Tuesday, June 10, 2008

PS3, Xbox 360 Battle For RPG Rights

Final Fantasy XIII is one of the most anticipated RPGs for the current generation of consoles.

The current generation console war tells a different story in each region. While just about every region shows the Nintendo Wii on top, the battle between the Xbox 360 and PS3 is a bit different. Europe and Japan show bigger sales of the PS3, while North America has the Xbox 360 in a wider lead. Each console is known for their specialized genres, and the PS2 is still the leader in traditional console RPGs. While consumers assumed this to carry over to the PS3, its smaller user base and more difficult development issues have caused many games to go multi-platform or exclusive to other consoles. Despite PS3's popularity over the 360 in Japan, many RPGs are going exclusive to Microsoft's console either indefinitely or after a set period of time.

Valkyria Chronicles is developed by Sega and features a unique cel-shaded look and action/strategy gameplay.

Only a handful of RPGs have seen release on the PS3, and most of them have not been released outside of Japan. Western RPG, Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was developed by Bethesda and its port to the PS3 arrived with critical acclaim and a polished feel. Bethesda also took over the reins to action RPG Fallout 3, which will arrive at the end of the year on both platforms. Mediocre RPGs, Enchanted Arms and Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom came early on in the PS3's life cycle and were disappointments. Since then, other forthcoming titles are scarce. Eternal Sonata has already been released on the Xbox 360, but the PS3 port looks to be Japan-only. It follows the dream world to music composer and pianist Frederic Chopin, and features unique music-themed elements and soundtrack. The much anticipated Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Versus XIII aren't set to release until 2009 at least, and the Sony-published White Knight Chronicles has yet to see an official release date outside of a rough 2008 time frame. Another exclusive PS3 release is the action/strategy RPG Valkyria Chronicles, which looks to provide a unique experience with its varied gameplay and cel-shaded look. It has already been released in Japan, with a Fall 2008 release scheduled for other regions. PS3 exclusive Disgaea 3 : Absence of Justice is coming from famed strategy RPG developer Nippon Ichi and will include a customizable pre-order bonus soundtrack.

Mass Effect gained mainstream media attention for its sexual content.

Despite the Xbox 360 being primarily seen as an FPS-heavy console with games like Halo 3 and Gears of War, it is becoming the console of choice for both traditional and western RPGs. The US-developed console already saw great western-style RPGs on the original Xbox with Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Fable, and Jade Empire as some of the major exclusive titles. With the 360, Mass Effect and the forthcoming Fable 2 have already created a lot of buzz and hype. Microsoft hasn't left out traditional RPGs, with Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey both created by former Final Fantasy developers and Eternal Sonata exclusive to the 360 outside of Japan.

Square Enix is known for its lavish RPG titles such as Kingdom Hearts, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Quest.

However, the biggest news comes from famous RPG developer Square Enix. Known for their popular RPG series like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, console development has been announced for some forthcoming titles. Star Ocean: The Last Hope is the fourth game in the series and will see release on the Xbox 360 only. Square Enix has said it is only "for now", but this will be the first game in the series that hasn't been released on a Sony console. A new IP called The Last Remnant is confirmed to be multi-platform, but will be out on the Xbox 360 first with a PS3 version coming sometime later. Another exclusive Square title called Infinite Undiscovery is being touted as 'true RPG evolution', with real time changes and discoveries.

Although the PS3 is the technologically superior machine, the Xbox 360 has locked in developers with its easier development, larger US fanbase, and paid exclusives. As development costs continue to rise for major disc releases, multi-platform games will most likely become the norm. But with the PS3 still trying to find its place and ease development issues, this exclusivity trend will continue to rise. While the Xbox 360 is still plagued with hardware problems and the infamous "Red Ring of Death", the robust 3-year warranty has seemed to ease this problem in consumers' minds. These exclusivity battles are disappointing, as this current generation makes it more expensive and difficult to support every console. This is only good news for the Xbox 360, but some unfortunate blows to the PS3 and the underpowered Wii.

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