Sony: Victim of their Own Success?

PS3According to VGCharts, there are now 4 million Playstation 3s on the market, while just 1.8 million of them have been sold. More than two million PS3s sit forlorn on store shelves. That coupled with another recent set of sales figues suddenly made me realize the reason (or one of them, at least):

The Playstation 3 is performing so poorly because the Playstation 2 has succeeded so well.

Maybe I’m the last one to realize this, but it finally hit me in the face when Jason posted the latest NPD tally of consoles sales last week. It wasn’t just that the PS3 was being slightly outsold by the 360, or vastly outsold by the Wii; by then, that wasn’t surprising. No, the real surprise was this:

January console sales:

Wii 436,000
PS2 299,000
360 294,000
PS3 244,000

The Playstation 2, in other words, is selling better than the Playstation 3.

According to Wikipedia, there are about 116 million PS2s out there in the world. With the PS2 retail price now below the Wii, that number can only keep increasing. Good for Sony— but not good for PS3. Why should a developer spend a lot more money creating a PS3 game, when it’s way cheaper to make a PS2 game, and the potential audience is so much larger? (This reasoning would partly explain the relative dearth of exclusive PS3 titles— not to mention the extra time and money it’d take any studio to ramp their developers up to the PS3 dev kit.) And just as key, why should a PS2 owner spend $600 to upgrade their console, when they could spend that on an HDTV, or both Guitar Hero games (neither of which are compatible for PS3), a DDR dancemat, with still plenty left over to amass a vast library of PS2 titles?

And that is the tragic irony for Sony. Now over seven years old, the Playstation 2 is by technical standards far out of date, but remains the most successful console ever made. Besides that relatively small subset of early adopters who need to have the latest in technology, Sony has created a platform that’s too entrenched for any successor to supplant it. If it’s technically feasible, maybe they ought to just sell the Blue Ray as a peripheral consumers can hook up to their PS2. Or just create a “PS2 booster pack”, a $200 deck you connect to your PS2 to get most of the PS3’s functionality. Given the market performance thus far, a kind of PS2 Plus Up would probably sell better.

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