so far, but we’re still only at the start.”

    has a “quote from a wise man” feel to it ! :)

    #1 1 year ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 Hah, thanks :D It’s just a silly, personal story of my experience with the console, but it is mad to think back to that first day outside that shop. No one could have predicted then, just how far the industry as a whole would come.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. CyberMarco

    Great article Dave, it goes straight to Brenna’s post! :)

    #3 1 year ago
  4. GregoryRasputin

    Dave your article is awesome, but if you want to check out the PS3′s history in full(almost), check my site :)
    http://ps3history.net/

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Dave Cook

    @4 Hey man thanks for the feedback, and cheers for the link, I’ve bookmarked it for my lunch break :D

    #5 1 year ago
  6. Pytox

    Great article! You forgot to mention the loss of kevin butler somehow though and their ps move :P

    #6 1 year ago
  7. GregoryRasputin

    Cool Dave :), its not everyone cup of tea and it is a long read or more a long diary of the PS3′s history, including the bad, hope you enjoy it.

    Its hard to believe that in three months time, my UK PS3 will be seven years old, time flys when you are having fun.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. dreamcastnews

    I used to work for Gamestation when the PS3 came out too! We had a phoneshop sell import 20GB units down the road before it came out so we got them shut down, it really was hampering our sales.

    #8 1 year ago
  9. Dave Cook

    @8 I remember the old ‘broken street date’ phone calls well. Used to happen all the time when I worked at GAME (i worked for both companies in my youth)

    #9 1 year ago
  10. tenthousandgothsonacid

    “(Note: I’m aware the console’s not finished yet, but with today’s launch of Gran Turismo 6 marking Sony’s last big exclusive, it felt like the right time to post this. Happy reading!)”

    Using this logic you should have written a similar xbox360 article *years* ago :)

    #10 1 year ago
  11. Lloytron

    ‘BOYS! ACTION! POWER! TECH! PENISES! SPLOSIONS!’

    Ummm, at least two of those things aren’t what I like to see in my games, personally :D

    #11 1 year ago
  12. Dave Cook

    @10 OOF!

    I honestly didn’t think Gears of War Judgment would be the last MS exclusive, but alas. (Unless I’ve missed one?)

    I could still do one for Xbox 360 though. I really have enjoyed many years with that machine. So many fond memories.

    #12 1 year ago
  13. Dave Cook

    @11 Hah :D

    #13 1 year ago
  14. Clupula

    It just goes to show that you’re a fool if you ever count Sony out.

    They went into this gen flaming and crashing to the ground and are ending it as the best of the three 7th gen systems.

    And they did it by doing what so few other companies are willing to do: They took chances, especially software-wise. The only franchise they have that I can honestly say is beyond milked is Ratchet & Clank. Otherwise, Sony have been great about having just the right mix of sequels and new ip’s.

    They took some very big gambles on titles like Heavy Rain and LittleBigPlanet and it paid off for them, big-time. I know there are some people who would accuse me of being a Sony fanboy, but if you look at my comments, you’ll see that I often call them out for dumb moves (like the lack of a Western release for the Vita TV).

    Sony just give me more of what I want than either of their two competitors and as long as they keep giving me what I want, I’ll continue to support them.

    Not only that, but when you see things like Sucker Punch changing the design of Cole back to what the fans preferred when there was the huge uproar over the redesign, you realize that Sony are the anti-Nintendo when it comes to listening to their customers.

    #14 1 year ago
  15. manamana

    Superb read Dave! And so much memories. Would never sell my PS3 and with Stardust HD and wipEout both in awesome 3D, the fun to play never gets old. I keep it hooked up on parties and people (while others are dancing in the living room) play them (drunk and without a clue) but enjoying the experience.

    #15 1 year ago
  16. monkeygourmet

    @Clupula

    Im not a Sony fanboy but… ;)

    At least you provided positive resons to be one. I also like the fact you calling them out for dumb moves is essentially “I want MOAR Sony products and I can’t wait!!!”

    @Topic

    The PS3 had some fine games. Main problems for me being that I hate the Dual Shock with a passion & the Bluray drive gimped the system in some respects and didn’t help with games (give me more memory and a DVD drive any day).

