The Absence of Sony’s Killer Apps

I don’t mean to crap on the system or anything – the PS3 was the first current generation platform I bought, but something has kind of occurred to me about it. I don’t think it ever really had a major “killer app”, and I think that’s been a problem for Sony overall over the past several years.

“Killer app” sounds like a gaming buzzword, but I personally believe that it’s something real, and even Wiki makes a good case for a killer app’s effectiveness for any kind of software platform. “In marketing terminology, a killer application is any computer program that is so necessary or desirable that it proves the core value of some larger technology.  A killer app can substantially increase sales of the platform on which it runs.”   They even note things like spreadsheets having been a killer app for the Apple II.

When it comes to games, I like to think of a killer app being the game that first brought general public attention to a console, got the ball rolling on hardware sales, and in some cases influenced the platform’s entire library. What I’ve noticed is that pretty much every successful game platform had at least one killer app.

When the N64 launched with Mario 64, we could all clearly see something major that wasn’t possible on previous hardware – that the N64 was able to set a new precedent for gaming. I don’t think I ever knew anyone with an N64 that didn’t own Mario 64, and the system’s library became rife with mascot 3D platformers. It started to gain a library of shooters the PlayStation didn’t have after GoldenEye.  More recently, I like to look at the first Gears of War as the main killer app for the Xbox 360. I don’t know how many consoles it moved, but it was the first exclusive 360 game that really got into the public consciousness, and is probably one of the most influential games of this console generation.

Even the Wii has had Wii Sports and Wii Fit, but I don’t think anything on the same level as it and Gears ever exclusively hit the PS3. The PS3 has a great game library – big enough for a gamer to probably survive on that console alone, and Sony has really beefed up the system’s first party game supply, but how many of those games are talked about as driving systems?

If you ask zealous PS3 owners, they might tell you Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune was the first PS3 game really worth buying, or that a lot of them bought the system for the promise of Metal Gear Solid 4. I’ll admit that I do remember hearing MGS4 causing an uptick in PS3 sales after it came out. Gran Turismo 5 is even somewhere around 7 million copies sold now and supposedly did move a lot of PS3s in Europe. None of those games however has been as influential as Gears or any of Sony’s previous killer apps.

Among other things the original PlayStation had Final Fantasy VII which changed what a lot of people thought was possible in video games and inspired a whole library of and fandom for Japanese RPGs that continues, in some capacity, to this day. The PS2 had Grand Theft Auto III (and really the entire year 2001) which influenced a generation of games and popularized a genre that remains prevalent. Even the PSP has Monster Hunter in Japan, which has drawn significant Japanese development resources away from consoles and towards handhelds with similar gameplay.

The thing is, nearly all of Sony’s killer apps throughout the years have been third party, and the main thing Sony lost this generation was that vast third party exclusivity. So many formerly PlayStation-exclusive franchises going multiplatform has definitely deflated a lot of Sony’s power. I think this is the hardest they’ve ever had to really fight for hit games on their system, hoping that one of their first party games becomes the big hit.

The reason I find this peculiar about the PS3 is because the PlayStation Vita could possibly fall into the same problem. Even if it does build up a good library like the PS3 (or even the Dreamcast or the PSP in western territories), I feel like it’ll need at least one pack leader to really drive up sales. The 3DS was considered dead on arrival for most of 2011 until the price drop, and more importantly Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7, resuscitated sales.

I don’t think there’s any telling what the Vita’s killer app might be. Maybe the eventual Monster Hunter will drive sales back up in Japan – but that still leaves out the west. The only existing name I think could create a “western Monster Hunter” for the Vita is Call of Duty. The machine is probably capable of running a real COD game – if they could get a good one on there, it would be the only way to really play COD on the go, which could be huge. It’d be kind of massive if you could play multiplayer over 3G, but I’m not holding my breath.

Honestly, I myself am past the idea of buying a piece of hardware for a single application – I like to wait until it’s collected a myriad of titles that I want. I still don’t doubt however the effect that a single, extremely desirable exclusive can have on a platform’s life.

BULLETS:

  • And Sony, where the hell are the YouTube and HBOGo apps for the PS3 (not to mention the Vita)?! Did Microsoft cut a deal with those two companies? Because otherwise at least YouTube should’ve been on the PS3 ages ago.
  • Speaking of HBOGo, I didn’t realize I get all the comedy and documentaries too. This is gonna be good…
  • New batch of custom game box arts: Ninja Gaiden III, 3D Dot Game Heroes, and Gears of War 3http://t.co/iXxpgD0V
  • If you’re wondering what to buy off of that Tom Clancy sale on PSN, I suggest Chaos Theory be your top priority… and maybe GRAW 2.
  • Epic Mickey 2: Power of Illusion for the 3DS is going to be the real game, not the console version. This is why: http://t.co/k0mB24p3
  • Legend of Grimlock is coming out on PC in a little while, though I’ll personally be waiting for the iOS version. I wish more indie games could look this good.
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One thought on “The Absence of Sony’s Killer Apps

  1. volvocrusher says:

    It didn’t exactly push systems like Gears or Wii Sports, but I kind of thought Uncharted 2 was a bit of a killer app with more hardcore gamers. Not really a mainstream one, but all those GOTY awards can help out. I agree on the Vita though, I have a hard time seeing something taking off the same way Mario or Pokemon will help a Nintendo system.

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