Yesterday, I wrote a piece titled Top Ten Playstation 3 missteps and I was surprised by the sheer amount of response, not only in the comments section of the post, but on N4G.com, a gaming news website. Apparently, I struck a nerve.
What I'd like to do now is another list, thist time, a top 5 list addressing common misperceptions and inaccuracies which I gathered from reading the various comments.
5. I'm not a fanboy of any system. Why is it that people immediately think that I'm an Xbox or Nintendo fanboy because I said something negative about Sony corporate and their various marketing and PR missteps? I never said in my list that I think the PS3 is a piece of junk or that it is a bad gaming machine. I like the PS3, just as I like the 360 and Wii. They're like children, I love them all, just in different ways. People need to be able to separate fair criticism of a console and its corporate structure without the knee-jerk reaction of calling somebody a "fanboy" which offers nothing to an intelligent debate. (see "How to Tell if You're a Fanboy")
4. Online play wasn't ready at launch. The bulk of the comments I got on this one had to do with the fact that games like Resistance Fall of Man did have online play on day one. That's true.
However, my point is that there was no overarching master plan for online gaming when the console debuted. Sony kept saying that they have everything the Xbox 360 has, including online gaming, but it was disingenous to assert that they had something akin to Xbox Live.
Last month, as I mentioned, Sony announced "Home". It is not ready yet, but at least we know where they're going. I'm very intrigued by "Home" and think it will be a great success. That doesn't change the fact that, to date, there is no online community.
3. Blu-Ray was a mistake. This is definitely something that you can disagree with as it's my opinion. However, my opinion is based on the assertion that the early adopters of the PS3 are videophiles who care about Blu-Ray, not the average gamer. What struck me in the comments is that I was proven right time and time again.
The comment would usually go something like this: "What do you mean who cares about Blu-Ray? Like 80% of those who have purchased a PS3 so far!!!"
Exactly my point. The early adopters are the people who care about Blu-Ray and that audience is quickly saturated. Sony, by focusing on the bleeding edge technology, did appeal to a small but fanatical group of people; people who care more about getting a great deal on a Blu-Ray player than on the gaming capabilities of the machine. However, because of Blu-Ray, the console was delayed, ended up costing what it costs, and may ultimately become obsolete as combination Blu-Ray/HD-DVD players become increasingly available over the next few years.
The average gamer doesn't care about Blu-Ray. And, by average gamer, I'm not talking about the majority of people reading this. You are most likely in-the-know hard core gamers. I'm talking about my generation, the 30 somethings who have always played games but remember a time when graphics didn't matter and computer games came on eight 5.25" floppy discs.
Even as recently as RE4 for the GameCube we saw a game that came on two discs. So, the argument that developers need all of that storage space to make great games is bunk. They could just as easily release a game on three DVDs. Changing a disc is not a big deal unless you grew up in a time when you don't remember a TV without a remote control.
And, one more point on the Blu-Ray. Many of the comments regarding Blu-Ray came from people who obviously have some disposable income. They would brag about their 1080p TV and how they could never again watch a normal DVD. To those commenters: I'm glad you're doing well and I don't begrudge you, however, once again, the average gamer doesn't have that luxury.
The PS3, because of all of this, truly appeals to the young single man, the most hard-core of the gaming public. And, that's fine. But don't think that because you care about Blu-Ray, 1080p vs. 1080i, and contrast ratio, the average gamer does, too.
2. The launch lineup for the PS3 was and is weak. There was a lot of activity swirling around this one as many tried to defend the PS3 launch lineup. As I mentioned in my piece, launch lineups are "notoriously sparse and many bad games can be forgiven." Apparently, many people chose to not read that disclaimer, and simply went about spouting off how the PS3 launch lineup was the best for any console ever, or how the PS2 launch lineup was also lacking. On the former, well, it is pretty much the consensus that the PS3 had a very weak launch lineup. On the latter, sure, the PS2 did have a fairly weak launch, and I don't think that the PS3's weak lineup will hurt it in the long term, just as the PS2's didn't hurt it in the long run.
My point is that because Sony didn't have a blockbuster game or games at launch, despite a six month delay, they lost face. It was seen as yet another chink in the armor. In other words, there was no compelling reason, from a gaming standpoint, to buy a PS3 at launch.
1. The PS3 is too expensive. The majority of the comments that came my way on this one had to do with the fact that based on what's inside the PS3, $600 is actually a great bargain. I completely agree with that. My point is that Sony shouldn't have used such expensive things inside the PS3 because it was overkill and excluded the masses.
It's like somebody offering to sell you a $5,000 computer for $3,500. You think that's a great bargain, but then ask, "What can it do?" The answer, "check email and play solitaire."
I'm not looking at it from a value standpoint. I'm looking at it from a "how much will this cost me to get one in my living room and what can I do with it once I turn it on." When you look at it like that, $600 becomes prohibiitve (much less the cost of a game). This notion feeds into my thnking about Blu-Ray, singlehandedly, the thing that made the price of the PS3 what it is (you could argue it's the CELL processor, but it's nothing in comparison).
Sony should have waited a year or two to come out with a Blu-Ray version of the PS3. They should have released the current PS3 with a DVD player, which would have allowed them to potentially charge less than the 360. Then, as the price of Blu-Ray diodes drop and availability issues dissapate, BAM!, Sony releases a Blu-Ray PS3 in 2009.
In this way, they would have pleased the gamers first, and that's what I feel Sony failed to do.
Summary. I'm truly flattered that my opinion piece garned so much response. I enjoy intelligent conversations about people's perceptions of the gaming industry. But, please remember that missteps doesn't mean that Sony is dead in the water and don't assume that I think that the PS3 is a crappy system. I simply wanted to write a quick and easy-to-read piece summarizing what I feel are Sony's missteps and why that has led to a rather embarrassing launch. And, if you don't think it's embarrassing just ask Ken Kutaragi.