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January 26, 2007 - There's no doubt that 2006 was a year filled with criticism for the folks at Sony. After all, the company did delay the PlayStation 3's launch by several months in North America and Japan and by almost a year in Europe and Australasia. But that was only the beginning. As the months went by, opponents continued to slam the Japanese giant on a number of different issues -- including the PS3's omission of force feedback in its controllers, the high cost of the PSP and PlayStation 3 when compared to their competition, and the continued downsizing of promises (re: PS3 launch shipments and the system's technological capabilities).

Amidst this very public negativity, the good news seemed to get lost. The PlayStation 2, for example, had a hell of a year in the software department with Okami, Final Fantasy XII, Guitar Hero II, and Bully leading the pack. The PSP too, came into its own with a great lineup of high-quality games like Daxter, Syphon Filter, Killzone, LocoRoco, and Tekken DR to name a few. Plus, let's not forget that, chaotic as it was, the PlayStation 3's US launch was a national media event -- and it seemed to eat up almost as much TV time as the mid-term elections.

But now that 2006 is completely behind us, the big question for most PlayStation fans is, "What will 2007 bring for Sony and its products?" Luckily we have a few ideas, and while we're not psychics or time travelers, our predictions are based on the many years we've spent paying close attention to industry trends. How many of our guesses will turn out to be correct? Read on or you'll never find out...


Duke Nukem Forever Finally Ships... For Consoles

It's been almost a decade since 3D Realms first announced the development of the world's most famous delayed game, Duke Nukem Forever. But 2007 will be the year that the vaporware king finally comes out -- and on multiple platforms at that.

Find that impossible to believe? Well then, consider this: April will be the ten-year anniversary of Nukem's original announcement and picking that month to reveal the project will be done and ready to go before the end of December would be great timing (if you're going to be this late, your schedule may as well have some meaning). Not too long after this statement, we'll see the first "revamped" Duke Nukem screenshots leading into a playable unveiling at July's E3 in Santa Monica.

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This Duke screen came out before your 4th grader was born.

Of course, the biggest surprise in all this will be that Duke is headed for three major platforms: the PC (as originally intended), Microsoft's Xbox 360, and Sony's PlayStation 3. It wouldn't even be that surprising to learn that the game supports downloadable content and will focus heavily on multiplayer functionality.


PSP's Ultimate Fate Hinges on 2007

Sony's portable videogame system may be posting acceptable numbers, but if the distance between it and Nintendo's DS bulldozer continues to grow in 2007, then the PSP's future might not be so bright. There's no better evidence of this than in Japan, where DS vs. PSP hardware sales are separated by a ratio of 3-to-1 (software sales are roughly 2-1). In America, the race is much closer. Here, the hardware ratio falls around 1.5 (DS) to 1 (PSP) with similar stats in all other remaining territories. In total, the global difference between the DS and PSP hardware/ software sales averages somewhere in the 2-1 range.

[IMGW]http://ps3media.ign.com/ps3/image/article/758/758760/igns-playstation-predictions-2007-edition-20070126073456950.jpg[/IMGW]With separation like that, Sony's need to gain ground is of the utmost importance -- especially when faced with third parties that can develop handheld games for the DS in faster time frames for considerably less money. It also doesn't help the PSP that the DS will be seeing major software releases like Final Fantasy XII, Dragon Quest, Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, and Pokémon Diamond later in the season.

The good news for the PlayStation Portable, however, is that Sony hasn't played all of its cards yet. Expect to see some major changes for the system in the coming months. A thinner, sleeker design is just one of the ways that Sony can help its own cause, as is a cheaper price point ($200 is too expensive for a two year-old handheld). A continued stream of high-quality software like Ratchet and Clank, Afterburner, Final Fantasy Tactics, and perhaps even Gran Turismo Mobile would add brownie points as well, as will the GPS device and EyeToy.

If an effort like that doesn't narrow the gap, though, then it's likely nothing will.

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