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 Sony PlayStation 3
After E3 2005 people were in no doubt which company was in the strongest position to take the next-gen crown. Microsoftís unveiling of their Xbox 360 wasnít quite as spectacular as theyíd hoped, due to press leaks and an uninspiring MTV special, and Nintendoís refusal to divulge much about itís highly anticipated Revolution meant that most show-goers were left wondering what they were planning. Sony on the other hand put on a virtual carnival to herald the coming of itís next messiah. At the Press conference tech demos were the order of the day, with a real-time demo based on the next Unreal engine impressing the most.

The biggest cheer came when Sony brought back the bath tub demo, previously used to show off the PS2s capabilities many years earlier. In the beautifully rendered bath room was a single yellow rubber duck, he was soon joined by many others with Sony keen to show off the range of lighting and spectacular water effects that are possible on the hardware. To further show off, the ducks were joined by two toy pirate ships that fired little cannonballs at each other, and later by thousands of ducks, literally pouring out of the bath in a flurry of yellow and accurate physics. But this was, excuse the pun, blown out of the water when the producer of Eye-toy came to the stage. In a stunning display of the potential use of future Eye-Toy peripherals he picked up two virtual glasses and proceeded to dunk them in the water, pouring it from one glass to the other, all the while perfectly tracked by two Eye-Toys.

Later demos continued to astound and confuse; Nvidiaís showy demonstration of their graphic chipís ability to render cloth, skin tones and even translucent effects on hair and skin; Sonyís example brought together two of itís biggest franchises across its business Ė Gran Turismo and Spiderman - with the webbed-wonder inexplicitly flying through a GT course as several cars drove past. Finally, Sony released the spec-list, confusing all but the most dedicated tech-head. Quite what they hoped to achieve by announcing the PS3 had a CPU capable of 218 Giga Flops Floating Point Performance is anyoneís guess but at least the ducks looked nice!

The games on show early on were equally impressive, although later revelations that demos like Killzone 2 were just pre-rendered approximations took the shine off somewhat. Even now, there has been very little shown of near-final hardware but titles like Heavenly Sword and Warhawk certainly show the great potential on offer here. While there hasnít been a huge list of games announced yet those that have been are mouth watering prospects. With companies like Konami and SquareEnix supporting the console from the off, gamers can rest assured that there will be updates to their favourite franchises. A new Pro-Evo, Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid (which has already attracted great interest following Kojima-Sanís terrific trailer) are on their way but whether or not they all remain exclusive is yet to be seen.

But with the PlayStation brand now branded in the public consciousness itíll take a pretty spectacular fall to bring Sony down from itís place atop gamingís golden throne. There are many games to come that will automatically be set for PS3 exclusivity and itís popularity around the world canít be denied. So does this mean that Sony have already wrapped up the console race for the next five years? Not exactly.

Microsoft have made great leaps in terms of core audience since the Xbox first arrived on the market. Itís gone from a niche format that only appealed to PC-loving gamers to the hottest machine to own, thanks largely to some great exclusive titles, with monthly sales equal and at times greater than the PS2s. Nintendo, who have been mostly in the shadow this time around have gone a completely different route to Sony and Microsoft; whereas they have concentrated on raw power Nintendo, for good or bad, are focusing on bringing something completely new to the market.

Sony could also lose valuable early adopters due to the price of the PS3. Although nothing is yet concrete, many industry analysts have placed the launch price at around £400, something that is quite out of the reach of the average household. Considering the price of components and the likelihood Sony will be unwilling to take a heavy loss per unit, this figure could be pretty close. Cost seems like a big issue for developers too with game budgets set to quadruple for next-gen consoles. Many may stick with the huge userbase sticking with itís predecessor until the PS3 gains a large enough market share to keep projects financially viable.

Itís clear to see that the PlayStation 3 is still going to be a much sought after piece of kit and itís unlikely that many publishers will drift far from the incredibly strong brand name. But will Sonyís lack of clear innovation hamper itís future? Only time will tell, and weíre not going to know anything until at least March next year.

In the mean-time just thinking about a next-gen title from the ICO team is enough for me to put down a deposit.

Buy Sony PlayStation 3 now at Play.com
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