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Ten battles the PS3 must fight to win the next-gen console war

It's the games, stupid

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So, it's Friday and eager gamers are already out and about trying to pick up a PlayStation 3 - particularly after last night's one-shop only midnight launch.

Here in Europe, at least, Friday is the proper starting gun for the next-generation console war, since PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 will all be available to buy. Can Sony hang onto its top-dog status, given the many criticisms of PS3 so far? Here are the ten key factors that will determine whether Sony's console can win.

1. Price

Not as simple an issue as whether £425 is too much for a games console, although the fact that you can buy an Xbox 360 and a Wii for less than a PS3 is sure to be raised often in the coming months. Some reports claim Sony will cut the PS3's price in order to boost sales before the end of its next financial year in March 2008, while even Sony boss Sir Howard Stringer has admitted PS3's luxury status could cause it to flop.

But forget that for a minute: even with a price cut, Sony's task is to persuade gamers that PS3 is worth paying more for. In other words, it's a communication problem as much as a numbers game. Compared to standalone Blu-ray disc players, for example, PS3 looks a bargain. The question is, how many gamers would have rather had a cheaper console minus the Blu-ray drive.

Meanwhile, game pricing will also be a factor. Sony started well, announcing that in the UK PS 3 games would go for £40 before discounts.

2. It's the games, stupid

The PS3 will stand or fall on the quality of its games. It's an obvious point, and one that's true of all the next-gen consoles - for example, Nintendo recently faced the first rumblings of criticism for the Wii's games roadmap. For PS3 to succeed, it needs great games, and it needs some exclusive games.

To some extent, you have to look beyond the launch line-up, although MotorStorm and Resistance: Fall of Man are a strong way to come out fighting, and Metal Gear Solid 4 is coming later in the year.

However, some games that were expected to be PS3 exclusives - the next Grand Theft Auto and Devil May Cry games, for example - are coming out on Xbox 360 too. This can be taken as a sign that canny publishers are trying to maximise their revenues to balance high development costs, or as a vote of no confidence in PS3, depending on your standpoint.

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