Sunday, November 26, 2006

No love for Sony

As a fan of Digg, it's been quite obvious to me that in the past few weeks and even months that the dislike of Sony is intense. If Digg was the entire market, Sony would fail to sell more than a few PS3s. Now, I'm not claiming that there is only antipathy for Sony at Digg; Digg is representative of many gamers. I can't say that I know exactly how many gamers are angry at Sony, but there are a few reasons that I can find for this:

  • Price. Sony didn't make many friends by making the 60 GB Playstation 3 a full $600. You want to alienate your fans? Charge them through the nose. This isn't disposable income, here. And increased development costs leading to $60 games don't help either. But what's even worse about pricing your product badly is when it's accompanied by

  • Arrogance. The Sony execs seemed to assume that everybody would love the PS3, no matter what, simply because the first two consoles were great - and let's not forget the PS2. The PS2 is an awesome console. It was simply better than the Xbox and Gamecube, and still is a good platform, with its cheap price, large library of games available for it, and large fan base. Of course, Sony couldn't help but ride on the PS2's coattails for as long as possible; unfortunately, when it came time to develop the PS3, the execs believed so much in the brand that they forgot about

  • Innovation. Seriously, what's new about the PS3? A hard drive, some shinier graphics, Blu-Ray, and a motion-sensitive controller. Oh yeah, Sony got the idea for their controller from Nintendo, and the new controller has no rumble feature. The hard drive? Sony produced a hard drive attachment for the PS2. Sony chose for the next generation to simply include one. Shinier graphics? Shouldn't we expect the graphics to be improved from the last generation? Check. For $600 per unit, I would expect the graphical capabilities of the PS3 to be better than those of the competition. No check.

    So it seems like the most innovation Sony has done with the PS3 is the introduction of a Blu-Ray drive. The thing is, most Americans don't have HD-compatible televisions. Microsoft kept the price of the Xbox 360 low by selling the HD-DVD drive as a separate component. Sony wants all or nothing: You get the Blu-Ray drive, or you don't buy the console. Since the BR drive costs $125 per unit, many fans are unhappy about the prospect of buying a Blu-Ray drive they don't want.

But all is not lost! Theyre might just be something Sony can do to win back disenfranchised gamers:
  • Lower the price. This one won't happen for a while - not until manufacturing costs and component costs drop. Right now, with Sony losing hundreds of dollars on each PS3 sold, Sony can't afford to drop the price without a damn good reason.

  • Wait. I'm serious. Sony has either made a big mistake in the inclusion of the Blu-Ray drive, or Sony is in fact ahead of the curve. By that, I'm talking about the prospect of consumers buying HDTVs. It's possible that in a year or two, consumers might like the included BR drive, which will enhance gameplay a lot. Of course, that's still a long shot: What if Sony had taken Microsoft's route and instead opted later to release a cheaper Blu-Ray add-on? Time will tell.

But what about innovation? Sony is screwed here. Buying a video game console isn't like buying an iPod. You don't buy second or third generations of your video game console. (If you do, you're a consumer whore.) Sony is screwed on the hardware. Sony is stuck with the hardware they got. Sony would just anger everyone more if they released "Platstation 3.1 - Now with more innovation!" Sony has failed to offer a new experience with the PS3, and there's no firmware patch that can upgrade components. Right now, what Sony really needs is a patch to fix their relationship with the gaming community at large.

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