The Xbox 360 has been the leader among serious gamers among the current generation of consoles.
Microsofts powerful system took a lead over the PlayStation 3 by debuting a year earlier. Considering the lack of games and particularly exclusives upon the PS3 release, Microsoft essentially had a two-year head start on Sony.
Nintendos Wii has outsold the 360, sure, but its glaring lack of games aimed at adults has put it behind the 360 among hardcore gamers. The Wiis sales advantage has also waned, with sales numbers leveling off. After releasing some gems like Super Mario Galaxy 2, Goldeneye and Donkey Kong Country Returns, Nintendo has announced few big-name titles upcoming this year, and Microsoft and Sony have unveiled their own motion-based gaming peripherals
The PS3, however, has gained some ground on the 360 during the past two years with a mix of exclusive titles, a free online gaming service and online access to Netflix and Hulu.
This could be the year when the PS3 actually catches and perhaps surpasses the 360 in the eyes of hardcore gamers.
Sony has slowly built a strong audience with a strong mix of new exclusives and old favorites. The company that dominated the gaming world during the PlayStation 2 era returned to its roots with sequels in the Metal Gear Solid, Gran Turismo, God of War, Killzone and Ratchet and Clank franchises. But Sony has also built impressive new franchises with inFamous, LittleBigPlanet and Uncharted, the latter becoming one of the top series in gaming.
Sony has already announced sequels to LittleBigPlanet and Killzone for the first two months of 2011, and follow-ups to inFamous, Uncharted and Resistance are planned for later this year. The PS3 debut for the Twisted Metal series is also scheduled for 2011. Sony developer Team Ico will release Ico and Shadow of the Colossus: The Collection for the PS3 as well as a new game, The Last Guardian.
Microsoft, meanwhile, has just sequels to Gears of War and Forza Motorsport on the schedule among its high-profile franchises.
Im sure Microsoft is putting plenty of time and effort into building its Kinect production, but that is a risky strategy. It would be a mistake not to take notice of the Wiis problems: A gimmick such as motion-based gaming will only go so far. You must build a mix between games aimed at your hardcore gaming base and ones aimed toward families and non-traditional gamers.
Sony has also narrowed the gap with its online options.
Xbox Live offered Netflix exclusivity for a while and had a huge subscriber base for online play.
But while Xbox Live still has a very good partnership with ESPN for live streaming games, Sony has leveled the field by adding Netflix and including Hulu Plus exclusively for now. The PlayStation Network is also free, making it potentially more attractive for gamers whose initial trepidation with the system was a lack of standout games. With a high number of great games coming out for both systems, why pay $50 a year for Xbox Live when the PlayStation Network is free?
Ultimately, creating the best games will determine the winner in this current console war. Sony looks like it could win 2011 based on its current release schedule, and it could be on its way back to the top of the gaming world.