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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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3. Blu-ray: bonus or blunder?

Is the inclusion of Blu-ray the PS3's secret weapon - or its Achilles heel? There's been much public debate over whether Blu-ray is beating rival format HD DVD in recent months, with the Blu-ray camp claiming discs are outselling HD DVD by two to one, spurring return claims that this is largely due to PS3 owners using their free Blu-ray vouchers, so doesn't represent real sales.

That line of argument should tell you that rather than 'Will Blu- ray save PS3?', it's as much about 'Will PS3 save Blu-ray?'. The success or failure of both is inextricably linked.

One thing is clear: if PS3 owners are to embrace the format, they'll want a steady flow of great new Blu-ray movies. And not just brainless action-flicks packed with explosions, either - that's what they get from their games. Still, the fact that Blu-ray isn't just a PS3 thing should ensure it doesn't encounter the same apathy as the PSP's UMD disc format.

4. Episodic games and downloadable content

Episodic gaming and downloadable content is The Future! At least, that's what various games industry bigwigs have been saying on conference platforms for, ooh, several years now. And while downloading new levels, characters and items for games is cool in theory, in practice it's yet to really prove its value.

Yet the success of these kinds of content downloads will be crucial to the PS3's future, not least because it's another way for developers to offset the costs of making PS3 games. Sony will need to be careful though: Xbox 360 offers a bunch of this kind of content, and Microsoft is already facing criticism from gamers feeling sore at having to pay for features they feel should've been in the original game.

5. It's NOT about the games, stupid

As I'm sure you'll tire of hearing in the next couple of days, the PS3 is more than a games console. You can rip music to it, watch Blu-ray movies, surf the internet, and in theory download films, TV shows and music from the PlayStation Store. It's a multimedia convergence zeitgeist-riding magic box! Or something.

Both Sony and Microsoft see this broadening out of features as crucial to the future of their respective consoles. A demo at Sony's PS3 bloggers event last year focused much more on the non-gaming features of the console than the actual games - admittedly because the games need less explanation.

Will these features mean millions more people buy a PS3 or a 360? Will people really rip their music collection - often already stored on their computer - to a console? And perhaps most importantly, when will Sony introduce music and TV/film downloads to its online PlayStation Store? The Xbox Marketplace already offers TV downloads, so Sony has some catching up to do.

6. Innovative Games

When thinking about the next-gen console war, it's easy to get carried away with rhapsodising over Nintendo's Wii Remote controller, and how it's a revolution in gaming which makes rival consoles look old hat. It's partly true - the Wiimote is marvellous - but the argument skips over some of the great work Sony did giving the PS2 new control mechanisms and gameplay.

Think EyeToy, SingStar and Buzz, for starters. All three used different controllers - or in EyeToy's case, control mechanisms - and all appealed far beyond the traditional stereotype of young, male, hardcore gamers. If only there were figures showing how many PS2s had been sold in the last year or two based entirely on these three game franchises alone.

Sony has proved it can come up with these kinds of innovative gameplay, which bodes well for the PS3's future - and not just because all three franchises will undoubtedly transfer to the new platform. So competing with Nintendo on innovation grounds is less about how the PS3's Sixaxis compares with the Wiimote, and more about what new ideas Sony can come up with to make use of its new console.

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