Monday, April 9, 2007

Games and Academia: An Unholy Union?

This week’s post is dedicated to reflecting upon gaming’s place at USC. In accordance with the College Dean’s call asking students, “How would you go about making the educational experience at USC College even better?”, in hopes of proposals suggesting change to the curriculum within the College. Given the Dean’s inquiry it would be more than fitting to take this opportunity to propose changes in the way game development and game design are studied. In undertaking this task, first one needs to contemplate gaming as an area of study at USC and what strengths and weaknesses the program has; and how to best address these weaknesses while solidifying the strengths.

Currently USC is one of few major research universities that has a gaming program and performs game research, and in fact has two separate majors dedicated to gaming. The Computer Science School offers the B.S in Computer Science (Games) which provides studies in, “game production, visual design …, computer animation, videogame programming, game hardware architectures, game engine programming, serious game development, introductory and intermediate game design”. This offers a programming intensive track strongly focused for Parallel to this offering is the B.A in Interactive Media, website shown above, offered by the school of cinematic arts which aims to, “provide leading edge research and a hotbed of ideas for future professional storytellers… [and] offer unprecedented opportunities for students to explore media convergence in an environment that leverages the natural advantages of its Hollywood setting”. For this more artistic approach the curriculum is at its core, dedicated to game design and development but focuses more on the “story-telling” tradition of games. Having two disparate departments offering degrees in gaming shows a seriousness and dedication to gaming as a viable area of academia however this also leads to confusion for the student and a thinning out of resources that could be more concentrated. I propose that the Computer Science School and the Cinema School offer interdepartmental degrees in gaming that could pool the schools resources and draw from each others strengths to create a richer experience for students without the confusion of having to choose one over the other. With these two separate departments collaborating, students are given the opportunity to see the convergence of the stronger focus on game programming from the Computer Science School and the emphasis on game design and story telling provided by the Interactive Media Division. This would allow for students with more programmer heavy aspirations to be able to have a concentration in game programming while allowing for greater understanding of the gaming universe from a research and artistic perspective and the converse for more artistically geared is also true.

The adjunction of these departments toward a more unified game study experience would also create greater funds and a more powerful presence within the University and academia in general; this would lend a hand to bold and revolutionary moves. One such action I propose would be the establishment of the first Game Library and Lab. This library would be dedicated to providing a one-stop shop for all tools necessary for gaming students to study and produce games, from books on game programming to cutting edge game consoles. The library and lab would consist of three major components: a comprehensive book and information collection, workstations for game development, design and play and an extensive selection of video games themselves. Having books, games and workstations in an integrate environment would allow for students to have the same advantages students in other fields such as Cinema Production students. The Cinema School facilities provide students with a collection of books dedicated to the art and history of film, complimented by a vast collection of films and stations at which to both watch and edit films. I am simply suggesting the same for gaming; this library would facilitate the study of game history and cultivate a love for gaming that all game designers and developers should have. Such an opportunity doesn’t exist in academia currently but as Games develop more clout in the scholarly realm, it will become a necessity and is inevitability. The libraries implementation would put USC further out in the forefront of video studies and would do wonders for the experience of students within major.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Mario: Can He Inspire the Next Generation?

At TheUniversity of Southern California, where I attend school, graduation impends, and with it thoughts of the next step after college occupy the forefront of our minds and students are forced to ponder the question, what should I do with my life? In response to and in recognition of the passage into a new realm the University selects a remarkable acheiver from the intimidating world of postgraduate existence to address the students. The selected speaker is conferred an honorary degree by USC to “honor individuals who have distinguished themselves through extraordinary achievements in scholarship, the professions, or other creative activities”. Today's post is dedicated to selecting the person who is most deserving of the honorary degree for this year’s spring commencement. Recently USC began to offer a degree in “Interactive Media” through the renowned School of Cinematic Arts, which is largely dedicated to game design. The school’s high regard for gaming as a discipline is established and expresses a sincere desire to see USC graduates make an impact in rapidly expanding feilds such as interactive media. With the current success of the game industry and the recent support at USC for students who choose to pursue game design, I feel that it is fitting to choose somone from within that discipline; and that person is Shigeru Miyamoto, whose fansite is depicted to the right.