    Still, I loved some of the exclusives on it, a highlight being ‘Journey’, the ‘Uncharted’ series and ‘Demon Souls’. It was a good secondary console for me, but couldn’t topple the 360 (again based on the online experience, multiplatform performance & online experience).

    Good article Dave, but I thought the best line wasn’t about the PS3!

    “I bought them both together in a bundle and was blown away by that first scene in the ocean. That was the moment I truly arrived in the next generation.”

    I felt exactly the same way! :)

    #16 1 year ago
  17. Dave Cook

    @15 & 16 thanks folks :)

    That moment in BioShock was seriously like, ‘this is it, the future.’

    PS3 and Xbox 360 both helped this industry grow so much, alongside Nintendo, PC and other formats. It’s all additive.

    #17 1 year ago
  18. monkeygourmet

    @17

    Yep! I thought it was a cutscene and was thinking… “This looks fucking awesome!” then I realised nothing had happened for a minute, moved the pad and my character began to swim…

    I was like… WHAAAAAAAAAAA THE $%^&?!!!!!! :D

    Jaw dropping.

    #18 1 year ago
  19. polygem

    ^ most memorable gaming moment of the last gen indeed!

    #19 1 year ago
  20. Dave Cook

    @18 & 19 did you know that the scene wasn’t in the original game? Levine told me a few years back that it just started in the water, with no transition from the plan to that moment at all.

    I think the final version nailed it just right.

    #20 1 year ago
  21. polygem

    no, didn’t know that. glad it made it into the game. it was simple but perfect. being in the middle of the ocean, alone, the crashed plane, the fire, the moody moonlight and then there is a lighthouse…entering rapture, a great adventure.

    #21 1 year ago
  22. Dave Cook

    @21 I asked Levine about it again in my making of article on here, and he said that the first intro tested very poorly, with no explanation of why you were in an underwater city, and most of the elements were too ambiguous. It turned out so well in the end.

    #22 1 year ago
  23. monkeygourmet

    You instinctvly knew to head for the lighthouse (as obvious as that sounds)… It a was perfect start.

    Then the elevator ride down…

    Holy moses, what a great start and set up for a game. In fact, Im buying it on STEAM right now and will play it again when I go home! :)

    #23 1 year ago
  24. polygem

    well worth a second playthrough. i played it twice as well. i couldn’t get into bs2 i must say. still haven’t touched infinite…but the first bioshock is definitely in my top ten last gen games. it’s a classic through and through.

    #24 1 year ago
  25. FBSKing

    This is by far the worst article I’ve read about the history of ps3.
    Seriously not only is written from the perspective of an xbox fanboy, but also not written in chronological order.
    seriously, Dave Cook is a newbie writing about games, this is the least passionate article on ps3 I have ever read.

    he did not even mention the last of us, and everything was narrated in a manner as if he had put together a lot of scattered notes and have copied all on his laptop.
    Maybe he never read the article before posting it .. that sucks.

    #25 1 year ago
  26. monkeygourmet

    @25

    http://i.imgur.com/7WHXe.gif

    #26 1 year ago
  27. Legendaryboss

    @25
    http://www.miataturbo.net/attachments/meet-greet-40/81388-newb-seeks-bolt-lambo-door-kit-803anigif_not_sure_if_ser-gif

    @26
    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-VYKJVq6Gjtg/UMD0z-O6RLI/AAAAAAAADt8/aKwM45AX6PE/s1600/damn-right.gif

    #27 1 year ago
  28. Djoenz

    @25
    Get a life dude dayumnz.

    #28 1 year ago
  29. Francis O

    Sony’s biggest win this generation was listening to the fans and adding a trophy system to the PS3.

    #29 1 year ago
  30. Cobra951

    Thanks for the glimpse, Dave. I missed out on the PS3 entirely. The price held me back every time I was tempted by it. One reason I’m eying the PS4 is the role reversal here. Sony now offers the more reasonable hardware package, while Microsoft bloated theirs into high-price territory, particularly with one gadget I don’t even want. Let’s see how the coming year shapes up. I may get to experience post-PS2 Sony after all.

