End of an Era?: PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360

The announcement that Sony has discontinued the PlayStation 3 in New Zealand hasn’t come as a surprise. Afterall, it has been nearly two years since the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One replaced last generation’s PS3 and Xbox 360. But it has signaled the inevitable. The end of an era is fast approaching and the clock is ticking. The question is, where next will the PS3 be discontinued and when will Microsoft put a stop to its Xbox 360 console?

The Xbox 360 was the first console of the last-generation to launch, releasing back in November 2005, nearly exactly 8 years before its successor the Xbox One. Sony’s PlayStation 3 came out a year later in the US and Japan while in Europe, gamers had to wait until March 2007 to get their hands on the PS3. So far, the Xbox 360 has shipped around 85million units worldwide, while the PS3 has just outperformed its rival by around 1 million units. The last generation of consoles were certainly closer at the end of their lifespan compared to the estimates for the PS4 and Xbox One, with the PS4 estimated to sale 10-20million more units by the end of this console cycle.

Following the release of the next-generation PS4 in November 2013, Sony promised that it would keep supporting the PS3 until at least 2015. 2015 is nearly over and so far they have stuck to that promise. However with 2016 looming, Sony is likely to being pulling the plug on other regions. Not only is the PS4 performing strongly in the sales and outselling its rival, the limitations of the last-generation of consoles are now becoming a hindrance to developers.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 will not have a single-player campaign on PS3 or Xbox 360 as it is too ambitious for the older consoles to handle according to Activision. Other games have also followed such as the Assassin’s Creed franchise which have been releasing a different game on last-gen than on the PS4, Xbox One or PC as they just can’t handle the scope of the game. While GTA V did manage a last-gen release and my word what a game that was, just for the sheer size of the game to be on PS3 or Xbox 360 was impressive enough. But when GTA V made the switch to current-gen, its scope increased even further and was able to make the world feel even more alive.

These are the kind of experiences game developers and publishers are now aiming for but the older hardware just can’t keep up which means features will either be cut or the game won’t be ported to last-gen consoles full stop. I don’t think there is any concern that games will all of a sudden stop releasing on the PS3 or Xbox 360 but two years after release, less and less of the games are making their way there and if they do, they are stripped back versions. From a consumer point of view, more people will start upgrading within the next year which will bump up sales of the PS4 and Xbox One and further leave the PS3 and Xbox 360 behind.

With Sony’s promise to support the PS3 until 2015 coming to an end, it strikes me as odd that out of all the regions to discontinue the console in first, it was New Zealand which represents a very small share of their console market. Therefore, New Zealand marks the beginning of the end and I fully expect that by the end of the year, Sony will have made further announcements about the PS3’s discontinuation in other regions.

But with New Zealand already representing such a small share of the market, maybe Sony decided to stop refilling stock in the country as they no longer need to. There will still be plenty of new PS3 consoles for sale in shops throughout New Zealand as well as on the second-hand market. Perhaps demand has been fulfilled for the PS3 in the area? PlayStation is definitely the biggest player in the Kiwi market though. For 2014, the PlayStation 4 was the number one selling home console and was also the fastest selling console of the decade in New Zealand. The PS4 held 65% of the market value share according to a report from the NPD Group Australia back in March.

However when you look at the games which are set to release on the PS3 this year and into 2016, the schedule is pretty underwhelming. None of the big hitters are releasing on the last-generation console. The same can be said for the Xbox 360. With the exception of the yearly sports game, which even then comes stripped of features, I think it is safe to say that the last-generation has reached that point when most gamers will either own or play one just for the replayability of games previously released, rather than any upcoming. If there was ever a time to upgrade, now is it.

Games like Fallout 4, Just Cause 3 and Rainbow Six Siege are all current-gen games. Games are being pushed much harder and the experiences they can deliver keep getting better in what they can challenge gamers to do and their sheer scope and size.

The end of an era is definitely approaching. Now we wait for Sony and Microsoft to announce their next move. The last cycle of consoles managed to sell a combined total of 270 million units according to Michael Pachter who believes that by the end of the Xbox One and PS4 cycle, they would have sold around 260 million units. So while more people own last-generation consoles than the PS4 or Xbox One, sales will continue to rise for the current-generation as more and more people migrate over.

Some of my best memories of gaming so far have come on the last-generation, particularly the Xbox 360. Unfortunately as I moved over to the PC the same time the next-gen launched, my Xbox 360 has been sat collecting dust. Maybe I need to boot it up for some nostalgia?

What are your greatest games or memories from the last-generation of consoles? Do you own a PS4 or Xbox One and still play your old console or are you yet to upgrade? Let us know your thoughts!


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