PlayStation 3: The Launch That Almost Lost the Console War

PlayStation 3: The Launch That Almost Lost the Console War

Isaiah Vigil, Writer

It is finally that time again, Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Series S have launched all around the world bringing us into the 9th generation of consoles. And with the next generation comes the age old discussion of which console is the superior one.

It is no secret that for a majority of its lifespan Sony’s PlayStation has been at the top of the console debate, starting with the original PlayStation back in the mid 1990s and continuing on today with the PlayStation 5. However, there is one sore spot in Sony’s history of dominance, one fall from grace that almost lost them the console wars. That, of course, is the PlayStation 3.

The problem with Playstation 3 started before it even came out. In March of 2001 Sony, Toshiba, and IMB started a joint project on the “Cell” broadband engine, which would later become the CPU of the PS3. Cell would become public at E3 in 2003 and some of its specs where shown off. Many people knew at the time that this would be the new CPU used in the upcoming PS3, however, it wasn’t yet confirmed.

The PS3 wasn’t shown until E3 2005 when Sony announced their newest addition into the PlayStation lineup. PS3 was shown to be an extremely powerful piece of hardware with a radically redesigned controller, a promised backwards compatible disk drive, with PS1 and PS2 titles, 6 USB ports, 2 HDMI ports, 3 ethernet ports, slot readers for a memory stick and SD, and it would be Blu-Ray computable. Sony also went on to explain in depth the new Cell processor and how it would work inside the console. It was very clear this was going to be a very powerful piece of hardware.Original PS3 and PS3 controller Design

 

E3 2005 ended with Sony’s Ken Kutaragi, the father of the Playstation, proudly holding up the PS3 and an announcement that the playstation would drop spring 2006. Even though Microsoft’s Xbox 360 was scheduled to launch months earlier, Sony didn’t even consider them to be a threat. “Beating us for a short moment is like accidentally winning a point from a Shihan (a karate master), and Microsoft isn’t even a black belt” said Kutaragi

Shortly after E3 dev kits were sent out to developers they instantly ran into problems with Sony’s new CPU. Without getting into the specs, the new Cell processor CPU was extremely powerful and with that power came extreme complications. The brand new design of the CPU and GPU setup made developing games complicated and frustrating. Not to mention that a competitor, with a much easier system to work with, was already in the market and making developers money. Even with Microsoft’s Xbox already in the market, Kutaragi was set on making developers learn their new CPU.

Holiday 2005 came around and the brand new Xbox 360 launched without a hitch, and Sony had yet to launch their product. People were eager for E3 2006 as thats when Sony would announce the price and official release date of the PS3 console. Come E3, Sony showed off something vastly different than expected. The console had been redesigned and featured less USB, HDMI, and ethernet ports than initially promised, going from 6 USBs down to three and only having 1 HDMI port and a single ethernet port. The controller was also reverted back to the traditional DualSchock look. The rest of E3 was filled with awkward clips and presentations. But the worst part of the presentation came at the end, when Sony announced their intended launch date and price. The PS3’s launch date was pushed back to November 17, 2006; possibly the worst part of all, the 20GB version of the PS3 was set to be $499 and $599 for the 60GB model.The New PlayStation 3 and DualSense controller design

It was over, not only was the PS3 going to launch nearly a year after their biggest competitor, but also launch at almost double the price. Launch day came a little earlier than expected, PS3 officially hit the market on November 11, 2006. Even though the launch was fairly successful Sony ran into many, many problems. Even though the console had a extremely high price, Sony was still selling at over a $200 launch as consoles cost Sony nearly $840 to make.

Any normal person would feel a great amount of pressure given the circumstances. Sony spent billions of dollars on the new CPU, betting on Blu-Ray to beat out HD DVD, selling at a massive loss, and they were launching a year later than their biggest competitor. However, head of Sony Computer Entrainment Ken Kutaragi was level headed and as cool as ever. He felt that people would buy the PS3 no matter what because the PlayStation name was “strong and desirable” “We want consumers to say ‘I will work more hours to buy one’ we want people to feel they want it, irrespective of anything else”, said Kutaragi.

PS3 was Kutaragi’s pride and joy, the cultivation of all his blood sweat and tears; this is what he had been working on since the days of the PS1 and PS2. This was going to be his final console and he wanted to make it the be all end all entertainment device; the only piece of hardware anyone would need with graphic fidelity pushed to their limits.

While PS3 launched in November for most of the world due to setbacks in manufacturing, the PS3 fell into a shortage that pushed its release date in Europe to March 2007. The first few weeks was also terrible for the PS3 reviews, friends list and online connectivity was terrible. The PlayStation store was nothing more than a revised web browser, the XMB was lacking most of the expected features and the launch lineup was very disappointing.

To add insult to injury, developers were running into more problems with PS3’s CPU and GPU processors. The console was capable of so much, yet games were preforming better on the Xbox 360, and a large part of that was due to the simplicity of the Xbox 360’s processors versus the complexity of Sonys. Most developers chose to just run the simplest form of their
game on the PS3 instead of going through the long, complex, and near impossible task of transferring their games to the PS3’s Cell processor.PlayStation architect resigns amid broader struggles for Sony – Orange County Register

Sony’s PlayStation 3 started as poorly as any console launch could go, day by day the sales gap between Xbox and PS3 was widening. However, Sony wouldn’t go down without a fight. Throughout the PS3’s lifespan it received a rebranding, many price jobs and variants coming out, amazing first party exclusives, and 3rd party developers finally getting understanding how to make out the new CPU. Sony eventually caught up to Microsoft in sales and eventually surpassed them by the end of the PS3’s lifespan in 2017.

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