Three Cheers For The Losers In The Video Game Wars. They're The Best.

Ask a Sega Dreamcast owner. Ask a Nintendo GameCube owner. They'll tell you something that is true: it's a pleasure to be the owner of a game console that's in last place.

It also kind of stinks, because your console gets the fewest games and your friends mock you all the time. But the fact is that nothing brings out the best in gaming companies than when those companies are getting their asses kicked.

Today, from Germany, we saw exactly that.

Sony, the former kings of gaming, two generations running, have taken a beating for the last several years. First it was the upstart Wii that smacked them around when the smacking was supposed to happen the other way around. Then the Xbox 360 ripped past the Wii here in America and it kept PS3 as the last-place console. This year's been really ugly for Sony. They've had trouble winning any sort of battles in the gaming market share wars. It's not like the PlayStation Portable ever caught the Nintendo DS anywhere outside of MonsterHunterNation, but the PSP's successor, the Vita, has been labelled as DOA since it arrived.

If you'd asked me, I'd have told you that, because of that, this was the year to get on board with Sony. Their backs were against the wall. Maybe you skipped GameCube and didn't know this was how it worked. Too bad. You missed some crazy experiments like the Game-Boy-GameCube-connected four-player Zelda game and a pair of first-person Metroids, plus one of the most beautiful games ever made. Last place performances produce radical ideas like the Nintendo Wii; having your powerful console get flattened by the Wii produces exciting technology like the Kinect.

So here's what's happening at Sony, what we saw proof of in Germany. Sony takes a drubbing about as well as Rocky Balboa ever did and is fighting back. Sony isn't folding. Sony isn't rushing to do the easy thing and just fall in line, hope for the best and play it safe.

Nah, Sony sees its Vita struggling, so they announce today that if you buy any of their games on PS3 that are also on Vita, they'll give you the Vita version for free (and, since the games supported by the Cross Buy system are pretty much the same on Vita and PS3 and will probably use cloud-saves, we'll really get a portable-PS3-effect out of this).

PlayStation 2 may have been a cool console to have when it was the market leader. But Sony as the market-lagger? They're just wonderful.

That Vita seems to be fading? They'll put a Killzone on there. And get a good-looking Assassin's Creed on there. And a Call of Duty (um... warning: made by the people who made a really bad Vita FPS) and, oh, look, the smart people who made LittleBigPlanet will make their next game not for the PS3 but for Vita too. Bonus fact: that new game looks terrific.

This is a company that sees Microsoft pulling in droves of subscribers with Xbox Live and creates a competing service called PlayStation Plus which at first doesn't seem that hot but now guarantees access to an expanding library of free games every month. You get what you pay for, and these free games must be the worst, right? Wrong. In September, for example, European PS Plus subscribers will get free access to ... Red Dead Redemption for as long as the remain subscribers. (That's not confirmed for the U.S. yet, where we'll have to settle for an expanding line-up of freebies that include LittleBigPlanet 2, Infamous 2, Outland, Pac-Man: Championship Edition DX, Saints Row 2, The Walking Dead and more.)

This fall, the steamrolling Xbox 360 will have some cool games, sure. And they will next year, too. But how can any gamer's heart not be warmed by a Sony that sees the threat of defeat around the corner and answers it with a game about a little boy who you can only see when he walks in the rain? Kinect is the hot thing, so Sony starts making nutty things like magical books and says, hey, our Wii-Remote-like Move thing we've got? We'll make a send-up to schlocky teen-horror movies with the Move, thank you very much. They'll make a beautiful new sidescroller while they're at it.

Sure, Sony is the company of the many, many God of War games. (Let's add multiplayer to the new one!). Sure, The Last Of Us, as lovely as it seems, would only be seen as an artsy risk in a medium that may as well define innovation as a shooting game that doesn't feature a battle with helicopter. But Sony... wow. I mean, have you seen the kind of games they've been putting out lately?

PlayStation 2 may have been a cool console to have when it was the market leader. But Sony as the market-lagger? They're just wonderful. It's almost as if we gamers would all benefit from Sony staying in last place, huh? Although, all things being equal, Nintendo and Microsoft might benefit from a kick in the pants, too.


Comments

    Your premise is flawed. This is Sony not Nintendo. Nintendo has always lead in innovation.

      Not in software or IP...

        In game design. You know, the stuff that actually matters ;)

          Oh yes, Nintendo has been such a strident innovator in it's first party releases over the last five years. Champagne comedy.

            They dont innovate after a hardware release thats true, its the hardware+games package each tick over of generation

          you mean recycled game design?

            It's well known that Nintendo reuse the same IPs over and over, but I'd like the people who are knocking them on innovation to try and name another single company/developer who are more innovative than Nintendo.

