It's also a play straight out of the Microsoft playbook. That is, they're using their position in the market for movies and movie players to get a leg up in another market, the one for videogames. Microsoft famously did something similar with operating systems and web browsers.
In the currently-ending generation, Microsoft leveraged strengths from Windows to gain advantages in the console market. The results were an impressive development environment, a strong Xbox Live backbone, and a host of Windows-to-Xbox ports which fleshed out the Xbox library. (Not that ports are always good, but they help.)
If Sony really does intend to Blu-Ray as its trump card this next generation, then that's the kind of effort that makes me want them taken down a notch. They seemed to get it right with the PlayStation, when they needed anyone they could get. That momentum carried them through the PlayStation 2, but by that point the game market was a cash cow to be cynically milked harder, not cultivated. Now this Blu-Ray thing could give them dominance in the videogame market with even less effort on making a great game machine and great games.
I'm not sure I follow the logic for your last point. Blu-Ray makes for gaming dominance how? What does it matter if your DVD player also plays games? Is that bad somehow?
To some extent, dominance of the software market stems from a larger number of hardware owners. The theory is that Sony intends to get the larger installed hardware base by selling PS3 as the cheap way to get a Blu-Ray player. This swamps Xbox 360 sales numbers, software developers have no option but to target PS3, and Sony wins for reasons other than its technical merits as a game machine.
Unlike what I believe we are seeing with Microsoft and (to some extent) Nintendo, Sony's efforts are not focused on making the best videogame system they can, but on making a media player and a videogame system that's just good enough to win both markets.
jvm so you're saying that the PS3 is only being made JUST good enough to win both markets... yet when I look at the specs I see support for multi-card formats, built in wifi support, bluetooth support etc... and this is a JUST good enough system?
Anon, my point of view is that what constitutes a good effort at making a good game system has changed.
As an example, the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live have changed entirely what a consumer should expect a console to be able to do. Sony's record in this regard is terrible, and I haven't seen anything that says they're going to change other than the quiz they sent out to game media people recently on what they want in an online game service.
Nintendo has moved to put wireless stations for the Nintendo DS in a lot of places, which is certainly more than we're seeing from Sony and the PSP. Most PSP games are still just ad-hoc, right?
The development environment is important, and the word I've heard (from actual developers) is "PS3 will be less painful than PS2, but still painful". Nintendo is extending the current tools from GameCube to Revolution (so there will be some immediate benefit to people with existing GameCube expertise) and Microsoft has apparently done another good job of making the developer fairly comfortable with their Xbox 360 development tools.
I'd like to hear from Sony that they're committed to outdoing the competition on these fronts, and maybe a few new ones, instead of "good enough".
A list of hardware features is nice, but that's far from telling the whole story.
I really don't understand what the XBOX Live fanfare is all about, and why it is so groundbreaking. PS2 online play is free while on XBOX it's not. Maybe I'm just too cheap to understand that XBOX is such a great thing?
Being in a rural area that doesn't offer decent broadband, I cannot give you a personal example.
XBox Live was always meant to offer a high quality baseline standard for online support. Microsoft worked it out fairly well in advance, encouraged games to support Live, and required they meet the Live standard.
Microsoft, as the standard setter, was able to enforce many features that game developers would not have bothered with, or even could not manage on their own. Such as a uniform account ID, or some of the messaging abilities.
Also consider the praise Live gets versus PS2 online. Live has satisfied and vocal supporters. On the other hand, I cannot recall ever hearing anything positive about any PS2 online service other than mention of the price. (I won't count FFXI, as PlayOnline is itself a pay service.)
Going by the DS, I would say that Nintendo is between Sony and Microsoft in the area of online support. They've tried to encourage WiFi support and access. On the other hand, they've not tried to make any kind of uniform system. Different games have different contact lists, games might or might not allow play against people not on contact, games might offer no communication potential outside of the match performance itself, etc. Nintendo hasn't really learned anything from Microsoft, as they could have managed at least a better job even without needing to charge.
"Also consider the praise Live gets versus PS2 online. Live has satisfied and vocal supporters. On the other hand, I cannot recall ever hearing anything positive about any PS2 online service other than mention of the price."
Well said. Others (zakk) will disagree, but I think that Baines pretty much nails it.