Miyamoto’s career in gaming is not only exemplary because of the success of his titles, most notably, the Mario and Zelda series, Mario is pictured below, but also because of his dedication to innovation and maintenance of the lifeblood of game development. Both of these are among the best selling titles of all time and Mario in fact tops this list with over 193 million games worldwide. These products only touch on the vast amount of industry changing work he has been responsible for over the years. His accomplishments speak for themselves and already earn him the right to be honored. USC's criteria for the award dictate that the recipient will be a person, "who is widely known and highly regarded for achievements in their respective fields of endeavor". He clearly falls within this category however his philosophy and approach toward game development are what truly set him apart. Another highly esteemed developer, Will Wright, creator of the Sims, considers Miyamoto as the one with the most “creative impact” on games and praises him, “because he has always remained focused on what actually matters in a game: the player's experience… His insistence upon simplicity and his appeal to our inner child recognize that play is an important part of being human.” Wright’s words not only validate Miyamoto’s status as a game maker but also qualify it with what truly sets him apart; his vision of games is truly unique and he is wholly dedicated to what makes them a unique medium for not just entertainment but creative expression.

James Freedman, former president of the University of Iowa, raises the issue that the, “purpose of honoring distinguished personal achievement has been widely modified . . . to flatter generous donors and prospective benefactors,” or “trivialized” with awards to “mere celebrities”, resulting in an “ill-chosen” recipient. Though I think it is fair to say Miyamoto is not a “mere” celebrity, there is an argument to be made that he could be ill-chosen. He is perhaps an obvious choice, already having been bestowed with the lifetime achievement award at the 2007 Game Developers Conference. And he is as much of a celebrity that one can become as a game developer. When Miyamoto made his first public appearance in america, “More than 2,000 gamers lined up Sunday outside the Nintendo World store in Rockefeller Center to get an autograph”; most game designers cannot make this claim. However, I do not feel that this detracts from his viability as a candidate. Fame, in most cases, is not dispersed aimlessly: he has earned it. Simply because he is widely recognized that does not negate his impact or importance. USC stipulates that honorands should be considered, “whether or not they are widely known by the general public,” in order to support nominees who may be less prominent, as this does not always ensure true worth. However the converse is also true and fame surely does not equate to triviality.

His accomplishments are astounding, but the honorand not only needs to exemplify excellence professionally but also have a message pertinent to the students; a message to send them off into the “real” world. In his first public appearance in America Miyamoto gave the following advice to the youth in an interview with MTV, “See what you personally can create and what you personally can bring to the world… The more you can step off that path, the more you're going to grow and the more that you can experience in the world.” He preaches what he practices: dedication to one’s field, love of a career, the importance of creativity, and the value of perseverance. These qualities can all be seen through Miyamoto’s example, but his words are just as beneficial and significant to the students of this generation. Students faced with the tremendous burden and excitement of taking the next step, are also given an opportunity to experience more. In accordance with Miyamoto's credence they need to take full advantage and provide the world with personally significant work, as this is the only way to be truly successful.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

This I Believe: Work Should be Fun

Why do work and play need to be segregated? I firmly believe that it is not only important to have passions but have a passion for what one does professionally. A job should not be a means to an end but rather it should provide personal fulfillment in addition to monetary compensation. This perspective is perhaps privileged and even naive, however I feel that I need to derive more than income from my career. Success is finding something enjoyable, something that inspires one and committing to it, resulting in a feeling of fulfillment far more satisfying than any dollar amount. Gaming is viewed as a luxury, and indulgence that people can rely on to release them from the drudgery of everyday life. On the other hand, some people dedicate themselves to creating and producing this “unneeded” luxury item and find the satisfaction that I strive for.

Game developers, game designers, even quality assurance testers are in the industry because they love games. People in this industry have found a way to meld their passion with business and generate a huge profit as a by product. The Game Developers Conference “geek of the week” Alexander Macris, game publisher and marketer shown to the right, relates how he entered the industry because, “it was the best way to combine my passion for games with the pursuit of entrepreneurship.” He is a successful business man by conventional standards, at the top of his field, but more importantly he achieved this while following his passion. He navigated with his business desires and depended on his gaming interest and stuck to it. I admire those like Alexander who have an unwavering love for something and find a way to spawn success from it and hope to attain this status eventually myself. The game industry is one especially ripe with opportunity, growth and filled with people devoted to their field partially due to its young and emergent nature.

