Ah, to be back in 2006. A simpler time, full of flip-phones, Zunes, and Myspace. Twitter had only just begun its expansion; Lindsay Lohan, her descent. It was into this landscape Sony pushed out its third home console, the ambitious PlayStation 3. That was ten years ago today (at least, in the North American market).
During the previous generation with the PS2, Sony had enjoyed dominance the likes of which hadn’t been seen before. That system would go on to sell a massive 155 million worldwide, a number that no other system has come close to before or since (the original PlayStation and the Wii are the only other systems to cross the 9-digit threshold).
The PS3 was a much different beast. Launching almost a year after Microsoft’s Xbox 360 kicked off the seventh generation of home video game consoles, it was as complicated as it was powerful. The Cell microprocessor — codeveloped with Toshiba and IBM — was the heart of the system, offering vast amounts of power to patient developers.
It also came with a hefty price tag. In the US, the baseline 20 GB model launched at $499; the comparatively huge 60 GB for $599. Even at that price the system could still be seen as a deal, thanks to it being one of the first commercially-available Blu-Ray players.
With Microsoft backing the HD DVD format, this move could have resulted in another Betamax situation for Sony. Warner Brothers dropping support for the former ensured Blu-Ray would remain the hi-def media option of choice, becoming the format used for both Sony and Microsoft in the following generation.
In 2008, Sony followed the tradition it had set with its earlier consoles, and introduced a smaller, “Slim” version of the PS3. This saw an uptick in hard drive sizes (up to 500 GB) and a more streamlined design, abandoning the “Spider-Man” font used on the original model. 2012 saw a further evolution, dubbed the “Super Slim”.
Seeing the success of Nintendo’s Wii — which would handily win the sales war by the end of the generation — Sony introduced the Move controller around the world in 2010. Many games would end up featuring motion control, and the accessory enjoyed reasonable sales success, racking up 15 million sales versus the 80+ million of the PS3 itself.
Of course, for many of us, what really mattered about the system was the game library. And that, naturally, means Gran Turismo. While audiences around the world had to make do with only two titles per generation with PS1 and PS2 (the Concept titles and GT4 Prologue never made it to all markets), the PS3 saw that number double. Technically.
Shortly after the PS3’s release, Gran Turismo HD launched for free via the PlayStation Store (and a small number of discs in Japan, which go for a pretty penny on eBay these days). Featuring a handful of cars — including the first Ferrari in the series — and a look at an early version of the Eiger circuit, this was players’ first look at a high-def GT.
Seriously, look at that video up there (the first one ever uploaded to our Youtube channel). Those are 10-year-old graphics. Impressive, no?
A year later, in winter 2007, GT5 Prologue launched in Japan. It represented numerous firsts for the franchise: interior views, online gameplay, Gran Turismo TV, 16-car fields, and even a fully-licensed F1 car (Ferrari’s F2007). Through numerous free updates, the GT5 taster would end up featuring 76 car models, and six tracks (with 12 variations).
Three years after Prologue’s release — and nearly six years since GT4 — the full Gran Turismo 5 launched. Bringing with it over 1000 cars (largely composed of the controversial Standard models), and a huge number of tracks, GT5 offered the massive level of content players had come to expect of the franchise.
Night racing had been a staple of the series since GT1, but GT5 brought dynamic time to the equation, forcing players to adapt to changing lighting conditions. After dabbling with wet tracks in the PS2 era, Polyphony also brought dynamic weather to a selection of tracks.
Sales figures have long been a strong point for the series, and GT5 was no exception: it’s sold a fraction under 12 million copies since releasing almost six years ago, and remains second on the PS3 (behind only Grand Theft Auto V).
Lastly, there’s Gran Turismo 6. An evolution of the basic formula laid out by GT5, it ratcheted up the car and track counts while introducing the (still-ongoing) Vision Gran Turismo project. The track creator found in its predecessor was dropped, to be replaced — 21 months after release — by a much more powerful system.
The new “Track Path Editor” wasn’t without its own controversy, of course. Bizarrely, it arrived as a standalone app for tablets, with no creative tools available to players in game. Compounding some fans’ frustration, the app was limited to certain devices (though we found some work-arounds). With no easy method available in-game to browse others’ creations, we launched the GTPlanet Track Database, which currently sits at a hair under 2500 creations.
For all its improvements over its predecessor, GT6 did not set the sales charts on fire the way other entries in the series had. While 5 million is a figure very few games attain, it represents the lowest sales of a full-sized entry in franchise history (GT2 being the second-lowest at 9.37 million). Even GT5 Prologue out-sold its younger brother, if only slightly.
There were other games too, of course. The PS3 may have been slow out of the gate, but the software lineup is what helped it make up lost ground. Hideo Kojima gave gamers the final chapter in his Metal Gear Solid franchise (until he decided that wasn’t, in fact, the end). Uncharted burst onto the scene, introducing the world to Nathan Drake, treasure hunter. LittleBigPlanet reimagined the platform genre as one that could be infinitely reinvented via user-created content. There were countless Call of Duty titles, as the gaming industry and fans began to favour first-person shooters.
While Sony didn’t win the sales crown during the seventh generation, the PS3 remains a popular gaming platform to this day. For racing fans, it still holds the most recent Gran Turismo title (GT6), as well as numerous multi-platform titles (and free online). Happy birthday, PS3!