Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
24 September 2006
Post-TGS, revisiting Sony's troubles
With the Tokyo Game Show 2006 finally over, has Sony improved its standing? In my mind, only a very tiny bit. A couple months ago, I suggested a few things I felt Sony needed to do. Here's where we stand with those:
  • Explain the network strategy - This is still unclear. My working assumption from here on out is that they really don't have a strategy.

  • Explain backward compatibility - No news on this front, from what I've read. I fear that this will end up being a feature added on to the system sometime in 2007.

  • Explain game pricing - We know Activision is looking at $60 games, and I'm guessing others will follow.

  • Publicize exclusives - Ok, the ones I know I'll want are Metal Gear Solid 4 and Resistance: Fall of Man. That's pretty slim, although the Xbox certainly got by on and Halo and Halo 2 plus a few others.

  • Without Blu-Ray, what does PS3 do that others can't? - No news here either.
I now find myself in a position that I suspect many long-time Sony users find uncomfortable: Watching a number of interesting games show up on the competition, here the Xbox 360, and hoping that they eventually show up on a Sony machine. For an entire decade PlayStation users have had the cream of the crop served up regularly, but Microsoft has disrupted that system. I don't blame Microsoft -- as far as I can tell they've been just as cutthroat as everyone else. I blame Sony for not understanding their own success , too easily taking that success for granted, and failing to understand Microsoft's successes in the passing generation.

What Xbox 360 games am I longing for? In particular, I'll offer that BioShock has some interesting features, and certainly isn't hurting for good graphics. (Rather interesting 15 minute demonstration here on Eurogamer. Found via Cathode Tan.) And certainly Dead Rising has gotten a lot of praise from the press and general gaming public alike. Will the PlayStation 3 also get Half-life 2: Episode Two, which is currently slated for the Xbox 360? I hope so, since Valve has hinted at a complete Half-life 2 package for Sony's machine, but just when and how that will happen is far from clear.

I'd been waiting until after the TGS to comment more on this subject. As I said earlier, there are some bright spots for Sony.

However, they should have used the time in the TGS spotlight to explain why they have things under control. Perhaps the reason they didn't explain is that they couldn't -- they don't have a network strategy, they don't have backward compatibility under control, they have lost key exclusives that 5 years ago would have been unquestionably on the PlayStation, and worst of all they bet the farm on Blu-Ray and that appears now to have been a horrible choice.

Labels: , , ,

--Matt Matthews at 23:19
Comment [ 14 ]

Comments on this post:

I feel that Sony is scrambling to find some cohesion. It's just like you said, they're not explaining everything they need to in order to calm everyone down. Their PR is a bit lackluster as well, they've been taking jabs from a lot of different areas. It seems, however, that the only thing people are worried about now are the shipment numbers, which as of right now are only 400,000. They still haven't even specified what portion of those are going to be the "core" system and which portion are going to be the better one.

They are really struggling right now, someone needs to step up and steer the ship back on course, or else they're going to regret losing so much ground to Microsoft and Nintendo.

The games look decent though, not particularly my cup of tea, but interesting nonetheless.

By Blogger Bigelow, at 25 September, 2006 02:13  

Can I just say my one big gripe with the PS3, and this may sound completely and utterly stupid, but the fact that they had to steal the Spiderman font for the logo just seems ridiculous to me. Who came up with that idea? Of all the fonts in the world, they pick one of the most recognizable. Am I the only one who thinks about these things?

By Blogger Bigelow, at 25 September, 2006 02:59  

Yeah, I really don't understand people's fixation with the font Sony use for their logos. Sure, it may be odd that they are the same to Spiderman or other franchise, but it's not important to me as a whole.

What does concern me is the lack of clarity from Sony. Let's take the pricing as an example. How, with the launch only a matter of months away, can we not know about the pricing? The longer they don't address this the more people will suspect bad news. As Matt mentioned in his post, Activision are looking at around $60, and there's a news story in IGN suggesting it could go as high as $75. If you don't provide clarity people will fill the gap with their own speculation.

You can sort of see this with Wii. Before Nintendo made their pricing announcement people were talking about the possibility of $200 or less as a realistic possibility. Most people with any sense took this with a pinch of salt, but nevertheless, when Nintendo announced a not unreasonable price of $250 *some* people were disappointed.

Now Nintendo did the right thing. They announced everything all at once so everyone knew where they stood. Now we don't have to worry about it. Sony, on the other hand, continue to keep people in the dark thus creating uncertainty. Uncertainty makes people unhappy, uncomfortable and liable to acting out, which is why anti-Sony sentiment is so high at the moment.

