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Can the PS3 Be Saved?

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The PS3 hasn’t performed as well as expected. In fact, since E3 last year, not much has actually gone Sony’s way. There was the removal of features, loss of exclusives, extreme price and severe supply constraint… and that’s just leading up to the launch. Once November 17th rolled around, there were people camping outside of Best Buy to get PS3s so that they could scalp them on eBay for extreme prices, and that worked for a while. Then buyers got sick of paying for a system with one semi-desirable game, a blu-ray player with questionable usefulness and a really bad PS2 emulator. They’re not the only one. Gabe Newell, Co-founder and Managing Director of Valve Software, had this to say about the PS3:

“The PS3 is a total disaster on so many levels. I think it’s really clear that Sony lost track of what customers wanted and what developers wanted. I’d say, even at this late date, they should cancel it and do a ‘do over.’ Just say, ‘This was a horrible disaster and we’re sorry and we’re going to stop selling this and stop trying to convince people to develop for it.’”

Even after all that, it’s still possible for the PS3 to turn it all around. With that in mind, I decided to try and figure out a way for the PS3 to make a solid recovery, so I started sending emails and making calls. I talked to N’Gai Croal of Newsweek, Chris Baker of Wired and several others in my quest to see what could change and bring Sony back from this black hole of negative buzz. Here’s what we came up with.

Cut Off the Head

It’s absolutely true that Sony has had better PR moments than what we’ve seen recently. What could be the root cause of all this bad PR? “Sony’s PS3 problems stem not from production issues or even pricing – though both are significant problems, both can be overcome with time and effort,” said Jakub Wojnarowicz, Games Editor-in-Chief of Firing Squad. ” What cannot be overcome without Sony’s active involvement is the rooting out of the cause of these problems: Ken Kutaragi.”

Kutaragi, the father of the Playstation, has made Sony quite a bit of money over the years, so it seems that they aren’t too keen to get rid of him. However, Kutaragi was recently “promoted” out of his job of President of Sony Computer Entertainment (SCEI) and given the position of Chairman of SCEI. Though this “promotion” isn’t attributed to bad PS3 press, it surely couldn’t have helped.

At Least the PS2 Was A DVD Player

No matter what could have happened up to the point when the console launched, as soon as the first really great game comes out, all is forgiven. However, that hasn’t happened yet and it doesn’t really look like it’s going to any time soon. “Nothing in the launch lineup is going to convince people that the PS3 does anything that the XBox 360 can’t, and the killer app exclusives are still several months away,” said Wired Associate Editor, Chris Baker. “The Gran Turismo giveaway was a very smart move—Sony needs to flood the pipeline with more free (or at least very cheap) exclusives like that. The faster they can fill the pipeline with free demo levels of Motorstorm, Heavenly Sword, Warhawk and etc., the better.”

Chris isn’t alone is his assessment of the launch lineup situation. Tom Chick, freelance journalist and editor, agreed with Chris’ viewpoint. “I think their biggest problem is the launch line-up,” said Chick. “They really needed a powerful franchise as a hook, and Ridge Racer ain’t it. The PS3 launch was the absolute worst time to have a developer like Insomniac try to launch a derivative concept like Resistance, which is Half-Life meets Call of Duty. Instead, they should have had a new Ratchet & Clank ready. There should have been a GTA or a Final Fantasy.”

Well, that’s one problem that’s basically out of Sony’s hands, other than pressuring companies to produce faster, or even making their own successful game. However, that may not be very easy considering the tools that most developers currently have.

Better Development Tools and Support

Sony, historically, hasn’t had the easiest-to-develop-for consoles, and this one doesn’t seem to be an exception. Though the PS3 isn’t as notoriously hard to program for as the PS2, it has that stigma hanging around it. Sony has tried to counter-act that bit of unpleasantness by purchasing SN Systems, a software tool development company, but it just isn’t quite there yet.

Erick Schonfeld with Business 2.0 said, “They need game developers to come out with unbelievable games that you can’t get on the XBox or anywhere else. This should be possible given the capabilities of the Cell processor powering the PS3, but programming for the Cell is not something that most developers can do easily right out of the gate.”

Is All This Negative Buzz Just Us?

The one question that keeps nagging at me is, “Why are you being so hard on the PS3?” You know, it’s certainly early in this cycle and no one has lost yet, so why are we all judging? Our friend N’Gai Croal, a Newsweek columnist, had this to say about the subject:

“What you’re seeing is a supply problem. According to Sony, they shipped a million units in North America. I spoke to Jack Tretton, CEO of Playstation America, and he said that they’re not sitting in a factory in China, they’re in the US and on store shelfs or moving through the chain. We don’t have any visibility of what’s going on in Japan, but anecdotally, there are supposedly units on the shelves. If that’s so, then we may have turned the corner on the supply issues and that’s what they’ve said publicly. If that’s the case then we have to see what the demand is, and that’s 45 to 50 days after the launch. It’s a little early too tell. What you’re talking about is the negative buzz that popped up around the PS3 this last year after E3. If they launch in Europe in March, that would suggest that they’ve worked out their supply problems.”

