Gaming's Grand Prix: Microsoft vs. Sony in Racing Simulators

Includes: MSFT, SNE
by: Bruce Everiss

This is going to be absolutely fascinating. When it comes to absolute simulation of motor racing, the best game in the world, by a huge margin, is rFactor on the PC. But add in a bit of arcade elements and the two daddies are Gran Turismo and Forza Motorsport. We have moved, in this generation, to a market where you tend to have one massive game in each genre with the “me too” games selling far less successfully than before. But these two games are different because they are platform exclusives, GT5 is only on the Sony (NYSE:SNE) Playstation PS3 and FM3 is only on the Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox 360. And they are both due out in Q4 ‘09. So we have war.

GT5 is the latest game in the biggest selling Playstation franchise of all time, with over 50 million sold. It is famous for featuring a huge number of cars and for absolutely amazing graphics. This fifth edition is due for release on 1 October 2009 and has been under development for many years. For the first time (other than as a test), it features online play, with 16 cars. Also for the first time it will have vehicle damage, a weakness of previous versions.

The original Forza Motorsport was Microsoft’s answer to the GT series, had a Metacritic of 92% and a Game Ranking of 93%. It is famous for its realistic physics engine and had vehicle damage right from this first version. FM2 introduced online play with 8 players and sold 5 million units. Forza 3 is due for release on October 27 2009 and has over 400 different cars and over 100 different circuits.

So we have a unique situation. Two of the biggest game brands going head to head on different platforms. The importance here is not the number of sales that each of these games gets. It is how many machines each of them sell, because these are two of the biggest system-selling titles. Lots of people have been waiting for GT5, for instance, before buying their PS3. And lots of people who have one of these consoles will end up buying the other one as well, just to play one of these games. These two games will increase the installed bases of both consoles significantly.

So which will win? They both will, of course, because they are platform exclusives. But Gt5 should win on the sheer content of the game and the huge amount of polish it has received. FM3 will win online because the Xbox 360 is a far better online platform and because they have solid previous experience in this area.

And the biggest winner is gaming. This is what we want, massive global brands of the very highest quality. Brands that are comparable with the very best that the film and other media industries can produce.