By Blogger GamingHobo, at 25 September, 2006 05:25  

I just don't understand their strategy. It's like they suddenly don't care about the mainstream consumer who usually only buys one console if that. Hell, I only ever owned one "launch" console, and then waited for the others to drop considerably. Even then, I generally could only afford two current-gen consoles at a time. How the hell am I going to afford a console that might as well cost the same as buy two consoles at launch? I certainly can't and it doesn't seem likely many except the truly hardcore will get it.

I only know two people that are getting a PS3. One person is getting one for MGS4, and the other just because it plays blue-ray. The former is a hardcore gamer and the latter is a hardcore movie collector. Neither one seems mainstream to me.

This has been said a million times, but DVD was a major shit for movies. Blue-ray is just an quality upgrade. If you look at the path music took, record, cassette, CD, and mp3, you see a continued shift toward portability. Movies should have similar a similar pattern.

VHS to DVD follows that trend, but DVD to Blue-Ray has no such gains. Only hardcore movie buffs are willing to shell out lots of money on a medium that just improves quality. Make it more portable or cheaper and you can capture the marketplace. Look at Laser Discs. They had better quality than VHS, but they were the size of records. They didn't follow the pattern of smaller, more portable media. Although you could argue that movie portability isn't as valued by consumers, I think that will increase, especially given the increasing number of "amateur" collectors. Look at the popularity of TV shows on DVD or Tivo. Some people can easily spend 50-100 dollars a month on ITunes. That's roughly 4-8 albums a month. Given the opportunity, consumers will generally take portability over quality based on human tolerances.

Video games are already succumbing to that, look at the Emulation scene. Would the Live Arcade, Virtual Console, or whatever the PS3 has, arose without Emulation? I doubt it.

Consumers consider portability more valuable than quality when deciding to switch media. Sure quality matters, but the quality increase would have to be insanely high in order to outweigh portability considerations.

Anyway... yeah, I'll stop the rant now. As you can tell, I won't be getting a PS3.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 26 September, 2006 01:32  

"Without Blu-Ray, what does PS3 do that others can't?"

Sony seems more interested in trying to keep people from asking "What do the others do that PS3 can't?"

Didn't Sony announce adding motion/position detection to the PS3 controller after the Wii's controller was revealed? Microsoft and Nintendo both have online game (emulation, remakes/ports, and originals) stores, and now Sony has mentioned similar?

As for Nintendo's pricing, I never really believed the $200 rumors. At the same time, I think the Wii would gain a larger install base if it launched at $200, and that $250 is both too high for what it offers and too high for the claimed casual audience. The Wii needs to be priced at a point that makes it a viable second system. Too low and Nintendo loses money. But too high, and people just won't bother.

By Anonymous Baines, at 26 September, 2006 02:29  


I think the DS went through a similar trial. It launched at $149 and didn't fly off the shelves in any significant way. When it hit the sweet spot at $129, people started gobbling them up. Sure, Nintendo wants to make money, what business wouldn't? But you may see the price go down to $200 after the holidays to keep those people buying. $250 is still a decent price if you ask me.

In terms of the PS3, they seem like they'll be losing so much money on every system. Every person I know who is actually planning on buying a PS3 can really only afford to get one game at launch. How are the profits from one or two games sold for each console (10-15 through its lifespan) going to make up for the possible $250-300 lost per console? I'd like to see the math behind that.

By Blogger Bigelow, at 26 September, 2006 14:00  

How are the profits from one or two games sold for each console (10-15 through its lifespan) going to make up for the possible $250-300 lost per console? I'd like to see the math behind that.

I guess the first concern is to ensure they're losing $250.

Number two is that it must be that important to ensure you've got installed user base. In other words, the price is about the long term. How many games will you sell over the life of the game? Rather, how many additional games will you sell by being the first in-home "latest gen" system in a household? How many extra consoles will you sell by being able to brag about your Xmas sales [than you would have at $700 or $800] -- You know, "PS3 sold X units over Y months, making it the favorite latest-gen system [by random register Z]"? How many more blu-ray discs will be sold...? Blah blah.

I'd say if it doesn't make sense, you probably don't have their big picture. I'm not saying it's going to pan out for Sony, but typically a large corp isn't going to willfully act especially irrationally. Dumb, yes, irrationally? Less often.

By Blogger rufbo, at 26 September, 2006 14:18  

I think it's worth remembering that the PS3 is designed with multiple income streams in mind. It's not just software sales anymore. It's micro-transactions, movies, music: the whole lot. That's Sony are happy to take a loss. It may not be smart, but that's why they are doing it.