“People like you and me, other game journalist, bloggers and people who post on forums may be typical of the hardcore, but are atypical of the entire population. Absent some sort of real market research, while there is buzz among the console intelligencia, I don’t know how that buzz is reflected in the population of PS3 owners.“

You know, maybe he’s right. They’re Sony after all, and it’s very early. The Playstation name and some price-dropping could turn this thing around quickly. I could look back on this article in a year and think, “How could I have been so silly?” I really think that Mr. Chick summed it up best:

“However, it’s important to remember that stumbling out of the gate isn’t a measure of anything but the first stretch of the race. I’d say Sony has a year to do things differently before things get really dire.“

20 Responses to “Can the PS3 Be Saved?”

  1. Greg Hoggatt

    Here is my take. First off, yes, I think the ps3 can, and will, be saved. If not by us in America, Playstation still have tremendous support in Japan. Here in America, I think it will take the right games such as Metal Gear, God Of War, and Final Fantasy for the casual gamers to want to spend half their month’s earnings on this system. As for sony, having Blu-Ray upping the price of their system, I think was a poor choice. Is it needed for gaming? No. Will it garauntee death of multi-disc games? Probably. But is that worth the cost? I think not. As for playing high def movies on the blu ray, there are concerns about that also. Many people may know that the laser is only working when the system is loading a game. However, for a movie it is working the entire time the movie is playing. So watching a movie is equal to about 30 hours of gameplay on average. Microsoft, in my opinion, took the better route. Don’t add new and expensive hardware if not needed, but offer it as an add-on. Huge plus for microsoft. The people that want it, pay for it, and the people that don’t, don’t pay for it. Makes sense to me! Also, the HD DVD drive for microsoft is designed only for reading HD DVD discs. Therefore, less potential stress on the xbox 360 in terms of watching high def movies. True, there may not be much incentive to purchase a PS3 now. But for hardcore gamers such as myself, that is irrelevant. To be apart of something new and exciting and even a part of the history of gaming, it is worth the 600 dollars (WTF, no HDMI cable?!) The system will eventually have great games that the 360 won’t, but until then, the 360 is a much better investment for the casual gamer… and in turn, have the edge on leading over sony.

  2. To Toughbreed: I wouldn’t say purchasing PS3 is a bad thing I feel that putting too much technology into a gaming system too early may not be the wisest decision to make.
    Ithink if they would have ditch the blue ray drive and put in DVD instead it would have lowered the price point some so normal people can afford it and then five years on down the road. if blueray would be around blue ray format should by then mature in the market.And then produce ps4 with blueray by then the format would be cheaper to sell.
    But I don’t blame Sony for taking a risk on new technology,but sometimes you need to use wisdom.

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  5. Toughbreed

    I’ve been reading alot of the negative issues with the PS3, is there a reason for me to buy this console. Where are the positives, at this time. I’ve been a gamer my whole life and have watched launch after launch, this is by far the worst. My problem is i’am a Sony die-hard do i need to change my loyalties.


  6. I would have to agree that we will have to wait and see in a year as to what happens with the system. The Blue-Ray was a big chance and might not have been the smoothest move for them to go. Maybe could have gone the HD route, which would have been cheaper, and still would have the benefits of games looking good.

    As stated in a previous post the developers are just wanting to port the game to the PS3 instead of creating it for the architecture. The cell processor is still being figured out and until it is developers are going to make games for the other systems cause its less time and money and a lot easier to make the games.

    Might have been a better idea to develope the cell processor for PC instead of gaming. Give it time for people to work on it and actually see what its capable of instead of just using it for gaming.

  7. This is bs, nothing points to PS3 being a failure. Sales is not bad considering the price level.

    Valve is pissed because they can’t just port over their Windows games. The cell architecture is very different from a conventional computer and to really make use of it you can’t just adapt your DirectX code to a new API. They want to crank out just another version of their games for the PS3 rather than take advantage of the new architecture.

  8. haloguy628

    Looks like the Trojan horse Sony envisioned with the Blue Ray drive inclusion in the PS3 died long before it got through the gates.

    As said in one of the above posts, Sony should have just put DVD drive in it and call it a day. At least they would have one winning product. Now it looks like there are two DOA products.

