There’s got to be a great story behind the rise and precipitous fall of the Sony Playstation, once the industry’s dominant console, but now in its latest incarnation, the PS3, an overpriced also-ran struggling to keep up with the Nintendo Wii and trailing far behind the […]

There’s got to be a great story behind the rise and precipitous fall of the Sony Playstation, once the industry’s dominant console, but now in its latest incarnation, the PS3, an overpriced also-ran struggling to keep up with the Nintendo Wii and trailing far behind the Microsoft Xbox 360.

From all signs, it’ll be a tale of corporate hubris worthy of Greek tragedy, performed in kabuki masks. And fortunately for us, there’ll be more than a few talented journalists from big publications who will write that tale.

In last cycle of consoles, when you wanted to follow the latest news, you had little option but to read gamer sites and magazines, and try to cull bits of legitimate info from acres of PR hype. (You did somewhat better by visiting non-commercial gamer sites or insider-heavy online forums.)

But that was four-six years ago, and since then, the mainstream media has invested far more resources to covering the game industry, with a lot more prominence and seriousness. Which is a great thing for the business and for consumers– but not so good for flailing game companies that seem hellbent on disaster.

Take two stories in recent days; last cycle, they were the kind of thing that you’d have to find on a industry gossip site or fan board– but now, they’re showing up in Newsweek, or on the front page of the New York Times website.

Which is where I discovered Seth Schiesel’s devastating review of the Playstation 3, merciless in its specificity of the system’s many failings, from its difficulty of setup to its inability to multi-task (you can’t download files or play music while gaming), to its cumbersome online services, and more. By all appearances, Schiesel isn’t a befuddled journalist writing about the Playstation merely because his editor assigned him the task, but a passionate, knowledgeable gamer who knows first-hand how poorly the PS3 performs, especially compared to Xbox 360.

Then there’s the jaw-dropping report from the Newsweek blog of N’Gai Croal, which answers the burning question, “Why is the Playstation 3 debuting with so few exclusive titles?”

As it turns out, it’s because PlayStation chief Ken Kutaragi never got around to asking for them. Top publishers Ubisoft, Take-Two, and its studio Rockstar Games (whose Grand Theft Auto III effectively became PlayStation 2’s killer app) were interested in creating exclusive titles for the PS3, reports Croal. But Kutaragi just wouldn’t pick up the phone in time.

“PlayStation’s Japanese headquarters was effectively radio silent,” Croal writes, “and without Kutaragi’s signoff, the normally independent American and European branches had no authority to reach agreements on the exclusives they believed could be valuable to the PS3 cause.” Meanwhile, with Microsoft executives constantly pleading at their door, all three developers made exclusive deals with the 360.

It’s an astounding behind-the-scenes story, especially coming from a reporter as well-regarded as Croal. Who knows what is to follow, but the story so far has been worthy of television series.

By Wagner James Au

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  1. Agree with most of what you’re saying … but it’s a little too early to call the PS3 a Titanic just yet.

  2. Gaines Richardson Friday, November 24, 2006

    To count PS3 out at launch is insane, considering it is still the brand most gamers love.
    Precipitous fall?
    Never happened.

  3. Give it Awhile. Rememer the playstation 2. It was the same story..but it got its tittles such as the socom sereies,Killzone, final fantasy,Black ect. it just takes time… but for anyone who thinks the playstation 3 is gonna be a failiure i would dissagree, and if it turnes out to be a failure i’ll be the first to admit it. Also just remember what the playstation did to the dreamcast, it completely dominated the field of gaming on a consol level. Sony has been the leader of every technological advancement within the last fifteen years of its gaming quest. With time, the titles will come and so will the games that make the consol, the developers don’t know yet how far they can push the systems be it the 360, the wii or the playstation 3.. they don’t come a week after consol release, its like that with every console.. PATIENCE and time are what will determin the winner in this consol war..why be so quick to jump the gun.. cause either way there awesome peaces of eauipment..i’m a fan of all consoles… But playstation has never failed in amazing me…

  4. Yes, this seems absurd. Yes, we know Sony is mismanaged (always has been). That the device is expensive and difficult to produce, etc… But so what? It seems to me the story will be: despite mismanagement and production issues, the Playstation remains the dominant console… Their hubris is validated. Sony isn’t playing catch up to Nintendo… Nintendo has sputtered into a niche product. Sony isn’t catching up to Microsoft, Microsoft appears capable of only selling their system to 20 million per generation with no uptake beyond their own hardcore fan/gamer market. The notion that there’s been some precipitous fall is pretty absurd when units are selling for $4000, $5000, even higher. As soon as (if ever) Blue Ray becomes easier to produce and production ramps, Sony will be selling 3-4x as many units as its competitors.

  5. It’s either incredible arrogance or incredible incompetence. Either the likely failure of the PS3 is well deserved by Sony…

  6. I live in Toronto a very very multicultural city..I was out doing some xmas shopping the night before the ps3 release..and yes i walked passed 3 different lineups at 3 different stores..all were as far as I can tell asian males in their 20s..Thing is it was not a cross section of gamers..it was if they were lining up to see a asian movie star..Strange and I would have guessed that ALL races would have been in line for the ps3. This cant be the case every where but in my little corner it was..

  7. How can anyone call it a failure after one week, this is just sensationalism to pull hits.

  8. IGN, 1UP and Cnet all gave the console excellent writeups, and are some of the most respected online reporters in consumer electronics. This is sensationalism and clearly the NYT are a little inexperienced in this field.

  9. Give it time, the PS2 launch was a disaster, if these guys were real reporters they’d know a bit about history before pre-maturely bashing the PS3. In less than 2 years Sony will own Microsfot AND Nitendo again.

  10. Has anyone noticed that those having been giving PS3 bad credit are so-called “mainstream media”? I believe their main focuses aren’t on the gaming industry. I definitely doubt the credibility of those reviews in that those reporters aren’t even game fanboys. How could they judge a game console from a gamer’s point of view?


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