Game Changers • Page 3

Move, Natal, 3D, Blu-ray, Live - which technologies will define the console battlefield in the coming years?

The second area is a rather more difficult one for Sony to capitalise upon, but could yet become a major differentiator for the PS3, and that's 3D. In the film world, few topics are more divisive than 3D - for every true believer who was wowed by Avatar, there are plenty of naysayers who regard the technology as little more than a gimmick. Not so, however, with games. Certainly, there are believers and non-believers, but by and large, the primary difference between the two groups is that the believers are those who have actually seen 3D games in operation.

The technology is expensive, certainly - even allowing for the price of a television upgrade, the glasses themselves are ridiculously pricey. For the next two years or so at least, 3D will remain firmly an early adopter technology. However, if Sony can get the technology in front of enough people - if the firm can actually get people experiencing 3D games - then it will reclaim the PS3's position as a powerful, cutting edge console, a position which has been done no favours by a litany of third-party games which simply don't look as good on Sony's hardware as they do on Microsoft's. 3D has the potential to create an extraordinary buzz around the PS3, even if it isn't something that most consumers will actually get up and running for a number of years - and for those that have seen it working, there's absolutely no question but that 3D is the future of games, even if it is something of a gimmick for films.

In terms of market differentiation, however, Microsoft still holds the most powerful card in this battle - Xbox Live. While Sony's PlayStation Network has improved greatly since the console's original launch, and being free to play is an advantage on many levels, it is still by far the inferior offering. Live is a slick, well-considered and well designed service which adopts many of the principles of social networking to make the Xbox 360 into a compelling console - making the experience of playing even single-player games feel like more of a social event, and using people's friendships and relationships with other players to keep them "loyal" to the Xbox ecosystem.

This may merely be the battle for second place; it may even be the battle for second place in a console market that's rapidly being outpaced by nimble rivals in other areas of gaming. For Microsoft and Sony, however, and for the publishers and developers who thrive on their platforms, this is a serious battle over the shape of the future. Thus far, Sony has done little more than keep pace with Microsoft, but the first quarter figures change that - so while anyone describing 2010 as being "Sony's Year" is chancing their arm, Microsoft certainly needs to do more to demonstrate its vision for the coming years if it wants to stay ahead in this race.

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