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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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7. The community

Xbox Live is marvellous. It really has changed people's minds on what online gaming is all about - and, crucially, that it's as much about community features as it is head-to-head multiplayer gaming.

Although that's still important. Edge magazine recently published a really good article about how Xbox Live's Achievements had changed the way developers design games, as well as the way gamers play them.

How the PS3's Network functionality competes with what Microsoft has done will be another huge factor in PS3's appeal for hardcore gamers, while it'll also be important in drawing more casual PS3 owners into the gaming world. Will the PS3's games community be a me-too attempt to copy Live Arcade, or will it build on that success and do something new?

8. Backwards compatibility

OK, so not being able to play a five-year-old PS2 game on your PS3 won't condemn Sony's new console to the dumper, but it's a more important factor than you'd think in many people's decisions about whether to upgrade.

The confusion over how many PS2 titles will work on PS3 hasn't helped, spurred by Sony's decision to remove the PS3's Emotion Engine chip for its European launch. For the record, around 73 per cent of PS2 games are expected to play on the PS3.

The argument that people should play spiffing new PS3 games rather than old PS2 ones, though understandable, will take some selling to annoyed PS2 owners.

9. How Web 2.0-friendly is it?

The latest generation of consoles are powerful connected devices, as stressed above. And nowadays, when you talk about connectivity, you're talking about social networking, user-generated content, virtual worlds and all manner of communication activity.

So how Web 2.0-friendly will the PS3 be? How good is it for accessing MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, etc? Will Sony choose to launch its own versions of these sites for PS3 owners, or make it easy for them to interact with them? And how will communication work - will you be able to chat with friends on MSN or Skype, for example?

Sony has already made one intriguing announcement: its Home virtual world, which takes on Second Life at its own (non) game. But how it tackles the other areas could have a strong impact on whether the PS3 really is seen as a converged device, rather than a pure games console.

10. Buzz

No, not the music game this time. You could say that whoever's going to win the next-generation console war will be partly defined by who everyone thinks is going to win the next-generation console war.

Right now, Nintendo's Wii has the buzz factor, both from the media and analysts, who have predicted that it'll outsell both the PS3 and Xbox 360 this year. And it's fair to say that PS3 has copped more than its fair share of the wrong kind of buzz in recent months, covering many of the areas above.

Reclaiming that buzz, which'll be a case of performing well in all the above areas and then communicating this successfully, will be the key test in PS3's battle in the years to come.

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