With Final Fantasy XIII going multi-platform and Haze ending up a sad, broken mess, Metal Gear Solid 4 is starting to look like the last blockbuster third-party exclusive the PlayStation 3 has in its arsenal. And although it looks set to stay that way - as publisher Konami has repeatedly reaffirmed that the game will stay PS3-exclusive - rumors keep cropping up that the game will eventually head to the Xbox 360.
Above: Inevitable, or just another unfounded rumor?
Whatever your thoughts on console loyalties, there are some pretty strong arguments on both sides. In the interest of quashing the rumors (and of fanning their flames), we've pulled together the biggest reasons why Metal Gear Solid 4 will never/definitely appear on the 360 in the near future.
1. Konami has firmly said it won't
Although early reports indicated that Konami was open to the possibility of Metal Gear Solid 4 going multiplatform, those rumors have since been quashed - multiple times, in fact. Every time rumors of an Xbox 360 version of MGS4 pop up (which last happened in January, thanks to this posting) a Konami representative rushes out to stomp them back down. The last word on the subject from Konami - or at least the latest word - is that "there are no plans to develop an Xbox 360 version of the game." Period.
Above: This, on 360? Never going to happen, if you believe Konami
Of course, even with a denial that flat, you're still going to have doubters. it doesn't help that - if Konami did have plans for a 360 version of the game - it might not be smart to talk about them just yet. With Sony counting on MGS4 to help sell PS3s, the announcement of a 360 version at this point could be potentially disastrous. Making that announcement after sales cool off, on the other hand, would do minimal damage to Konami's working relationship with Sony and (hopefully) avoid pissing off anyone who bought a PS3 just to play MGS4.
The theory has a ring of truth to it, but it seems to fall apart in the face of one particularly huge stumbling block:
2. Blu-ray wasn't big enough
Of all the obstacles standing between Old Snake and the Xbox 360, this is probably the biggest. During Metal Gear Solid 4's production, series creator Hideo Kojima was quoted as saying that the Blu-ray format just wasn't big enough to contain his vision for the game, and that it had to be trimmed down somewhat as a result.
"For us, we're not still not satisfied with the quality we can do," Kojima said in an interview with Japanese games magazine Famitsu. "There's not enough space. We always talked about where to cut and what to compress."
Above: Hmm. Is this REALLY so different from disc-swapping?
Now, consider the following: Blu-ray discs offer a whopping 50 gigabytes of data storage, while a dual-layer DVD carries around 8.5. Assuming it wasn't fantastically compressed to fit the format, MGS4 on the 360 would need to either suffer noticeable cuts, or fill six DVDs. And that would mean a lot of mid-game disc-swapping, something we haven't really had to put up with since the PSone days.
Then again, considering the short-but-mandatory installations PS3 owners have to sit through at the beginning of each chapter of MGS4, just having to swap out a disc might be a mercifully quick alternative.
3. It's packed with references to the PS3
As early as its very first trailer, MGS4 made its console allegiances known when Otacon declared the Cell processor to be "the key to winning the console war." That assertion didn't make it into the finished game, although there are other Sony-specific touches, like the Sixaxis controller Snake uses to control the Metal Gear Mk. II. You can also occasionally catch his preteen sidekick Sunny using a PSP, and there's even a broken-fourth-wall moment in which Otacon tells you to swap in the next disc, then instantly corrects himself when he remembers that the game is on Blu-ray.
True, it probably wouldn't take too long to scrub all those references for a multiplatform release, or to replace them with Xbox-centric ones. But it does seem as though the game's creators wanted to make it very clear that they've chosen a side.
4. Sony needs exclusives right now
As Sony Computer Entertainment America chief Jack Tretton said during this year's E3, the PS3 boasts no fewer than 75 exclusive games. A good chunk of those, however, are low-profile PSN games, and almost all of them are first-party titles published by SCEA. A lot of them may be unquestionably awesome, but the fact is that dedicated third-party support is more important than ever right now, and Sony's isn't as steadfast as the company - or its fans - would like.
Above: MGS4 factors into these plans rather heavily
Devil May Cry 4, Final Fantasy XIII, Assassin's Creed and even Grand Theft Auto IV were all originally supposed to have been PlayStation 3 exclusives, and all of them ended up crossing over to the 360. The PS3 still got (or in the case of FFXIII, will still get) them, of course, but they were no longer a reason to buy the console over its competitor. As we said in the intro, MGS4 has found itself as Sony's last bastion of third-party exclusivity, which means that a lot of the company's hopes are riding on the game and its stellar performance right now. Again, to announce a 360 version now could be disastrous - not just for Sony, but for Konami's longstanding ties with Sony. And that's to say nothing of the fallout from angry PS3 fans.
5. Why start now?
The PlayStation brand, for better or worse, has always been closely intertwined with Metal Gear Solid. The previous four games in the series (eight, if you count Metal Gear Acid, MGA2, VR Missions and Portable Ops Plus) have all appeared on PlayStation platforms, and while there have been a couple of flirtations with Nintendo and Microsoft in the past, PlayStation is where Solid Snake claims permanent residence.
Above: The game that helped make the PlayStation brand what it is
Now, plenty of Xbox 360 owners also own, or have owned, PS2s. And a good chunk of those have probably played all of the MGS games up to this point. But any who didn't will be coming in at the very end of the story, after all of the most important events in Snake's life have already happened. And although it's possible to enjoy the game without having played its predecessors, Metal Gear Solid 4 is filled with so much exposition and rambling references to earlier games that it's enough to make a die-hard fan's head swim. We can only imagine how difficult it must be to follow for someone who hasn't played the series up until now. (Of course, if you're the type to skip cutscenes, that probably won't matter much anyway - although you will be missing out on the majority of the game).