Sony's game consoles, PlayStation and PlayStation2 (PS2), currently dominate the console gaming market, and their success is supported by many passionate fans. But, as the launch of Microsoft's Xbox and Nintendo's GameCube later this year approaches, some of Sony's most ardent fans are raising concerns over the selection of PS2 games available to them.
The fans' main complaint: game software for the PS2 is not as striking as that for the original PlayStation console. It's not all bad news for Sony, however, as fans say they still love to play games on the PS2.
Ryusuke Kudo and Tatsuya Kawakami are two typical video-game lovers who eagerly await the release of new games and then play them 24 hours a day until they get bored. They were among 20 of Sony's biggest fans invited to the company's PlayStation Awards ceremony held in Tokyo on Monday night.
Kudo and Kawakami are passionate about the PlayStation and shook their heads at the mention of Microsoft's Xbox, which is expected to launch in November. "Games on (Windows-based) PCs already have good qualities, so I'd rather play them on a PC than the Xbox," said Kudo. "I don't see any point in buying the console."
But both fans are not particularly satisfied with the games on offer for the PS2.
Kudo bought a PS2 console because he wanted to play the updated versions of his favorite PlayStation games. However, Kawakami doesn't own a PS2. "I haven't found any software for PS2 that attracts me, yet," he said.
"No one is astonished with high quality graphics of game software anymore because it is now mandatory. Everything is about whether (the game offers) a good scenario or not," Kudo said, explaining what makes a game attractive to die-hard fans.
It seems the legions of PlayStation fans agree. The awards handed out Monday were largely based on sales but Sony also handed out five additional awards, voted on by users, under categories such as "best sound" or "best scenario."
There were a total of 16 games that won prizes this year, but 10 of them were for the PlayStation, including the top two titles, Dragon Quest VII and Final Fantasy IX. Among the user awards, Final Fantasy IX swept every category.
One PlayStation fan that attended the awards ceremony, who requested anonymity, said the PS2 doesn't offer the types of games that people go crazy for, in contrast with the PlayStation. A "killer-title" for the PlayStation usually comes out every three to four months, while hot games for the PS2 come around only once every six months, the fan said.
Nevertheless, the PlayStation fan is satisfied with the big-name titles released for the PS2, like Tokimeki Memorial 2, even though such software doesn't go on sale very often. And he enjoys waiting for those moments to come, just like waiting for a big Hollywood movie to be released. "This summer's killer software for PS2 is Final Fantasy X, coming in July," he said.
On the hardware side, Kudo said he wants "good infrastructure for network gaming" and Kawakami, who misses Sega's DreamCast game console, hopes its software will appear for the PlayStation. Sega stopped production of DreamCast in March of this year.
Only 210 game titles are currently available for PS2, while 13 million consoles have been shipped since its launch, according to Ken Kutaragi, president of Sony, in his opening speech at the awards ceremony.
"When the PlayStation first came out, it attracted many core game players in their late teens to early twenties," said Kenichi Fukunaga, a spokesman for Sony. Thus, many games targeted at those users have been developed, he said.
"But PS2 users are a wide range of people. It has been a challenge for us to open up a new type of game market," he said, adding that more titles, targeting a broader range of users, will be released by the end of this year.