By Blogger GamingHobo, at 26 September, 2006 18:36  

Nintendo can easily drop the price of the Wii when they want. They will probably also drop the pack-in game at the same time. They can drop the retail price $50 without it technically being a legit $50 drop.

Nintendo sees making a profit from the very beginning as more important than growing the user base. (Nintendo will make a profit on each piece of Wii hardware sold, including the console.) This means they don't lose money even if a system doesn't sell well. But it also means they don't take the actions/risks that could net them a larger user base, thus gaining more game sales as well as more game development. And a larger piece of positive market mindshare.

By Anonymous Baines, at 26 September, 2006 23:39  

Sony takes a different approach. They put focus on leading the market, and will take early losses in order to have major income in future years. (As the market leader will eventually get the bulk of both game sales and game developments.)

The PS3 adds a further complication, in that they are trying not only to keep their console war lead, but are also trying to establish Blu-ray as the future DVD standard. Success here will net them insane amounts of money for a decade or two. Each PS3 sold is a Blu-ray player sold, meaning they grow the install base for two separate markets with each PS3 moved. The more Blu-ray players Sony can claim, the more support they can get for their format.

Heck, haven't they already cut the Japan PS3 price, to something more competative to the Xbox360+HD-DVD player?

My guess is Sony is willing to eat insane loses by this point, if they see the need. They're betting both their videogame market and a chance to dominate the movie market. Success in both would make them insane amounts of money. Success in one would keep them okay. Failure in both could cripple them. So they'll eat what they thing they have to, in order to get that install base.

By Anonymous Baines, at 26 September, 2006 23:54  

I think Sony had an idea with investing in the Blu-ray, but made a serious mistake in not investing money into the rest of the system.

But without Blu-ray, the PS3 almost seems like it can do nothing new. I've even heard rumors that the graphics aren't anything that the Xbox 360 can't do. And without Blu-ray, the system price would drop, Sony wouldn't be losing so much money on every system, there would be more product to sell on launch day, and with their version of the gyroscope controller and hard drive addition, Sony would have a one-up on the other systems.

Now while Sony's excuse for having Blu-ray is more or less major product placement for a product that come five years from now might turn into another Beta, is also to be able to give game designers an opportunity to use a much bigger disk for their games. I think the Blu-ray size is 50GB? I might be wrong. But one of my teachers the other day mentioned, that unless that designer is making really complex, whole worlds for his game, it's not necessary.

I know I will get a PS3 eventually, simply for MGS4 and (whenever it comes out) Final Fantasy XIII, but I'm certainly not going to buy one on launch day. Not for $600. It's not worth it.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 27 September, 2006 11:40  

Sony's strategy of building expensive game consoles that are cheap blue ray players will please the people looking for a cheap blue ray player, but not those looking for a game console they can afford. So I think Sony is really more focused on owning the movie format market more than the videogame market, as the potential returns there are probably much much larger. Not to mention that if they own the de facto movie format, there really wouldn't be any competition in that space, nor the associated huge outlays for R&D to keep themselves competitive. All gravy, past a point.

Will it work? Nobody could say at this point. It does seem to hinge on everybody having to have a blue ray player, but even at my tech centric place of employment, I don't see people clamoring to have one. I certainly don't want one, I'm still happy enough with DVD's.

By Blogger BruceC, at 27 September, 2006 14:16  

Re: Bioshock

Why is it that every game that promises revolutionary improvements to AI fail so hard? Looking at that demo I could see the state machines before me. For instance, when the "little sister" gets scared of the player she runs and hides behind the "big brother", fine. But after the player has retreated beyond the magic "safe distance" she starts her routine from the beginning and has quite clearly forgot that you ever existed!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 28 September, 2006 05:47  

Their online strategy being fuzzy is absolutely dire for Sony right now. I'd place it just under Blu-Ray's success for worrisome details and well over the price of the console itself (I'm not honestly concerned with the price of the games - I think they'll conform).

Xbox Live and XBLA are easily Microsoft's major trumpeting points. Even more so than their existing titles right now. While I'm glad to see some interesting screenshots finally arrive, they don't come close to completing the picture.

After that I want to hear a reason why Blu-Ray really has an edge. Sure, it's got storage space - but it's costlier. Sure, it's supposedly more 1080p friendly - but you can barely find those sets anymore. Right now everything between the formats come out as a draw.

By Blogger Josh, at 29 September, 2006 22:09  

Contact Us

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]



Warm bile sold separately:

Browse Curmudgeon Gamer Memorial Library


Internet game search:

Classic: 02/2002 to 10/2005

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?