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AIAS' Olin: Blu-ray Not Long-Term Advantage For PS3

How might evolving industry conditions affect the console war? AIAS president Joseph Olin, talking to Gamasutra, has pointed out that Blu-ray is the "obvious short-term differentiator" for Sony over Microsoft, but suggests "if everything goes to digital d
Is the console war reaching a turning point? The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, for one thing, are reaching graphical parity, while software exclusivity, formerly a great differentiator, is becoming more and more rare. Speaking to Gamasutra recently, Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences president Joseph Olin -- whose organization puts together the DICE conference and Interactive Achievement Awards yearly -- pegs another console advantage that might lose its relevance as the space evolves. "I look at Blu-ray being the obvious short-term differentiator, but if everything goes to digital download -- and over time, it will -- then the Blu-ray device no longer has the same competitive advantage, or the benefit is not as strong as the feature is," says Olin. But how long will it take for digital distro to be a large enough force in the space that it blunts the advantage of a disc player, and how long will the growth of downloadable games keep accelerating? "Perhaps maybe five years? Maybe seven years? I think the challenge with digital distribution is more because of piped-to-the-home bandwidth than the technology within the systems," says Olin. "Digital copyright issues have been resolved, largely. The cable companies have certainly shown that you can digitally encrypt and prevent theft of intellectual property over broadband. If they can do it, certainly our industry can do it." Despite any remaining gating issues, says Olin, the current generation is becoming more and more accustomed to content delivery on demand, and that trend will drive the games space as well. But, of course, the PS3 has other movie-centric advantages beyond the obvious. Olin concedes that, in his opinion, conventional DVDs running through the PlayStation 3 look better than the competitive players such as on the Xbox 360. "The PS3 has a nice upscaling chipset that really does make a standard-definition DVD look a little bit crisper and better," he says. "Is that enough to get you to buy one [console] versus the other, as opposed to someone who is buying it for a game franchise?" The AIAS president concluded of the increasingly homogeneous nature of the next-gen war: "Over time, I think you've always seen software drive hardware selections... if [the game franchises are] all available on everything, it's sort of hard to know."

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