I bought a Sony PlayStation the day it was released. I bought a Sony PlayStation 2 the day it was released.
I have been accused of being a Sony Fanboy. I resent the assertion. It is not true.
What is true is that I think Microsoft has often behaved in a way that has been anti-competitive, has exploited its desktop monopoly, and has acted against the interest of consumers. I think it has subverted good technology to further the interest of its own (sometimes) inferior technology.
I also think that anyone having a monopoly in the video games console market and, more importantly, in the content delivery channel, would be against the interest of gamers, and ultimately of all consumers.
So that's the context for you when I say this:
PlayStation is fucked.
When the PS3 costs £300 for the console alone, and you can buy this bundle
for under £200, unless Sony does something drastic, and does it soon, they are royally screwed.
That package, in case Game deletes it or sells out contains an Xbox 360 Premium 60Gb, Gears of War
, Gears of War 2
, Far Cry 2
, SEGA Tennis
. A console with a hard drive, and five quality games for under, for well under £200.
Leaving you the choice of spending the extra £160 on the closest comparable PS3 bundle (PS3 80GB, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift
, Mirror's Edge
, FIFA 09
, Transformers: The Movie
, Prince of Persia
) or on beer and crisps. Of course you might choose to spend £20 of it on a Christmas package with two more (slightly lower quality) games and an additional controller. But still, £140 for beer, and crisps, eh?
Clearly the people at Sony are not stupid. Clearly they are aware of their costs and their margins. But they seem to be overlooking one simple fact... critical mass. There is a point in any console generation whereby a winner is decided. It's not decided by GfK, or NPD. It's not decided by the platform holders. Its decided by popular consensus. And once that consensus is made, the loser is just that. The loser! And no one wants to back a loser. So after that point the loser's sales take a nosedive.
Last Generation, Microsoft lost. But they were smart enough to realise that they'd lost, and quickly regrouped, launched a smaller, better looking and better performing console and got a leap on the next generation. Sony took the more sophisticated approach of including HD media capabilities and a powerful new processor architecture. But by the (much delayed) launch of the PS3 a pattern had established itself... games were developed on the platform that was available (the 360) and ported to the newcomer (the PS3), and they sometimes suffered for it. Other times the PS3 versions looked no better than their Xbox counterparts.
So, despite the PS3 allegedly being capable of generating superior games, few of its titles actually are superior.
This would matter much less of course, if the financial playing field were level. And at first it was, kinda. Despite its high ticket price, the PS3 had several hardware advantages that meant that once a 360 was accessorised to be comparable the costs were not that far apart.
But 360 quickly came down in price, and in a seemingly floundering response Sony cut its hardware spec and removed backward compatibility. No one liked that, many of us had to eBay our PS2s to be able to afford a PS3.
OK, Microsoft cut its hardware spec too: the Arcade 360 machine is an abomination, existing solely as a sop to the very lowest income gamers, but incapable of running Microsoft's vaunted NXE (until the arrival of the new Jasper motherboard apparently. Ed)
But the Premium with its 60GB hard drive and its low price point is the thorn in the PS3's side.
Despite statements to the contrary
, Sony may plan to fight back with price cuts come Easter - no one pre-announces price cuts because doing so kills sales until the new prices hit the stores. But as the heady borrow-and-spend days of the naughty noughties turn into the morning-after hangover of global recession, people want a bargain. And accustomed as they have become to buying now, paying later, they want that bargain NOW... in time for Christmas. And the PS3 just isn't it.
Sony don't seem to realise this or, if they do, they don't seem to care. The PS3, they tell us, is well worth the price they have given it. And it might be. After all, the PS3 is no more expensive that the original PlayStation was at launch - meaning it's cheaper in real terms. (And the SEGA Saturn, after all, was £399... but then that didn't really work out for them.)
But the fact remains that who, but the most blinkered of Sony aficionado would truly look at the PS3 and the Xbox 360 right now and decide that a standalone PS3 is worth £100 more than an Xbox 360 with five top quality games?
As a result, the PS3 is going to get spanked at the cash register this Christmas. If it does, and make no mistake it will, then Microsoft will shout long and hard about it. That just might be enough to convince us, the amorphous video game-buying public that the generation is won. And if it does convince us of that, it will be.
The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and does not reflect those of SPOnG.com except when it does.
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