QuickJump QuickPeek special edition: The PS3 2007 Year in Review

80GB PS3 - Image 1The year 2007 was a memorable one for Sony and its supporters as the high-end PlayStation 3 game console rounded up its first full calendar cycle in the market. Big games like Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Heavenly Sword, and Lair have come out, and key personalities have brought color to major issues. We take a look back at all of those in the detailed version, so dig right in.

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With just a few days left in the calendar year 2007, we thought we’d take all of you Sony PlayStation 3 followers back on a trip down memory lane to see just what transpired in the year that was. This year definitely was a memorable one for Sony’s PlayStation 3 and its fans with all the highs and lows that the platform went through.

In this post, we’ll reminisce all the hottest issues that kept us buzzing all year round. We’ll also talk about the games that rocked our respective gaming worlds, and we’ll do a double-take on personalities that moved and shook the Sony PS3 scene. Finally, we’ll take a glimpse into just what the year 2008 holds for ye PS3 faithful. Let’s get started!

The highs and the lows

After a relatively successful Japanese and American launch late in 2006, Sony set a one million unit shipping benchmark for North America and Japan. The goal was quickly accomplished and fresh supplies were stocked in shops to meet the potential demand. When sales of the high-powered system normalized in the launch aftermath, Sony remained confident that a surge would arise once its product hit loyal PAL territories Australia and Europe.

To some extent, Sony’s predictions were correct with Australia and New Zealand embracing the PS3 in similar fashion that they did with older brothers PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable. European sales, however, were a bit of a mixed bag with hot sales in some areas and empty stores in others.

While pundits called this development a lost battle for the PS3, Sony and its allies were not left without something to brag about. Today, it’s generally acknowledged that the PS3’s European launch is one of the key events in the rise of Sony’s next-generation media format, Blu-ray, against Toshiba’s competing format HD-DVD.

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For the remainder of Spring 2007, the Sony PS3 would trail its competitors Microsoft Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii by wide margins. Analysts pointed to the lack of AAA exclusive titles and the high price point of the system as the main factors inhibiting the growth of its install base. Clamor for lower rates were raised by gamers and game media personalities alike, but Sony remained firm on its stand not to lower prices – at least for the time being.

In the lull between marquee game releases, rumors of new PS3 SKUs circulated around the Internet as a synergy to the price drop buzz. We saw doubtful leaked information which were reported as rumors in QJ.NET and in other sites, but nothing was official until Spring’s last months.

In May 2, 2007 Sony finally broke its silence regarding new SKUs by announcing that South Korea would be the first region to get the new 80GB PS3. The bigger hard drive was expected by techie crowds to accommodate IPTV functionality, though nothing has been made solid as of press time. As it stands, Mexico, North America, and Singapore now have the highest-capacity SKU in stores.

In the eve of E3 2007 in Santa Monica, Sony finally made formal its move to cut the price of its 60GB PS3 model by US$ 100. This brought the retail point to US$ 499. Sony explained that the move was made to clear its 60GB PS3 stockpile in order to make way for the new 80GB PS3. Again, the act drew mixed reactions from analysts, game media men, and gamers. Most of whom asked for more price cuts.

The introduction of the PAL PS3 and the 80GB PS3, however, did not come without some degrees of sacrifice. Backwards compatibility became a major issue as Sony decided not to include the PS2 Emotion Engine processor in both SKUs, limiting the number of titles from the PS2 library which can run on the PS3. Sony compensated by introducing software emulation methods to run PS2 games, but with the introduction of the latest PS3 SKU, it seemed that there was a new direction being set for the console.

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Following the October 5 announcement by SCEE chief David Reeves said that a 40GB PS3 model would be released in Europe, SCEA echoed the message to North American gamers that the same SKU would become available in the region in November 2, 2007. The 40GB PS3 would later retail for US$ 399 bundled with the Blu-ray rendition of hit movie Spider-Man 3. Also announced was that the 80GB PS3 would shed US$ 100 off its tag.

Analysts said that price reductions were made to allow more users to enter the PS3 platform by introducing a friendlier price. The act dispelled the notion that PS3 was only for the high-end crowd, and sent the message that gamers from all backgrounds can get into it.

The online side of Sony’s market strategy also grew by leaps and bounds in 2007. The PlayStation Network is seeing its content library grow week in and week out with new games and media being uploaded for users to enjoy.

More importantly, PlayStation Home was introduced this year at the Game Developer’s Conference, upping the ante on Sony’s online kingdom to come. Games like Warhawk, LittleBigPlanet and others that would take advantage of the PS3’s online capabilities were also highlighted. That leads us nicely to our next segment…

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Sony and 2007’s big events

The first big event for Sony in 2007 was definitely GDC. Things to show for weren’t quite abundant in terms of demonstrations but the announcement of PlayStation Home shook the event to its foundations. The promise of a living, breathing community where virtual representations of PS3 players can interact was well-received and had everyone talking. Closed Betas were given to a handful of lucky people, and word has been very encouraging.

As if PlayStation Home wasn’t big enough, the promise of Media Molecule’s LittleBigPlanet wowed everyone in the floor. More than dynamic online play, LittleBigPlanet gives us a sweet bow that Sony welcomes user-generated content in its turf. At least in its own parameters.

