So-called fanboys are the lifeblood of the games industry. As with comics, manga, films and music, certain games franchises or even games companies attract fanatical followings convinced that the object of their affections can do no wrong, and who habitually buy every product they make. A quick trawl around the internet will show you that Nintendo and Sega have massive fanboy support â€“ and even Microsoft, although Microsoftâ€™s fanboys are pretty much hardcore ex-PC gamers whose lives now centre around Xbox Live. Obviously, World of Warcraft has an enormous pool of fanboys, as do, for example, Square-Enixâ€™s Final Fantasy Series and Konamiâ€™s Pro Evolution Soccer and Metal Gear Solid franchises. But do Sony fanboys exist? If they do, thereâ€™s precious little evidence on the web to suggest it.
In a way, Sony is a victim of its success â€“ when it launched the original PlayStation, it cleverly courted the early-90s clubbers, who grew up with games but had drifted away from them, in line with the then-prevailing belief that games were the sole province of thirteen-year-olds. The PlayStation asserted that it could be cool to play games, and the PlayStation 2 reiterated that. But being a fanboy is definitely not cool â€“ indeed, it is utterly geekish. So, are Sonyâ€™s fanboys too cool to admit what they are?
Possibly so, based on the evidence of having a PlayStation 3 and taking it around London to show various people. I took it, for example, to Radio 1Xtra, to show Rampageâ€™s Mike Anthony and TTT, and the response was ecstatic to say the least, as you can hear for yourself by checking their blog on the 1Xtra site. They spoke about their loyalty to the PlayStation brand and were generally so enthusiastic that it took me about an hour to extricate myself from the building.
But does the prevailing view on the web and the blogosphere â€“ that Sony has terminally shot itself in the foot by bodging the PlayStation 3 launch, and thereby alienated its loyal PlayStation customers â€“ hold up among the larger population which doesnâ€™t treat the internet as the centre of its collective life? And that is PlayStationâ€™s core customer group.
However, there are question-marks which Sony will have to answer, as far as the PlayStation 3 is concerned. PlayStation enthusiasts have become what they are thanks to unforgettable games experiences, most notably the Grand Theft Auto series, which has appeared first on PlayStations since it went 3D. But that will no longer be the case for the next instalment, GTA IV, which will come out on PS3 and Xbox 360 simultaneously. Admittedly Metal Gear Solid 4 will be a PS3 exclusive, as will the most desirable of the forthcoming (and confusingly profuse) Final Fantasy games.
But is that enough? Sony has come up with some fantastic new franchises recently, such as Shadow of the Colossus, God of War and LocoRoco, but it needs to bring these, as well as the likes of Gran Turismo, to the PS3 as quickly as possible, to give potential PS3 owners the justification for lashing out Â£425. And the more exclusive agreements with third parties it loses (the same, for example, applies to Pro Evolution), the more important it becomes that its internal studios come out with stunningly brilliant â€“ rather than mediocre-to-good â€“ games. Eight Days, for example, could be such a killer game, but so little is known about it that we canâ€™t count on that, and would anyone who played either of the PS2 versions of The Getaway, for example, use the PS3 version as a spur for upgrading their console?
By Steve Boxer