The original PlayStation, now referred to as the PSOne, was the king of the gaming hill back in its day. Its major competitors were the Sega Saturn and the Nintendo 64. The Saturn had some minor success in the Eastern market but failed to catch on in the West, and was eventually discontinued while the PSOne was still wildly popular. While the N64 offered 64-bit graphics—compared to the PSOne's 32 bits—Nintendo's decision to release games on cartridges rather than CDs limited the amount of data that these games could contain. Even though the potential for better graphics was there, the limited storage space usually led to less-detailed visuals.
The PSOne had an absolutely phenomenal lineup of exclusive titles. In its time, Final Fantasy VII was considered one of the best video games ever made, and it was only available on the PSOne. (Until the PC port came out later, that is.) Metal Gear Solid was another game that was considered a must-buy in the 1990s and was also exclusive to the PSOne. Other exclusive titles included the Crash Bandicoot series, the Twisted Metal series, and a whole slew of phenomenal RPGs. The N64 had its own groundbreaking exclusives, including Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Super Smash Bros. However, the N64's lineup of great exclusives didn't stretch very far beyond the first-party mega-hits.
When the PS2 came out, the fact that it would be king of the next generation was already pretty well-established. Sega's entry into this round of the console war was the Dreamcast, another system that faded out in the blink of an eye. Nintendo's GameCube was also a pretty weak attempt at stealing back a part of Sony's massive fan base. Even the returning Nintendo-licensed classics were noticeably weaker this time around. Not even the Mario and Zelda titles of that generation proved to be up to par. There were a few exceptions: Super Smash Bros. Melee, for example, was almost worth the Gamecube purchase on its own. But games like this were few and far between.
But then a new contender entered the ring. Microsoft introduced the Xbox, which was well on its way to stealing Sony's golden crown. Sony tried to hang onto its title, but was slipping due to Microsoft's excellent online features and exclusive titles like Halo. While the PS2 sold many more units, The Xbox was becoming more popular with the hardcore crowd.
At the beginning of this current console generation, Nintendo brought something completely unexpected to the table: the Wii. The Wii contained motion controls right out of the box—a feat that blew our minds back in 2006. To top it off, the Wii's release day price tag was barely half that of the PS3. Nintendo managed to win over the hearts of millions of casual gamers, becoming the undisputed king of the consoles.
Hardcore gamers, however, didn't cave in to the seduction of the Wii. The real gamers stuck to the Xbox 360 and the PS3, which remained toe-to-toe in sales figures. But Microsoft already had a huge lead in the world of online console gaming, and Sony was desperately trying to keep up.
But in 2011, things were finally looking up for Sony. The Wii was losing its edge due to its inferior graphics and lack of incoming games. The PS3's online features had pretty much caught up with the 360's, and since the PS3 offered free online play, it was gaining an edge on Microsoft.
To top it all off, 2011's exclusive game lineup was heavily weighted in Sony's favor. The PS3 was anticipating new entries to the Uncharted, Killzone, Resistance, and Twisted Metal series. There were even rumors of a Metal Gear Solid Trilogy HD. The superior version of Portal 2 would be the PS3's, which included Steam support and a free PC/Mac copy of the game. Even niche gamers had reason to anticipate Sony's 2011 line-up, with the HD re-release of No More Heroes. If you would have asked me in January which system I expected to be 2011's console king, I wouldn't have hesitated before shouting "PS3! Obviously!"
But just when things started looking good for Sony's future, disaster struck. Rumors started dropping about Nintendo's new system, which would be more powerful than the PS3 and would be shown off at E3 2011. Just when the PlayStation was finally on its way back to the top, Nintendo stole its thunder with all the hype surrounding this new console. Even though the rest of 2011 still looked good for Sony, gamers were starting to focus their attention on 2012.
And to make matters worse, hackers broke the security codes on the PS3. Suddenly, hacks were showing up that allowed players to unlock all trophies in a game and cheat in Call of Duty: Black Ops. And that's not to mention the real concern behind this issue: pirated games.
If this wasn't bad enough, PlayStation Network was hacked in April. The service went down and rumors started flying around about security leaks. People were a bit upset about not being able to play online games over Easter weekend, but they were even more furious when Sony admitted there was a chance that 77 million users may have had their user information, including passwords and addresses, stolen. Sony did their best to contain this monster, but this fiasco definitely did some damage to their reputation.
So, where does this leave Sony in the future?
My prediction: Sony may eventually get back on top. 2011 should have been the year of the PS3, but things aren't looking so good now. Unless Nintendo royally screws this up, 2012 will go the shiny new Nintendo console. The "new console buzz" is always hard to top. I imagine we'll see new consoles from both Sony and Microsoft by 2014 or 2015, but it's hard to say at this point which system will become the champion of the next generation. Sony has a chance to once again return to the top, but Nintendo and Microsoft will definitely not go down without a fight.
CCC Contributing Writer
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*