Similarly explosive for Sony was E3 2007. In conjunction with the aforementioned price cuts, trailers of huge upcoming games were shown. Particularly impressive were those of Konami’s Metal Gear Solid 4, Epic Games’ Unreal Tournament 3 and Free Radical’s eventually-controversial Haze.

Rounding up the trifecta of 2007’s big events, the 2007 Tokyo Game Show saw Sony give in to gamer and developer demand by announcing that the DualShock 3 controller was on the way. More trailers of big, upcoming exclusives including that of Capcom’s Devil May Cry 4 were shown off.

Sony also made some good showings in other conferences. In particular, Gamer’s Day and the German Games Convention were very good events to show off upcoming wares. Titles like Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Heavenly Sword, Lair and LittleBigPlanet were shown. Some members of the games media were fortunate enough to be given a hands-on of PlayStation Home. Feedback was pleasant all the way.

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PS3’s Games of 2007

Speaking of games, there’s no denying that 2007 had a solid crop of titles for the PS3. The delay of big-seller shoe-ins Grand Theft Auto 4 from Rockstar Games and Metal Gear Solid 4 from Konami may have dampened Sony’s parade, but that doesn’t mean it was without competitive content.

Critically-acclaimed exclusives Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune gave gamers more reasons to be happy about their console. Sony also racked up some serious first-party published software business with MotorStorm and Folklore. In addition, Tecmo pitched in a great remake of Xbox classic Ninja Gaiden Black by offering Ninja Gaiden Sigma.

Mark Rein and the rest of the people in Epic Games made good on their promise to deliver Unreal Tournament 3 by the end of 2007. The anticipated FPS dropped right in and made an impact with those who love to shoot it out online.

Cross-platform pleasers were also abundant for those seeking next-gen experiences. The biggest hitter of them all is probably Activision’s Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, which highlighted just what the PS3 is capable of given the right software. Activision’s Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock also sapped in positive market and critical results.

MTV Games and Harmonix’s Rock Band was also a big success heading into the big holiday games rush. The former devs of the Guitar Hero series proved that they’re still the team to beat by expanding the music and rhythm genre beyond just one instrument.

RPG fans will have to wait a bit more for fantasy enchanters White Knight Story and Final Fantasy XIII, but Bethesda sure gave them something tasty to chew on by taking The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to the PS3. The deep gameplay kept a lot of us occupied for months on end.

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The movers and shakers

A handful of elite personalities have impacted the PlayStation 3 one way or another in the year 2007. The top-level management of Sony really worked for their pay this year with all the maneuvering taking place. We’ve listed a handful and we’ll tell you why.

Ken Kutaragi – If there was a retirement of the year award, this had to be it. Universally recognized “Father of PlayStation” Ken Kutaragi announced his retirement in April 2007 after weak sales figures were made public. Speculations soared and mainstream business news outfits Wall Street Journal and The Times carried the story. Sony insists that Kutaragi planned his retirement even before the PS3 launch, but the details remain as mysterious as ever.

Phil Harrison – The Chief of Worldwide Studios for Sony has been working his tail off this year, globetrotting to make sure that the PS3 receives the attention it needs from gamers. The Sony console needed a go-to guy in 2007 and Harrison was all over the place, gracing events and answering tough questions.

Kazuo “Kaz” Hirai – Adopting a more Western nickname as he filled in on the big shoes left behind by Ken Kutaragi, Hirai proved that he can take on the reins of SCE in tough times and make strides to set the PS3 on the comeback trail. So far Hirai’s leadership has shown good results. The year 2008 could be the defining annum in his storied career.

Cory Barlog – After Cory directed God of War II, many were relieved that the franchise can survive David Jaffe’s departure. Now Barlog has left the fold, too, leaving a lot of us wondering what the next God of War game will be like.

Michael Pachter – While the Wedbush Morgan analyst isn’t part of Sony per se, he’s been making a lot of predictions and conclusions about the PS3. He’s got several correct and almost-correct predictions to his credit including those of the PS3 price cuts. He’s been predicting that the PS3 will win the seventh-gen console war. Will he hit or miss? We’ll see.

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What lies ahead

Certainly, 2007 isn’t the greatest year ever for Sony, but if the leader in the past two console cycles has proven anything in the past year, it’s the strong claim that this party is just getting started and 2008 could very well be the year of the PS3’s revenge. With exclusives like Metal Gear Solid 4, LittleBigPlanet, Killzone 2, and Gran Turismo 5 Prologue in the pipeline, it isn’t so hard to believe.

Also, cross-platform games such as Resident Evil 5, Devil May Cry 4, Grand Theft Auto IV and a lot more are looking to heighten up the head-to-head competition with Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Will we see the PS3 finally underline the hardware chops that it has been bannering for so long? We’ll see.

Blu-ray is also looking ready to widen its lead over HD-DVD. This should mean that more movies will come the PS3’s way. We’re hoping to see more HD media on the PSN as we go along.

Lastly, there’s PlayStation Home, which is due out in Spring of 2008. A lot of us who weren’t able to participate in the Beta are just dying to get our hands on it. This should be a very good selling point of the PS3, considering that its retail price has gone down to near-Xbox 360 levels.

Overall, it’s been a worthwhile year 2007 from Sony. Now that 2008 is almost here, we’re hoping to see the console mash the goodie gas pedal to the floor and take us full throttle into next-gen gaming nirvana.

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