Not to say that game development is the sole path to success or that my enthusiasm for games will lead me to a promising and fruitful future; I just believe that for a purposeful life I, and all people, need to follow their interests. This is necessary not only for personal growth and betterment but for the maturation and furtherance of fields like gaming. Without obsession and zeal progress would not occur at the rate we see in the gaming industry or any industry. Game developer and researcher and Blogger, shown on the left, Ph.D. Ian Bogost was posed the question: “are games art?” He responded, “Even asking such a question is an indication that our industry is maturing and games are becoming a dominant form of entertainment.” What he said is true games are not only popular now, but are gaining clout by means of sales, artistic value, complexity, and functionality. Games are no longer a simple frivolity but a method for learning, exercising, connecting socially, working and of course having fun. This is an important process for any field and it is driven by those with the ardor and love for games. These game developers and gamers inspire me; I see what they are doing and have done and I hope to dedicate myself in the way they have to something I enjoy as thoroughly.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Exergaming: Can Video Games Be a Solution?

Childhood obesity in our country is already at a staggering thirty percent which many attribute to their more sedentary lifestyle, pervaded by high fructose diets and video games. Contrary to this view, a recent trend in youth fitness programs surprisingly has kids playing video games to work out spawning the term “exergaming”. Exergames are games that consist of a virtual reality or interactive game that requires physical movement to achieve the goal of the game such as Dance Dance Revolution. Schools are integrating exergaming into their P.E departments and private youth gyms are even dedicating their entire programs to it. However researchers are skeptical as there is little empirical data to support the programs and whether they are truly effective toward the goal of reducing the number of obese children. Professionals in the healthcare and exercise education are ambivalent factions of each supporting and supplanting the new movement. Despite the lack of conclusive evidence for long term achievement for, children have responded well and currently the programs seem to be successful.

Proponents of exergaming increasingly include public schooling systems such as Woodside High School. Laura Perdikomatis, the P.E instructor, has introduced the system at their school and claims, “The kids love (Dance Dance Revolution) .. This is the first time in 11 years of teaching P.E. that I've had to kick kids out of class who don't want to stop exercising”. This popularity is an indication of the programs potential; if kids truly enjoy the games and they are affective, it is a great solution. Laura Perdikomatis and many other educators including the entire West Virginia School board, which deployed in 765 public schools, support this movement due the to blaring apparentness of the children’s peaked interest in exercise. They enjoy going to the gym with the exergaming approach and want to “work out” for longer. Regardless of peaked interest and prolonged time in gym class, the question remains, are the games actually benefiting their health?
Currently researchers at the Mayo Clinics at UCSF and at University of Florida discovered that kids do get a workout; as long as they stick with it. Lustig, a researcher from UCSF reports, “he bottom line is if they do it, it works. But the problem is they don't do it…he only thing that works is mandatory exercise” after giving kids the Dance Dance Revolution game and following their progress at home.

Why should it be their responsibility to continue playing on their own? These are the same children who have a serious aversion to physical activity and are obese. Lustig prescribes “mandatory exercise”, well why not make the games mandatory. They have been proven more enjoyable and though the kids may not go home and jump at the chance to play them on their own. At the XRtainment Zone, a private youth gym dedicated to exergaming whose logo is at the top, children are given multiple choices for exergames and are given health and wellness classes to supplement the activity of the games. With encouragement and guidance and a set regiment of playing the games the children will be more likely to stick to the program and enjoy it. Also Lustig only allowed for the use of one game, when many could be rotated allowing for the boredom of the kids to be less of a factor. The use of exergaming is an interesting alternative to regular exercise that promises more enjoyment and hopefully less obesity.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

