Blog Post

Behind the scenes: The PlayStation 3 Story

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.

17 Responses to “Behind the scenes: The PlayStation 3 Story”

  1. people are all stupid, PS3 and xbox360 are both wicked systems and whoever thinks ither is going to fall is stupid both sony and microsoft have billions of dollers and would be givin so much shit by somany people if ither threw in the towel so im pritty danm shure this shit ant gunna happin now i like both systems but as everyone agrees ps3 has a bigger brain so to speak and is most definaty not being used to its full potental but just wait and see my best guess is both systems will do well and the differance between the 2 strickly looking at the fun factor the ps3 and its games will eventualy be about as better as xbox was than ps2.

  2. Agreed on the fate of the PS3. Sony designed a system that cost double a normal console, for a slight improvement in performance. That just won’t fly with gamers, when there are normally priced systems that are close to it in specs (the 360) and blow it away in innovation (the Wii).

    However, I’m not sure what the Xbox fanboyism is about. Wiis were sold-out worldwide when this article was written, and they still are. The 360 had sold about 9,000,000 when the Wii was launched. Now the 360 has sold 11,300,000, and the Wii is at 8,500,000. Moreover, demand for the Wii has stayed constant or even increased. Friends of mine were surprised I managed to purchase a Wii a month ago, no less than when others bought the Wii at launch. It’s pretty clear the Wii will take the lead by the year’s end.

    The question in my mind, now, is how PS3-intended games will be distributed between the 360 and Wii. Will Square ride the sinking ship, or give Microsoft a much-needed boost by porting FFXIII to the 360, or maybe even to the Wii? What’ll be the system of choice for the music-gamers — the Guitar Hero, DDR and Karaoke Revolution players? Will FPS developers pick the 360 for its online capabilities, or the Wii for its mouse-like control scheme? These are the issues that could change the course of the console war.

  3. Vapollov

    1: i am an nintendo fanboy. 2: i hate sony. 3: i am dissapointed with the wii. 4: i thought this would be the end of nintendo. For the first time in my life i thought i would suck up to sony’s powerbox….then i saw the price. Ms got lucky being the first. Sony and theN knew what they were up against. Sony got scared and pulled a “lets steal from nintendo” but in the process took out the vibration(irony, anyone?). While sony was b!tch!ng about exclusives. TheN kept mum. Online wise ms is swimming in the deep end, sony is in the kiddy pool, and nintendo is afraid to get wet. Since the release of the 360, ps3 “exclusives” are now being shared. Army of two, ffonline, gta4, and soon (despite my hate for sony i cry for them) MGS4. Sony fans can only live in denial for so long. Psp has failed. Blu-ray will fail. The ps3 will fall. If the bar has been set, jump it. If you are going to raise the bar, dont do it with your hands.

  4. Lord Requiem

    I just bought one. I bought the 360 back in May. Here it is March, and I decided to buy the playstation 3 when I noticed one in the store. I didn’t go there for it, and wasn’t really excited to buy the system for the lack of great games and horrible networking experience. I simply bought it because I LOVE my old ps2 games (unfortunately I can’t play a lot of my xbox games on my 360), and do realize that the system will get better as time goes on. If you don’t need to buy one now, then don’t. You’re certainly not missing out on anything at the moment. I do have faith that Sony will wow us in the coming years with their new gizmo.

  5. Francis Shephard

    Its too early to call it. The brand loyalty by tens of millions of PS2 owners, who have large libraries of games, will assist in reducing sony’s woes to mere category 5 earthquakes. Sony need to see the writing and go all out now, they are the masters, but have come up second to the line, by quite a margin, but there innovators, truly, and thats got to be something which will help them in the console race.

    If they don’t do it, then we’re going to be monopolised in our gaming space by the best platform monopolists in the tech business.

  6. Ha Ha … You remind me of Comical Ali LOL … Thanks for the chuckle Mr.Wagner.
    PS: It’s not a compliment BTW LOL
    PPS: BackwardCompatibility+HDD+clean user interface(XMB)+internetBrowser+bluray+support for third party software(open platform) +ipod’ish elegant design and quality console … >>> whatever “devastating” shortcomings you mentioned. And to quote newsweek blogger’s article( right??) as a supporting argument … hmmm shoddyyy … :)

  7. The author of this article is really talking about 6 years ago the internet wasn’t as big a factor in gathering information for a console as it is today. The internet is replete with story after story of Sony’s short comings. Sony brought this on themselves, at E3 05 they told the media and loyalist fans they would never fracture their market with a dual SKU, but they did. Then the promise of dual HDMI outputs and router functionality… Never happened. “The PlayStation 3 will offer true high definition gaming experience.” Unless you don’t have a 1080p television which the PS3 downscales to 480p. I don’t think anyone is really counting them out, but like I’m sure you all know, “you get one chance to make a first impression,” and no one can deny Sony screwed the pooch with the PS3 introduction to the masses.

    Sony has had a rough time and it’s looking like they still have some choppy water ahead. The PS3 sounds and looks on paper like a technological masterpiece; Cell Processor, Blu Ray DVD ROM are all very impressive. That’s on paper and I’ll make my point.

    Let’s start with the Cell Processor. The Cell wasn’t designed just for the PlayStation 3, IBM is using it in servers and Sony has other devices that they would like to see utilize this processor. But if developers are having a difficult time with dual threads or dual core processors, WTF do you think it’ll be like for a Processor with 8 cores? Seems to me, with the thousands and thousands of lines of code that drive a video game, one mistake in coding could turn into a nightmare on the Cell Processor. “The more complicated you make the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the works…” Captain Montgomery Scott, USS Excelsior, Star Trek III The Search for Spock.

    Blu Ray DVD… Here we go again, Sony wants consumers to buy into another format. I’m not going to go into the VHS vs. Beta debate and the out come of that war. Lets keep it real and talk about UMD’s and Mini Disks. The UMD disk looked like a good idea, but it kills the PSP’s batteries and with no TV Out on the PSP you can only enjoy you $30 UMD movie on a 4” screen. In contrast the Apple iPod Video allows for TV Out and all your media is stored on a hard disk in the unit. Apple’s approach also made the Mini disk a null technology. I’m not saying Blu Ray won’t catch on, but if you do the math, a stand alone Blu Ray DVD player is $1000 or you could buy a PS3. That said HD DVD players are about $400 to $500 dollars, still cheaper than the PS3 and the HD DVD add on for the Xbox 360 can also run on a PC. Since some people have Media Center PC’s and Xbox 360’s would it not seem logical that the HD DVD format already as the advantage?

    Nvidia RSX chipset. For the most part this is an off the shelf part of the PS3. Sony thought the Cell could do it all, and “OOPS,” that just wasn’t the case. Another asset in the PS3 not specifically designed for the PlayStation 3.

    This whole thing comes down to philosophy. Microsoft wanted to design and build a console that developers would be excited to create on. It’s been reported that Epic asked Microsoft for more memory in the 360, a move that cost Microsoft over a billion dollars. Microsoft wanted consumers to have a choice in how they are entertained which explains why the 360 is very scalable, allowing consumers to stream media, download content, watch HD DVD movies or just play games. To describe Sony’s philosophy I will need to borrow an excerpt from the NY Times “Sony seems to have put a lot of effort into cramming as much silicon horsepower under the hood as possible but to have forgotten that all the transistors in the world can’t make someone smile.”

  8. 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?

  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. 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.

  11. 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 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..

  12. 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.

  13. 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…