    #30 1 year ago
  31. Clupula

    @16 – Or maybe me saying that Ratchet & Clank is milked to all hell or that I have no interest in Gran Turismo, Killzone, or Resistance or that I’d rather watch paint dry than play a SOCOM game or that they’ve never had a good launch lineup or that I have no interest in playing their portable system or that it’s dumb that they didn’t make every early PS3 game have trophies.

    Nope. Never said a single negative thing about Sony…

    #31 1 year ago
  32. Clupula

    As for Bioshock, I remember before I had a PS3, every 360 owner I knew telling me how amazing the game was. Eventually, when it came to PS3, I bought it and…it was alright. I think people hyped it up too much for me because I was expecting something magical. It was good. But it wasn’t great. Very overrated. Felt the same way about the first Mass Effect (ME2, though, is amazing).

    #32 1 year ago
  33. Djoenz

    @Clupula I agree with Bioshock I didnt like it that much XBox360 version and my buddy who owned it never finished it and returned it. At the time I think Fallout 3 was way more impressive. I dont agree with Mass Effect that game is brilliant.

    #33 1 year ago
  34. Clupula

    @33 – You know what killed the first Mass Effect for me? All that time I spent trying to drive over mountains, looking for something to do. I understand they were trying to create a feeling of exploration, but I was mostly just bored by those driving scenes. I was very glad they took them out of ME2 (except for in the DLC…I think those were DLC missions. I got the PS3 version, so they were included already) and ME3.

    #34 1 year ago
  35. Djoenz

    @34
    HA! I loved that man. I 100′d that game, ingame that is Im not a platinum/trophy whore. I loved exploring and I got all the minerals.

    Mass Effect was for me a wonderful RPG. They stripped out a lot of RPG elements from ME2. Seriously if ME2 did not have those cool characters whould you still prefer it over the first game?

    #35 1 year ago
  36. fearmonkey

    great article Dave :) I never had a PS3 but Sony did a great job at fixing their mistakes and being competitive.

    The comments here about Bioshock match my own. That crash and then realizing Im in the water and I can move….Wow!

    Oblivion had that same effect on me, i was just mesmerized by its beauty.

    #36 1 year ago
  37. Clupula

    @35 – Definitely would prefer ME2 over ME1. I think ME2 improves over the original in every aspect. The RPG parts were the poorest parts of ME1. They were very half-assed. It was a shooter with RPG elements grafted onto it in uncomfortable ways. Once those were stripped away and the game embraced just being a TPS, it was better off for it.

    Not to mention, every single base in ME1 had the same architecture. ME2 gave you actual mazes. I seriously can’t think of a single thing ME1 does better than ME2. However, I will say having played ME2 first and then going back to ME1 after it was released on PS3, I will say the trilogy plays a lot better if you started from the beginning. That digital comic is no substitute for having started with ME1.

    #37 1 year ago
  38. Samurai

    PS3 is the PS2 all over again, still being VERY relevant long into the next iteration. Dark Souls 2, Tales of Xillia 2, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD, and Persona 5…
    Just to name a few.

    #38 1 year ago
  39. Dave Cook

    @25 such a hilarious response. I needed a chuckle too.

    Complete and uttet horseshit.

    Lulllz.

    #39 1 year ago
  40. stalepie

    exclusives are annoying. I don’t want to own dozens of consoles

    #40 1 year ago
  41. KAP

    @41

    You don’t mind sharing your wife then no?

    #41 1 year ago
  42. Cort

    There’s an interesting lesson for MS here: always more expensive does not have to mean always least sold. If MS can play their cards right with first party and third party exclusives, and show that they have truly learned from early mistakes (as Sony was forced to do), then they may be able to stop the tide coming in around their feet.

    No true gamer wants to lose a platform from the market. Competition is essential for better products and services.

    #42 1 year ago
  43. GregoryRasputin

    @25 i enjoyed this article quite a bit, i see nothing wrong with it, the key points are highlighted, what more do you need in a small article.

    #43 1 year ago

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