Will PlayStation 2 survive Xbox onslaught?

Sony's PlayStation 2 superconsole will be dwarfed by Microsoft's upcoming Xbox. But Sony could have the last laugh
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Sony's experience in the console market and its presence in the entertainment industry will help its upcoming gaming console, the PlayStation 2, stave off competition from Microsoft, Sega and others, according to a new report.

PS2, due to hit the UK next month, will face a technical onslaught from Nintendo's GameCube and particularly Microsoft's entry into next-generation gaming, Xbox. But Sony has more going for it outside of technology, according to a report this week from analysts MicroDesign Resources.

Xbox "calls for a system two to five times faster than the PS2 by clock rate and polygon performance metrics," wrote analyst David Carey in the report. "[But] if content is indeed king, Sony's deep presence in the content stream and market momentum in game machines will make it a formidable opponent in Microsoft's run at the living room."

The PS2's technology is impressive in its own right, but ultimately it is only a gateway to a wider array of services -- which are really what will make or break the market, according to Carey. The console will have the ability to play DVD movies as well access the Internet at high speeds.

"The sale of the PS2 console is simply the first step in selling an ongoing set of services and nongaming content to consumers," Carey wrote. "For the long term, Sony is not so much selling a platform as it is subsidising an infrastructure for content, where the war will ultimately be raged."

PS2's strongest competition will be Xbox, according to experts. The console will not see launch until late next year -- assuming there are no delays -- but it is still expected to have the technical edge over PS2.

Xbox will run on Nvidia's NV25 core graphics chip, which should run at eight to ten times the speed of the fastest current PC graphics cards, with additional speed gains from Xbox's more efficient operating system.

The main processor will be a custom-designed x86 Intel processor running faster than 600MHz, with a front-side bus running faster than 133MHz, according to Intel's George Alfs.

The end result: demonstrations of Xbox technology, on a far inferior platform, stunned observers at the recent Game Developers Conference in San Jose, California. "Our impression, shared by others we interviewed after the presentation, was that all of these demos -- even those run on the NV15 -- looked notably better than most of the demos we have seen from Sony for its PlayStation 2," said MDR analyst Peter Glaskowsky in a recent report. "If the Xbox retains this advantage when it ships, it is likely to be very successful."

But Sony is likely to remain on top, according to Glaskowsky. He suggested Nintendo and Sega are the console makers who should be watching their backs.

Sony has been hit by the worldwide shortage in high-tech components and was forced to cut its initial shipment of PS2s to the US in half. The company claims the problems will not affect the UK, however.

Sony last week announced its full slate of games for the PS2's UK launch.

See Gamespot UK's PlayStation2 channel for full coverage.

Which will rule, PS2 or Xbox? To have your say online click on the TalkBack button and go to the ZDNet News forum.

Let the editors know what you think in the Mailroom. And read what others have said.

Editorial standards