            Even if you put aside their extremely innovative hardware ...(the Wii, for all its many flaws, is the most innovative thing that has happened to gaming recently, barring perhaps the ipad. And the 3ds is far more innovative than the PS Vita, just as the DS was to the PSP. Other less imaginative companies just throw money and horsepower at their systems, but Nintendo always try to find value in innovation. And looking further back, they popularised both the portable handheld and the modern controller layout that every other system uses today. And it continues with the WiiU, which might be shit, who knows, but at least is still new and different)...

            So even if you ignore all of that and just concentrate on their recent games, you'll still see a fair amount of gameplay innovation. 4 player co-op in New Super Mario Bros was new and awesome. Mario Galaxy was a completely fresh take on 3d platforming. Wii Sports is unlike anything that came before it, it got my entire non-gaming family into gaming and is the reason why MS and Sony are trying to play "casual game catchup". So many other games these days are derivative, so many modern shooters, 3rd person cover shooters etc etc... when Nintedo does a FPS, it does Metroid Prime. For each Nintendo first party game, try and name a game that is just like it, if you can, it's because they were inspired by Nintendo in the first place.

            I am a Nintendo fanboy. I don’t play the Wii anymore because I love my PS3 and 360 and PC way more now, but I’m a fanboy from way back.

              "3ds is farmore innovative than the PSvita"
              It's the literally the ds with a 3d function, the same function that we were seeing in TVS before any announcment of the 3ds. The Vita may not be particularly innovative, but you can hardly call the 3ds innoative

                I'm pretty sure it was the first commercially available / consumer level glasses free 3d screen , and perhaps still is?

                I agree that it's not a huge step forward the way the touch stylus of the original DS was, and as far as Nintendo innovation goes it's not really up there.

              yes the 3DS was innovative. . . so Innovative in fact that Nintendo themselves are trying to deemphasise the only real 'innovative' element to it. . .

              Innovative does always equal good, Nintendo has learn't that twice with 3D now. . .

                Yep, totally agree with you there. Speaking of which, whatever happened to that wacky vitality sensor? :D

                Still, I'd prefer a company to try and do new things and fail occasionally, then to not try at all.

                  (I just realised I put an apostraphe in learnt. . .)

                  I think even Nintendo realised that it was never going to catch on and canned it before it was even released.

                  Trying new things always relies on how people are going to react to change, there is a reason the Dual Shock controller hasn't changed it's design from way back in the PSone area, Sony tried to change it with the PS3 and the consumer backlash was profound.

                  I agree that companies should try to do new ideas, but new ideas don't necessarily need to be game changers, the simple inclusion of a second analog stick by Sony (which I will admit, the analog that Nintendo innovated) to be utilised primarily as the camera in a 3D enviroment was a good move on their part and something that would be adopted by all three companies going forward. The creation of a centralised online enviroment by Microsoft through Xbox Live was an innovation which has lead to Microsoft's dominance in that area. To the point where the service is still widely regarded as the best available regardless of the fact that it is the only service that has a subscription fee. Hell even the simple inclusion of being capable of playing DVD was innovative enough to let Sony win the last generation, not to mention begin to current race between both Microsoft and Sony in turning both their game consoles into fully capable multimedia devices that aim to become the cornerstone of you loungeroom.

              Just because you create something new and different, doesn't make it good. Nothing positive will come from the Wii or Move. They're purchased, used for two days and then die in a drawer, taking up valuable space.

              Kinect, now that's innovation and this is coming from a PS3 fanboi.

                "Nothing positive will come from the Wii" yet you mention Kinect. The success of the Wii is the only reason Microsoft looked to design something like Kinect.

      Innovation in rehashing Mario, Pokemon and their various other first party titles?

        Pokemon isn't a first party title.

      While I love Nintendo, these people are right. Beyond hardware (and implementation of that hardware into first party titles), they hardly innovate at all.
      All they're first-party titles in the last five years have been from main series (Zelda, Pokemon, Mario etc.) and haven't made any real changes to their formula. That's hardly innovative at all.
      Any new IP's have gone under the radar and never really hit it off.

      I loved a lot of big N's stuff, but now I am losing faith. Wii U dosent intrest me and Mario is being used far too much. More than one game a year?! Right now in terms of consoles, Sony is easily the best, but I prefer PC.

    Hey I live on my 360 - but when the most compelling game available (on any console) is a little PSN title called Journey then it's clear that while the market is not exactly with them they're far from being knocked out.

    Can't wait to see what all sides bring to the table in the next generation - but for now the PS3 is merely a niche game console for me and the Wii is simply collecting dust. Hell I'm finding I'm playing more PC games once again so there may be a time when my venerable 360 sits unplayed for more than a day or so.

      I've got 2 problems with my xbox...
      One is that damned dashboard... and the other is that we don't get those interesting PSN exclusives.

        I have never started my xbox once without cringing having to use ANY of the various terrible dashboards. Its even worse there is another terrible little menu system ABOVE the dashboard!

    I loved my game cube. No regrets in buying it

    The Vita should not die, Sony should not let it die. It is a masterpiece of portable gaming hardware.