MMOGs: The Need for Culture and The Greed for Experience

MMOGs have gained incredible popularity in the past couple years and currently are not losing momentum. Despite this upshot in use, the same issues still riddle designers and gamers alike. Many people desire a more realistic and immersive experience, and others are only concerned with getting to the highest level as fast as possible by any means necessary. Again I turned to the Blogosphere this week to see how other bloggers felt. I commented on two blog entries discussing the issues MMO players and developers are faced with, which can also be seen here in the ensuing paragraphs. Jen Dornan’s entry, “Us Being Human”, discusses the lack of realistic human culture within MMOGs and received my first post at her blog Terra Nova. The second post I chose to comment on was from Psychochild’s Blog by Brian Green whose entry, “Cheat While Exploring, Not Achieving”, covers the use of automated bots and the use of guides, such as Thotbott which is pictured to the right, and their effect on MMO gameplay and development.

"Us Being Human"
Jen, MMOGs definitely need to make strides in the direction of a more integrated cultural and social experience. Like what others have said in response, many of these educational and cultural aspects exist in structures outside the “game” itself and can be observed within guild interactions. These subcultures are not built upon the structure of the game, and though they arise and are prevalent, it is not something the game provides to the player; the players form it themselves and bring it to the game.

Some people have indicated that the integration of cultural functionality could render the game “un-fun” as it would be too akin to real life, or it is simply unnecessary because people already encountered all seven phenomenon resulting in culture within MMOG’s.

Frankly, that is absurd. MMO’s strive to strike a balance between emulating reality and fostering fantasy and escapism. Games will not throw this balance off by introducing more complex structures for encouraging substantial culture to form. Rather it will allow for new levels of exploration for both of the competing forces to be reached. Secondly, if people are already experiencing all of these social structures through other avenues such as guilds, then why not make them inherent to the gameplay and therefore more easily accessible to all players?

"Cheat While Exploring, Not While Acheiving"
Personally I don’t believe that there is a distinction between botting/ RTMing and using guides quantifiably; it is a matter of quantity. I mean that guide using and botting are both of the same nature just of differing degrees. Players use bots and guides for the same reason, to achieve their goals in game with minimal time and effort. Botting is only looked down upon due to the more blatant laziness and lack of user intervention. However, using thottbot to “automate quests” as you concisely put it, it is only more accepted because it is a less barefaced offense.

Is this an issue of bad design? Partially. Someone above mentioned dynamic content and quest variation. These are phenomenal ideas and would definitely lessen the number of people pushed to guides due to boredom. However this overlooks the issue of player’s experience greed. The major reason people use guides or bots, is not because they are bored with the quests, but because they get more enjoyment out of being high level as that gains them more social prowess. MMO’s are about the social aspect; questing is a means to an end for those seeking social glory. This is the root of the problem and it is only compounded by the boredom felt by genuine quest-lovers.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Independent Developers Doom: The future of Game Development

With the arrival of the next generation consoles, and with the recent release of Windows Vista, developers for console and PC games alike are called to reciprocate the platform changes with revolutionary new games. The PS3 the X-Box 360 and the Wii provide an unprecedented level of performance, discussed previously, and Windows Vista boasts, “great features like the games explorer, Direct X10 and parental controls”; all this seems like a developers wonderland and simply begs for them to forge some software to take advantage of these exciting advancements. However, the call for new games seems to have only been made to larger contracted developing firms. This move may cultivate a monopolistic style of game development and push the smaller independent “casual” game developers slowly out of business.

Since its’ launch on December 8th of last year, the Wii has been wildly popular and painstakingly difficult to obtain. This trend of low supply and high demand is only a consumer isolated phenomena but also applies to the aspiring independent developers of Wii games. Nintendo projected that by January they would have Development Kits for smaller development firms or at least begin reviewing the applications. This has proven to be untrue. According to Ian Bogost, an academic game researcher and designer, Nintendo, “doesn't have enough kits to cover the demand for all those crappy licensed games, let alone more original work.” Seemingly, Nintendo is ignoring this outcry despite the lack of quality development from its licensed, contracted game makers. However, a lucky few independent developers have indeed received the coveted Wii Development Kits but does this negate the legitimacy of the disgruntled attitude of developers who have not? No. Nintendo projected that by this time they would be reviewing all applications from all parties desiring a kit. This process would allow for a standardized method toward acquiring one, which is what was promised; allowing a few exceptions does not meet the expectations raised by their previous statement. Nevertheless it does show that Nintendo may not be bent on pushing out the little guys.

