10 May 2006

Is Sony finally waking up? (Part 2)

The second part of this series (Part 1 dealt with Sony offering support for AAC file formats with the answer to the title being a guarded "yes") has a negative answer I'm afraid.

This week (lots of coverage of this everywhere) Sony announced more information about it's next generation game player - the PS3. This will go on sale in the 4th quarter this year and will cost $499 in the US for the basic version. The version that most people will want will be $599. Now this represents a considerable premium on either XBox360 model. In the UK, we can assume the list price will be over £400 for the top model (once VAT is added). That is before the cost of any games. Given that the games need to pay for the subsidies for the box, we can expect the price of these to be significant.

I wrote about this topic a little in November when I questioned whether the XBox360 heat output and design made it as suitable for the living room as it needed to be. My view at the time was that Microsoft and Nintendo were going to clean up and Sony was going to be left behind (though I indicated that Microsoft's failure to sort out the XBox360 design might hinder it). But I think the news from Sony shows that they have really messed up here. The price is far too high, and the features are not just tempting enough except perhaps for the real hard core gamers. As important, there will be 10m XBox360's in circulation by the time the PS3 is first on the market.

Nintendo on the other hand have taken a different approach to both competitors. They are aiming at a device that is only focussed on gaming, and will cost the least of the three (theoretically). Their marketing goal appears to be to bring more people into gaming (more of the family, etc) rather than be the ├╝ber-gaming console. Despite the new name - Wii - rather than the codename of Revolution - Nintendo also seem to be winning the praise of developers.

Now it is also true that I am completely uninterested in gaming and know nothing about consoles. I do not even have one. I find this topic important because it impacts on convergence in the home (convergence via gaming console/extender-TV or via computer-TV is still in the air). But I have been careful to come to these opinions by looking at the more intelligent comments on the various discussion boards outlining these stories. Despite Microsoft's failings on the XBox360 (inventory particularly, heat perhaps), it is way ahead into the market at a price point that is considered reasonable with some decent features. Nintendo has taken another approach that is also being praised. But I can find few people standing up for Sony from a business perspective. The PS3 looks to be too much, too late - a classic case of overengineering. Sony needs the PS3 to succeed - both for holding it's own in the games market and for ensuring Blu-ray is the format of choice. It cannot afford to fail, but at this point, failure is all I can see ahead. And if it is not to fail in the market, it is most likely that the shareholders will bear the brunt of that failure.

Any gamers out there wishing to argue this point? Please explain why little Johnny's parents will shell out over £400 for one Christmas present for one person, when perhaps they could spend half that and get a console (Nintendo) for all the family and a few games too?

1 comment:

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