  9. Boo Hoo
    when the ps2 launched in japan, it had very few games with lots of bugs. it launched in the us months later with a nice selection of games with anti aliasing applied. this time around we got the ps3 weeks after the japaneses launch with only a few games worth the while. My predictions are that Europe will have the BEST system lauch in history. their are some very exciting games coming to the ps3 this march that will justify the buy (resistance just wont do it for me). i have yet to purchase a ps3 because their nothing i NEED to play until know. Virtua fighter 5 drops in febuary this will be the beginning of a new day. All hardcore gamers NEED this. You know the type(fighters, shooters and japaneses cabs)
    a VF5 pcb and lindbergh will cost you both arms and your first born, but it makes the ps3 a super cheap route. with sega joysticks releasing in japan this is the only posible way.
    The future looks very bright for sony. with Finalfantasy, japanesese arcades and people who hate microsoft, this will be a easy win and sony knows it. Final fantasy players are very loyal and will follow square anywhere( the reason to buy a ps one) plus, japanese arcade games are off the hook. they are usualy ported but not to america making the region free ps3 a god. and last but not least Microsoft. unlike some i am not 15, i was there when the ish hit the fan. Im not saying i love sony ( nintendo wii..where the hell is my metroid) but i hate Bill gates. windows 95 sucked, windows 98 was the same thing, and the windows runing on my smart phone really blows. they cant make a decsent OS and you expect your xbox to work? besides didnt MS used to make flight simulators??? if you hate sony, buy a wii , buy a mac or wait for segas ultimate comeback… just dont support MS

  10. You know another thing Sony should have did before launch was instead of the blueray drive could have had a DVD drive that would have probably drop the price tremindously and then off set the price with a game with the system. Every gaming console I know of since Atari’s console had a game. I don’t see the point of putting blueray in a gaming console when blueray format hasn’t matured in the market yet,let alone having HDDVD to compete with and end up being like Betamax. However Sony been known to take chances. But I feel when you are losing about $250 per console your taking a real big chance I mean look at NEO GEO or 3DO they took a chance and lost. And it wasn’t because they didn’t make great games it was the price point when they launched. I remember when NEO GEO launched their system went into the store and seen a few and asked the man behind the counter how much it was he told me $700 for the system and $200 for the games obviously SNK made a huge mistake. Sony just hope history doesn’t repeat itself that’s all I’ve got to say.

  11. Initially I was considering a Playstation 3 since I have a PS/2 and after the incidents with the Xbox 360 turning into a brick, but I reconsidered that scenario and ended up buying a 360. So far, the games are good and beautiful (Gears and Lost) and the system is functioning for 3 months without an issue. The Online is excellent. In addition to this with the new one-year warranty on the 360, I feel safer on that issue. I think my best strategy was to let it bake for a year and then I will get one. A PS/2 and an Xbox 360 is a good combo for now. Early adopters can take their chances.

  12. I’ve got a 360 and was planning to get a ps3 (I’m in Europe) but I have kinda lost it for the black box…At the moment the PS3 has nothing thanks to the price tag, and developers say the 360 is easier to make games on…not interested in high def. videos.

    Would you want to bring a game out for a console that is still on in the store? (even on launch)

    Japans’ developers are thinking out the xbox seriously now.

  13. i own a xbox 360 just bought one xmas there and got titles such as call of duty 3, gears of war, rainbow six vagas, lost planet ect n there brill n iv always been a playstation fan favouite bt sonty have messed up and suffer the same fate as saga done…..

    if sony realesed the next gen console the ps4 in the near future and j put a brick in it ppl would still buy it!!! sad but true

  14. yeah right!?!

    I have a ps3, now what.

    There are hardly any games for it and NONE to get excited about.

    The system is way cool but it’s the biggest paperweight I’ve ever owned.

  15. The release titles alone didn’t matter that much. The 360 launched with fuckall, yet people had no problems humming quitely to themselves that Grid Wars justified the purchase.

    People just didn’t want to admit to themselves that they were idiots for buying the 360 right out of the gate. The PS3 is a trainwreck, absolutely, but the final nail in its coffin was the scapegoating it got from people who had more money than sense. The Wii got a little of it too, with people ridiculously bitching about THAT pricepoint, but it at least has something to carry it through the utter stupidity of the hardcore gamer.

    But the PS3’s position right now is so bad that i don’t think a year will matter. Comparing the 3 month-old Wii to the year-old 360? Bullshit. But the PS3? Is a year going to make a huge difference in light of the dev complications with the hardware and the environment? Does a year still look like breathing room when there are two more interesting and easier-to-develop-for consoles for everyone to consider?