Similarly the release of Windows Vista has spawned many obstacles for the developing community. Vista is intended to completely replace Windows XP on all desktop PCs making it the new standard for developers. Apparently this news is not inspiring for independent, casual game developers. The operating system has integrated a Games Explorer designed to provide “game players, the safest, easiest, and most fun experiences of any platform,” due to its new fangled features. DirectX 10, the most current version of Microsoft’s graphics Application Programming Interface (API), an upgraded set of security features including parental controls and an entire explorer with specialized functionality just for games, are the focus of the gaming component for Vista. There are many on the development side who feel differently about Vista's approach to games.

Apparently the features can inhibit the gaming experience in many more ways than enhance it. Alex St. John, CEO at Wildtangent, whose website is displayed on the right, brings attention to the, “heavy handed implementation of parental controls” and how it, “ presents several problems for PC game developers,” including his own company. Vista locks down the game installation process in such a way that could greatly discourage people from downloading game content, forcing them to deal with multiple dialogue boxes and a prompt for username and password. These games target casual gamers who need quick and easy access and any hindrance to the flow of this process could deter them from playing. One major criterion for the Game Explorer’s assessment of a games appropriateness is the ESRB rating. For many online game developers “most free family and casual games are 'unrated' because the ESRB rating service, designed for multimillion dollar boxed titles, is too expensive,” making their games instantly unsuitable by default within the new game explorer and creating more red tape for the end user. These new features can be detrimental to the convenience aspect that these games so heavily rely upon. Developers of online games can only wait and hope that either users are not easily frustrated, or that Microsoft makes some form of adjustment.

Independent or not, developers need to acclimate to these new platforms for games; however there seems to be an inherent discrepancy favoring the larger and contracted game makers. Hopefully as the games roll out, independent game makers are granted the resources they need to catch up and work on par with their currently advantaged competitors. If not, game development might lose an invaluable source of ideas and innovation.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Can They be trusted?: A Call to Game Developers

For Massively Muliplayer Online game developers, their product cannot be self-contained; the game alone does not suffice to please today’s online gamer. The developing company is expected to cultivate a report between themselves and their customers. This report builds into a community, one based on trust. Of late there have been examples of both abuse of this trust and dependence on this trust within the development business incurring respective negative and positive results. Turning to the Blogoshpere to explore these events, the extent of their impact can be more clearly related. Steven Davis’ blog PlayNoEvil, dedicated to issues of game security, in a recent post discusses the issues of in game cheating by developers. From a similar vein, Mark Hefflinger in his entry on DMW Daily focuses on the legitimization of Real Money Transactions and the implications of this move. In hopes to begin a dialogue on these topics, comments on these posts are shown below and were posted at PlayNoEvil and DMW Daily.

Trust within the online gaming industry is undoubtedly a necessity for the longevity of developing companies. The main concern for game developers is to create a positive experience for the consumer. What does this mean for developers who desire to play their own games?

Developers have an unfair advantage that cannot be ignored, and as such it is inappropriate to allow them regular user status. This does not mean they should be barred from experiencing the world they helped create. However, limitations need to be set. There are a hundred thousand plus customers for Eve Online, in this case, who should be the CCP or any developers’ primary concern. As a game developer, one needs to have an appreciation for games and should very well enjoy playing them. Nevertheless, professionalism and dedication to the integrity of their company and product need to the priority. After all, there are other games out there…

Black Market sales of virtual property have co-existed with MMO games since their inception and until recently the developer has always strongly combated the sale of their virtual properties. Sony Station Exchange’s acceptance and facilitation of the customers’ capitalist ventures has earned a great deal of customer patronage, revenue and has greatly cut their support costs. What does this mean for other MMO developers? Will they begin to adopt this policy and instead of punishing virtual salesmen, simply play the middle man? They should. The players of Everquest II using Station Exchange have shown that they can be trusted to use a legitimate system if it is offered. Currently the illegal sales of virtual property from games such as World of Warcraft, Ultima Online and City of Heroes are estimated to be as high as a billion dollars. This is a chunk of capital industry developers cannot afford to neglect, and it seems Sony has presented a viable means to regulate this currently illegal trade with great success.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Online Gaming: A Life Away from Life

