Bloomberg: PS3 launch won't show potential

Lack of details on machine's final specs leaves developers dry, wary; Sony CEO says as many as 15 titles at launch.

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Sony has no doubt examined Microsoft's next-gen console gaming debut under a microscope, hoping to glean lessons it could apply to the PlayStation 3 launch later this year. But even with the cautionary tale of the Xbox 360 well documented, Sony will likely still have obstacles to face, says Bloomberg.

The biggest problem Sony faces, according to the news service, is the delay in delivering the final specs of its machine to developers. Without final development kits or information on the machine, games pegged for the PS3 launch won't be able to take full advantage of the system's capabilities.

"A lot of developers have not gotten the [PS3 development] kits," Sega of America president Simon Jeffery told Bloomberg. "There certainly will not be a lot of titles available [at launch]."

The fact that games don't really grow into the potential of the consoles they're made for until well into the system's life cycle is nothing new for Sony--but the timing is. With Microsoft reversing the roles of first-to-market, Sony will be hard pressed to show what its system can do immediately, especially given Microsoft's full year head start and the fact that the top-line PS3 is one and a half times the price of the high-end Xbox 360.

Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai said that as many as 15 PS3 titles could be available for launch, slightly less than the 18 that the Xbox 360 launched with.

One reason for the shorter list could be apprehension, says Bloomberg. "It was too risky to do it," said THQ CEO Brian Farrell, explaining why his company's big-license game The Sopranos, due later this year, isn't in the works for the PS3. "It made no sense." The game will be released on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 2.

It will take both sense and cents to make games for the platform, says Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey. "Developing for Sony's platform is incrementally more complex than what you're looking at for Microsoft or Nintendo," he said. The costs of making games for the PS3, which could reach the $25 million mark, could alienate cash-conscious third-party publishers.

Other developers are taking a "work with what you've got" approach. Ubisoft's CEO Yves Guillemot doesn't see much of a difference from the situation with the Xbox 360. "We won't be able to take advantage of all the components of the machine, but it was the same last year," he told Bloomberg.

Even with development well under way, the machine's complexities could result in the launch titles showing off only a portion of what the machine can do. According to Bloomberg, Activision's CEO Bobby Kotick believes that the first generation of PS3 games will use only about one-fifth of the Cell processor's potential.

As for Sony's take? Hirai simply says, "I don't think there will be too much of an issue."

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