June 16, 2006 | Post Archive
HowStuffWorks went to the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) where representatives from more than 400 companies and 90 countries showcased tons of new games and products due out by the holiday season. Not the least of which was Sony’s forthcoming game console, the hotly debated Playstation 3. We caught up with the editor-in-chief of the Official PlayStation Magazine, Tom Byron, to ask a few questions.
HSW: What have you seen at E3 that impresses you about the PS3?
Tom Byron: This is probably the most important E3 ever in terms of what it's introducing. I’m a PlayStation guy, but I'm really interested in the Nintendo Wii. Look what's already happened—they have this really interesting, cool controller. It has a built-in speaker, built-in feedback and it's motion sensitive. They've already forced Sony to do something different with their controller. The thing about that is Sony says Mr. Kutaragi has been thinking about for a long time. But all of the developers we talked to had only heard about it that day like everyone else. So it does feel like it was a reaction to the Wii. It's great that Nintendo is taking chances and taking risks, I love that. And if that’s going to affect Sony, who’s so huge and successful that they can easily keep skating by—it’s good to see that they’re actually reacting.
The game I've seen that I like the most is "Genji 2." And there's this one game, "Heavenly Sword," that's one of the most gorgeous games I've ever seen. Yesterday we saw “Resistance: Fall of Man” from Insomniac. What we're seeing with the PS3 is what Sony's always done: they're doing it better than everyone else. It's a fairly large machine. In terms of size, it's comparable to the 360.
HSW: The PS3 is slated to be considerably more expensive than the Xbox 360. Has Sony said much about the price?
TB: We did get a chance to talk to Sony's President yesterday, Ken Kutaragi. He emphasized two things. One is the amount of value you’re getting. You’ve got not only the hard drive, the HD, the power of the machine and the Blu-ray Disc; but you also have access to the entire PlayStation library and that's thousands of games.
The other side, he pointed out, is that Sony think in terms of not five year cycles but of ten year cycles. I think this is where we need to put it in perspective. They're talking about a machine that's not going to see its full potential for probably another 3 or 4, or maybe 5 years. And with the way Sony manages their machines it truly is a 10-year deal.
HSW: What things would realize the full potential of the PS3? Is there anything lacking or that doesn’t currently exist that might be present within ten years from now?
TB: To put it in perspective, if you look at "Black" or "God of War 2," or even "God of War"—these are games that came late in the cycle for the PS2, but they look next generation themselves. But this is after years and years of people figuring out not only how to get the great graphics, but to tweak the frame rate so you can have these intense games and still have all of the physics—have your rag doll, have all of your breaking buildings and so on. So what does that mean for the PS3? One of the games I saw yesterday is EA's "Army of Two." They’ve tweaked the graphics to the point where you can't distinguish between a pre-rendered cut scene and the game.
The way the PS3 is going to work online is something they haven't talked a lot about yet, but it's worth exploring more. Sony is basically going to be an ISP, and they’re just going to be the portal and let companies do whatever they want. Already, rumors are flying that Blizzard is going to bring "World of Warcraft" to PS3. Now there's where you start getting into to tapping the real potential. You're always going to have games that push the envelope in terms of graphics and game-play, and so on. But when you're talking about persisting universes and worlds, it starts getting really exciting.
Blizzard, they might have their 4 or 5 million user base, but when you're on the PC you're going to hit a saturation point. With the PS3, you’re already going to have a potential 2 million players within about six months. And then the potential of that many more as the years go by. You have to realize too, another perspective, that there are over 100 million PS2s in the world right now. My guess is the first price cut will be in the next year. And it will slowly creep down and hit that 100 million mark within 5 or 6 years as well. I think the potential there is very real.
HSW: Will games use Blu-ray technology immediately, or is that something further down the road?
TB: I think they're trying to use it now, and part of that is the because of the compression issues. With regular DVDs you still have to do a lot of compressing. With that there’s going to be a lot of hitting the disc and slow load times. With Blu-ray, apparently, that can all stream through caching on your hard drive or internal memory. So in other words, 60 frames a second isn’t going to be that hard to achieve. You're going to have seamless cut scenes going through game play, you're going to have fast load times—probably almost transparent—and you can pack so much in. When they start loading in all of the programming--all the AI and all the music, all the layers of sound and voice—it can handle it all simultaneously. That's the cool thing about cell technology and parallel processing. So you’re not going to have just bigger and longer games, but bigger experiences. We saw that with "Genji 2," and in that case they’re talking about how they’ve doubled the game play. I think you’re going to see more of that.
HSW: Do you think buyers, going for the lower-end PS3 without HDMI output, are taking a gamble?
TB: No, they're not necessarily taking a gamble. The penetration of HD is still pretty low. You're still talking about spending thousands of dollars for a really good system—if you want 1080p you’re talking 2 to 5 grand. So I think part of that is that they’re aware and banking on the fact that it will take some time before people really ramp up. It will still look great on the machine in analog. The question I can’t answer is that I don’t know to what extent there’s going to be any upgrade path.
There's going to be a lot of peripheral strategy. So in other words, you can buy the so-called lower-end configuration, but you can build up to the higher end. And because it's going to be online, they'll probably release updates and all sorts of things like that, just like on Xbox. My guess is that if you want to upgrade to HDMI you'll be able to do it. And you can swap out hard drives, because 60gigs is probably not going to be enough in a few years.
HSW: How do you think people will respond to the motion sensitive, or 'tilt' controller as opposed to the rumble pack?
TB: It surprised us. Sony says there's an answer, but it's not completely satisfactory. Why did they replace it rather than just come up with a controller that can do both? They've already hinted that's in the works, which gives further credence to the idea that motion-sensitive configuration was almost an afterthought in reaction to the Wii.
I saw "Tony Hawk" for PS3 yesterday and it looked fantastic. You can imagine using that motion sensor for skateboarding, snowboarding, or skiing or any sort of driving simulation. I've heard a lot of people say that in "Warhawk" the motion sensors work well. And if they can only put some sort of resistance, introduce some sort of force feedback back into the controller that would be great.