Games have always been an escape from reality. They provide the user with a world outside of this one to exist in and escape to. In an article by Jefferey Davis, blogger and gamer, he discusses the function of this media in society over the years and he cites leisure and stress releif as their primary purpose. However, today in the online gaming realm, virtual life is transforming from an sanctuary from the tangible world to a second life. Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) allow for all the facets of social existence to be manifested in a digital realm. In the game Second Life, the player can experience evrything from professional work, to dining and dating and more. All of this occurs virtually in cyber-space seeming to have no direct effect on the end user other than entertainment. However for many, this experience is not just an outlet for stress release and a playground for them to frolick in, but rather has a profound effect on them personally; people "play" professionally, they forge deep bonds of friendship, become addicted, or even hold business meetings. Online games have become a platform to exist within not just a fantasy land dedicated to escapism.

For some, their closest friends and primary source of kinship and support can be found in-game. Within online community the Massively Multiplayer Online Games have the most significant social impact. The characters reside within a virtual world filled with thousands of others all working simultaneously and often together to achieve goals. One such game is the World of Warcraft and it has an important social structure inherent to the game, the guild: a large group who all ban together to share the in-game experience as shown below. For many, their guild is not simply a group of unknown virtual companions but rather its members become the center of their social reality. For one World of Warcraft patron the guild was her crutch in a time of dire need, “ the real world turned its back on my family" but in-game there was, " a community where we all trust and love one another that came through and put together a miracle.” For this guildie, the “real world” rendered her helpless and the fantasy based world proved more substantial and meaningful. The ability to depend on them was real, however this connection was fostered through the virtual land World of Warcraft.

The reach of games impact stretches beyond the emotional support of guilds as it also has an increasingly strong grasp in the business realm. In the past month, according to Gamespot, the industry grossed 1.1 billion dollars, in month! It is undeniable that gaming has become a tremendous industry from a consumer perspective. However money can also be made playing games. Fatal1ty the world's top professional gamer, “trains 8-10 hours each day, sometimes longer, in preparation for upcoming tournaments,”. Fatal1ty has also made over 100,000 dollars in a year from his participation in tournaments, most of which are hosted by the Cyberathlete Professional League, whose logo is displayed to the right. The Cyberathlete Professional League is the, "world's most recognized brand in professional videogame tournaments and has been a major force in the transformation of videogame competitions to a professional sport". This is a serious business and has dedicated individuals, and organizations fighting for its acceptance as a viable career path. With a clear profit potential and amassing support, professionals represent an undeniable impact that games are beginning have beyond a recreational capacity.

The gaming realm even touches the lives of those who would never before have considered themselves gamers. In Second Life people can create a computerized copy of themselves and perform all the functions of analog existence in this virtual space, even purchase land, and yes, for real money. Companies such as IBM have begun using the, "world of Second Life as the next best thing to being there for corporate meetings" scheduling meetings online instead of in "reality." The employees’ second selves come together online and discuss the topics of real world business through a game! Even non-gaming professionals are now in touch with this world for their business needs. This infiltration of games into areas of business and socialization, especially for those before unused to the medium, reveals their potential as somethign far greater than simply a toy for adolescents; it is a tool that can be applied to any cross section of society whether it be for financial gain, for interpersonal relations, or for some good "old-fashioned" fun.

In today's increasingly modern and technologically dependant era games are indeed more and more prevalent and accepted, however it still is strongly focused on a niche culture. Most people remain untouched by this phenomena, and people would argue that the vast majority of gamers fit in the 18-34 male category. In response to this stereotype Nielsen Entertainment’s Interactive Group, performed a study, in 2005, as to truly determine the "gamer demographic" and they surprisingly found that, "Women and older adults are playing games in increasing numbers." These findings are encouraging are and are backed by a statistic that 41% of gamers are women. Though this study does prove that games affect a bigger sliver of society than previously suspected, it is still not a universally accepted medium. The potential for the medium to become a daily appliance for people of all ages is not only possible but probable. Gaming has transcended entertainment and escapism and planted itself firmly in the fabric of reality as a substantial source of social satisfaction, professional opportunity and business functionality.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Next Generation: What Do Gamers Want?

