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The Xbox 360 is Holding Back the PS3

by Travis Harvey | February 15, 2010February 15, 2010 4:44 pm PST

When the Playstation 3 was launched back in 2006, it was hands-down the most powerful game console we’d ever seen.  It’s potential surpassed the Xbox 360 by a noticeable margin, though it was clear it would take years to realize such power.  If Sony America CEO Kaz Hirai gives the PS3 a ten-year life cycle and we’re already four years in, can we ever expect to see the Playstation 3 at its best?

Since the dawn of consoles, manufacturers have competed heavily on hardware capabilities to surpass the competition.  The Playstation got a leg up over the Nintendo 64, thexboxfxiiiGamecube started (and ended) behind the pack, and the original Xbox pushed graphics further than the Playstation 2.  While Nintendo decided to deviate from the norm, the Xbox 360 and PS3 will be battling it out for years, or at least until the next generation of consoles are released.  It’s arguable that the PS3 is innately a more powerful system yet there’s one major roadblock hindering its progress – the Xbox 360.

A high majority of the top game publishers want to push their game catalog onto as many consumers as possible, after all, they’re in it for the money.  We’re seeing less exclusive titles as games become entertainment blockbusters.  For example, take a look at Modern Warfare 2.  Do you think Infinity Ward would have seen nearly the same success had they released it strictly for the Xbox 360?  There’s no way.  During its November release, nearly one third of copies sold were for Playstation 3.  As gaming continues to see a fraction of its growth explosion over the next few years, expect studios to head down the path of cross-platform development.

Sony’s biggest exclusive in the history of consoles made the shocking announcement at Microsoft’s 2008 E3 press conference that Final Fantasy XIII would be hitting the Xbox 360 on the same day as the Playstation 3.  Nobody really knew how the two versions would differ visually since a Square Enix was reported as saying the graphics on the Xbox 360 were inferior to the PS3.  ps3ffxiiiOn February 12th, Kotaku got their hands on a batch of screenshots from both systems.  The only “problem” is…they’re identical (save for button layout).  This certainly isn’t the first time a Final Fantasy game has been held back by its cross-platform compatibility.  Final Fantasy XI was originally released for PC, later ported to PS2 and Xbox.  Graphical limitations on the PS2 prevented updates that would have pushed the game’s visuals beyond what were capable while storage limitations on the PS2’s add-on hard drive stagnated development further.

As developers find the Xbox 360’s capabilities already suiting what they’d set out to achieve, there’s much less incentive to invest further resources in refining and improving one version over another.  It’s a trend I don’t see ending, especially as more publisher reach for the next big blockbuster hit.  Do you think the Xbox 360 is preventing Playstation 3 games from achieving more than what we’ve seen?  Share your thoughts in the comments.