VideoGamer has an interesting bunch of quotes from Sony Computer Entertainment UK's managing director, Ray Maguire. He suggests that future multi-platform games will lead on PlayStation 3 and be downgraded for other consoles. The article points out that "other consoles" obviously means Microsoft's Xbox 360. Maguire said:
"I think we now have an install base which is big enough for any third party to want to develop for. Now the decision making part of development is which do you lead your development on? Is it easier to lead with the most powerful, both in terms of AI and graphics, i.e. PS3 and then just remove part of the functionality for the processors that aren't quite as strong? I would imagine that's very much part of the thought process now from a studio development point of view."
VideoGamer astutely points out that EA's Mirror's Edge leads on PlayStation 3, but looks pretty damn good on the Xbox 360.
"We're already seeing multi-format titles being lead on PS3, including the great looking Mirror's Edge from DICE, but judged on the released demo the game still looks marginally sharper on Xbox 360."
Now let's to a bit of analysis!
The Mirror's Edge example points out how simple Maguire's comments are. The issue isn't nearly as cut and dry as he makes it out to be. Certainly there will be some games that play out precisely like he suggests -- leading on PS3 and being downgraded for Xbox 360. However, there are so many factors involved with game development that it's not as basic as saying, "I will lead on Super Powerful Console, ergo my version for Not As Super Powerful Console will be downgraded (i.e. inferior)."
In the case of Mirror's Edge, the main culprit of (relative) parity is Epic's Unreal Engine 3. Certainly Mirror's Edge looks great on PlayStation 3, but it's hardly surprising that the Xbox 360 version looks just as impressive since that console has had better results with the engine. There are superior looking Unreal Engine 3 games for Xbox 360 (Gears of War 2) than PlayStation 3. Some might argue that Gears is an unfair example since it was developed by Epic, but that just furthers the point that bleeding-edge applications for that engine have appeared on Xbox 360 first.
Even the example I used is oversimplified. There are too many reasons why Maguire's example would not hold true. Oh well, at least it adds some mild trash talking to the console wars.