The Nintendo Wii, the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 comprise the next generation gaming platforms; all are equipped with cutting edge technology, and are ready to compete for the title of "top dog". According to BrandIntel, a marketing intelligence firm, a system should be assessed on its, “purchase intent, general appeal, game lineup, brand image, graphics and innovation.” Hardware, game titles, creativity and cost are generally considered the foremost qualities that the gaming culture scrutinizes in a system. While innovation and low cost can draw in attention initially and are essential to success to a degree, longevity is determined by hardware, titles and also fan base. Despite current trends and what analysts, gamers and even clueless friends of both, the Playstation 3 has the greatest potential and is the superior system.

Hardware is the base of a gaming console. Much of the functionality and the rendering capabilities of a system is a product of the hardware's quality. The Playstation 3 owns the hardware race with authority. To
begin with the Cell Broadband Engine CPU is far more powerful than the Xbox 360’s three symmetrical PowerPC chips and to the Wii’s PowerPC chip. In addition to a superior core processor, the RSX graphics processor, also boasts a higher clock speed and greater bandwidth than the Xbox 360’s ATI GPU and the ATI chip in the Wii. This advantage in sheer processing power gives the Playstation 3 a tremendous long term upper hand. Once there are games written to utilize the hardware within these three systems, the Wii and the Xbox 360’s graphics, physics and Artificial Intelligence will be lacking in comparison to the capabilities of the Playstation 3. The importance of graphics are not to be underestimated. Gamers live for the cutting edge and want the most aesthetically stunning games and the Playstation 3 has the greatest potential to deliver. Lastly the Playstation 3 is the only system that offers a true HD experience with an HDMI input and a Blu-ray DVD drive, again granting it another benefit over its competitors, fully asserting its dominance in the hardware arena.

For all things console related the hardware plays a factor even if the focus lies in another facet of the system. For example, in order for innovation to be possible there needs to be changes in hardware. The Play
station 3 is not a revolutionary console in that it does not introduce anything completely unheard of, though it attempted to match the Wii-mote capability with its six-degree motion sensor controller. Currently, the Wii “continues to be the most-discussed console,” giving it the edge on the competition, as the study done by BrandIntel informs consumers; this lead is only a manifestation of the Wii-mote phenomenon. It’s innovative gameplay allows for a completely new console experience instantly inspiring millions of gamers to camp in front of their local Best Buy. The huge upsurge of Wii followers due to this phenomenon, although impressive, is not enough to sustain the lead for long. The Wii is innovative to a degree that the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 cannot match but the Wii-mote can only carry the system to a certain point. Once the novelty fades, the lesser graphics and inability to keep up with the HD revolution will push gamers to a platform that can bring them the latest graphics and is equipped with the newest technology.

The Playstation 3 not only has the hardware advantage Sony has a tremendous head start in terms of fanbase because of the pervasive nature of the Playstation 3's predecessor: the Playstation 2. The Playstation 2 is a six year old system that still outsold all next generation systems this December, this popularity instantly lends an enormous fan base and title selection to the Playstation 3. When considering the success of hardware systems one always has to seek the “killer app”, the application, in this case the game, that will make the system not only desirable but also necessary. The game will come; most likely as one of the many Playstation 3 titles listed under the most anticipated games of 2007. This is not substantial enough to clinche the game title race however, currently Microsoft has that lead with Gears of War. Nevertheless, the Playstation 3 has yet to release its most prominent titles which leaves huge potential due to the strength of its existing fan base anticipating sequels on the new platform.

Next generation consoles aim to deliver the best experience possible to the gamer. Currently the Playstation 3 does not meet this standard as it lags behind the Xbox 360 and the Wii in terms of sales and consumer interest. However it holds the most potential for the future. Innovation and low cost create excitement, and great titles make systems popular easily, as the Wii-mote and Gears of War, respectively, have done for the Wii and the Xbox 360. Sony, in contrast, has invested the Playstation 3 in the long term, putting resources into the processing power, and HD capability, and depending on the consumers patience and waiting for the big titles to reap the benefits of superior hardware.