      Let me guess... Vita owner?

        actually, no :) developer

      I wouldn't go so far as to call it a masterpiece, but it's an amazing piece of technology. All they really need are some solid games to be released for it (my mind wanders to Monster Hunter which literally sells consoles/handhelds). Right now the list of Vita games are lackluster. While friends continuously remind me that soon PSX games (and they're HD remakes) will be available it really just sounds like Nintendo all over again.

        I was referring directly to the hardware of the Vita.

          the vita is simply a mildly powerful portable console with gimmick after gimmick attached to it, it'll get wiped out by IOS and Android games, the only reason the DS survived so long was Pokemon

    Nonsense. I bought my gcn fairly late in its product cycle but I found out that it exceeded by then-primary console the PS2 in number of quality games. To this day I still sometimes pick up and play Rogue Squadron 2, WW or Battalion Wars.

    On the flipside, The Sega Saturn, Zodiac or Gizmondo have few or no classics. The quality of a console's library is completely unrelated to its marketshare.

      Where the hell are the new Rogue Squadron games dag nabbit!

        I'd love a release with some multiplayer on it. If only it's not on Wii.

        PSN, XBLA, STEAM release would suite me to a T. But it's never going to happen because Lucasarts are hooked on 3rd person shooters and MMOs.

        Since Factor 5 folded after Lair, any hope of a new one went with them. Which is a damn shame because the GCN games still look decent even today and the closest we'll ever get is Starhawk.

      The Saturn down here was hindered by the fact that Sega didn't really care about the Australian market (I heard someone say that Sega weren't even directly involved in the Saturn down here) In Japan, my god they did everything in their power to try to ensure the console at the very least survived, including creating one of the most brilliant video game ad campaigns ever made.

      disagree about the Saturn (and I had a ps1 as a competetor). It had some amazing games, like nights, or Story of Thor 2. Just comes down to what you are looking for.

    I have a problem with that first paragraph in the fact that you can't put the Dreamcast and Gamecube in the same category. For one, they were both 128 bit consoles, so they both couldn't have come last in that generation.

    But the most important point was that the Dreamcast was a failed console (despite it being an awesome machine), and Sega gave up and stopped manufacturing it well before it's use by date. While the Gamecube didn't sell as many units as the PS2 and Xbox, it was by no means a failure and Nintendo continued to support it up to the point where it was superceded by the Wii. The Dreamcast had virtually no exclusive memorable games - Soul Calibur and Powerstone come to mind but that's about it. The Gamecube however had a tonne of memorable games and was still pretty well supported throughout its lifetime.

    What's the title picture of?

      the upcoming video game "The Last of Us", mentioned in the article

    Why has a Sony article, specifically one which details what it is doing considering it is coming last broughout out all these defensive Nintendo fans. . .?

      Nintendo fans are defensive by nature. No one dares criticise endless Zelda re-hashes because a legion of angry nerds come out of nowhere.

      because it said that the gamecube was bad... well thats what the fans think the article said...

      what the article actually said was that like the gamecube, playstation is in a similar situation where it has to try really hard to convince people to play it's console, being the least popular. the gamecube had metroid prime, eternal darkness, (originally) resident evil 4 and lots of other exclusives that made it in fact a terrific console, even though from an outside perspective it wasn't doing very well.

      so nintendo fans are angry about this article because they only read selective bits of it, and assumed it was bashing the gamecube.

    he is right.

    the wind waker was a great game.

    I was just discussing this with my friend today. I explained to him that I "love" when game companies are doing badly financially, because that's when the core gamer audience get catered to the most.
    After experimenting with social and mobile and motion control stuff, they all eventually come back to earth and realise that rich , core games are their bread and butter.
    So while I'm sad to see companies like Sony and THQ hurting, it's awesome to know that they're realising whats important.

    Considering the GCN made a shit ton of money for Nintendo, this still isn't a viable discussion.

    it's hardly surprising that Sony is doing so well, their controllers are uncomfortable, their online community is feeble (and apparently disliked by hackers) and they have nothing special between the hardcore competition from the 360 and PC and the family fun of the wii and kenect.

    Well I was a Gamecube owner - and yes there were some great games, but about 2 years into the console's lifespan, department stores (ie: Kmart, Big W etc) stopped stocking Gamecube games meaning you were at the mercy of specialty stores. It's amazing how many really good games came out for the Cube that I never knew about until well after the generation had wrapped because their retail visibilty was zero.

    It was so bad that honestly it killed gaming for me until I bought a PS2 for my wife (for the singstar) and on a whim picked up GTA San Andreas (not having a clue about GTA or what it was about) and rediscovering my love of gaming that the Gamecube almost killed.

    My advice is to stay the F&$% away from failed consoles (before the GC I owned a Dreamcast!) if you enjoy gaming. I will also say this - the PS3 is many things but it's in last place only in relative terms and enjoys magnificent support.

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