When I was given a demo of the Rock Band Music Store last month, it was on an Xbox 360. When Harmonix's PR finally sent us the screenshots to accompany our article, they were for the Xbox 360 version. I noticed this, but didn't think much of it at the time. LevelUp's N'Gai Croal did, and he went ahead and innocently requested screenshots of the PlayStation 3 Rock Band Music Store. There were none -- no one on the team had bothered to grab screens from the PS3.
He pressed for them, and since he's N'Gai Croal (and you're not) they agreed and quickly pulled some PS3 screenshots to be sent his way. But this brings up an interesting point that N'Gai makes
-- it oftentimes does seem like the PS3 is an afterthought in the mind of many developers. As someone who meets with developers to see games on a regular basis, it's the norm to be playing a multiplatform game on the Xbox 360. It's gotten to the point where I don't even bother to ask where the PS3 version is; I just assume that the 360 version is futher along, or that the team might be having issues getting the game running smoothly on Sony's console.
At EIEIO 2008, I was given the chance to play Spark Unlimited's multiplatform first-person shooter Legendary. Upon entering the cozy trailer in which the games were set up, I noticed that a PS3 test console sat side by side with an Xbox 360 debug unit. We were handed Xbox 360 controllers and the PS3 was simply never turned on. I actually pressed them on the reasoning, flat out asking them if the PS3 version wasn't up to snuff yet. They told me that wasn't the case, that it was identical to the one I was playing. Cynical (or saavy, depending on how you want to look at it), I didn't quite buy it, but I let the issue drop.
Leading up to the release of Unreal Tournament III, I had more than enough chances to get down and dirty with Epic's first-person shooter. As the release drew closer, Epic started showing off the PS3 version of the title, and Vice President Mark Rein couldn't have been more excited. Every chance he had he'd tell you that they had the PS3 version up and running, and that it was performing smoothly. "Have you had a chance to play UT III on the PS3 yet?" he'd ask anyone who would listen, "It's running really well!" Yeah, even prior to release the game was looking and playing sharp, but should this have been a surprise? After all, the game and the engine were used to display the power of the PS3 system prior to its release.
But maybe things are changing. As the PS3 gains steam, perhaps the console is starting to earn more "respect" among developers. Some titles are now being developed on the PS3 first, and it's starting to show. Sony's console was the lead SKU for Criterion's Burnout Paradise, for instance; all of my early hands-on with the game were on a PS3 test unit -- I didn't play the Xbox 360 version until it hit retail.
MTV's Stephen Totilo reports a recent experience with Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV, where he was invited out to play the game at the developer's NYC office. Unsurprisingly, the game was being demoed on the Xbox 360, and when Totilo asked them about the PS3 demo and something surprising happened -- they hooked one up and let him play. The game, he was told, was slightly behind in development but played almost identically to the 360 version. Totilo notes that if there were any difference, they weren't significant enough for him to notice.
N'Gai also makes another good point about developers and their personal gaming habits. Many developers don't even own PlayStation 3s; those that do make a note to say that they use it mainly as a Blu-ray player. I've heard some mult-console owners say they prefer the 360 because of visuals, its robust online communities, and -- here's a big one -- achievements. As a side note: Surprisingly, you'd also be shocked to hear how many gaming journalists don't actually own PS3 units of their own. (I am not one among them. I enjoy my PS3 very much, thank you.)
I'm not writing this to incite some sort of flaming fanboy Xbox 360 versus PS3 argument here. But it's interesting to take a look at how PR and developers view the consoles as opposed to what gamers and consumers view them. Maybe it's not much different actually. Or maybe their views are shaping what we play and on what console we choose to play it.
Or maybe it doesn't mean anything at all, and I should have just posted a picture of a LOLcat here instead.