Interesting things happen when a console race drags on as long as this current era of the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. For the first few years of its life, the PS3 was inaccessible to the average family, because $599 USD is just a heck of a lot of money to spend on a console. The Xbox 360 was the affordable choice, though its inner works are not as powerful as the PS3’s–and there’s the system’s unfortunate habit of buckling like a spent horse.
Subsequent price drops have made the PlayStation 3 an attractive alternative to the Xbox 360, a point that Microsoft seems to be well aware of. According to an interview IndustryGamers had with Sony Computer Entertainment America’s Rob Dyer, Microsoft’s Content Submission and Release Policy (obtained and posted by Eurogamer recently) exists only to “protect an inferior technology” (via GamesIndustry.biz).
“I think [Microsoft wants] to dumb it down and keep it as pedestrian as possible so that if you want to do anything for Blu-ray or you have extra content above 9 gigs or you want to do anything of that nature, you’d better sure as heck remember that Microsoft can’t handle that,” Dyer said.
Indeed, Microsoft’s Content Guidelines seem to exist to hobble PlayStation 3 games that release simultaneously on the Xbox 360. Specifically, stipulations such as, “Titles for Xbox 360 must ship at least simultaneously with other video game platform, and must have at least feature and content parity on-disc with the other video game platform versions in all regions where the title is available.
“If these conditions are not met, Microsoft reserves the right to not allow the content to be released on Xbox 360.”
It’s not surprising that Microsoft would want to “protect” its aging hardware and its limitations: Analysts largely agree that Microsoft is concerned about their games looking inferior next to PlayStation 3 versions of the same game. So, yes, Microsoft is definitely out to “dumb down” the industry, or at least its direct competition.
It’s a shame when the companies behind consoles try and secure a system’s future by indirectly hobbling the competition instead of working more towards must-have exclusives. However, in instances like this, the consumer still possesses ultimate power. Someone who owns both the PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 and wants to purchase a copy of, for instance, <em>Deus Ex: Human Revolution</em> might feel compelled to pick up the PS3 version instead of the Xbox 360 version.
Microsoft isn’t fooling anyone. Xbox 360 games do tend to look a bit dated next to their PlayStation 3 counterparts. But graphics aren’t everything. There’s also the massive appeal of Xbox Live’s enormous audience, and Microsoft would be better off reminding its supporters of the Xbox 360’s unique traits (Red Ring notwithstanding) instead of trying to break Sony’s kneecaps.
After all, the next generation of consoles is rising fast, and the PlayStation 4 and Xbox Next are unlikely to have a big gap between their release dates. Brand loyalty built up through fair play and strength of product is going to be worth a lot.