Oh dear. Sony have announced that it wants to concentrate on a Japanese and American launch for the Playstation 3 this year. Making them look quite silly in light of the “we can do a worldwide launch better than Microsoft” comments it made at the Xbox 360 launch .
It doesn’t even sound like Sony Japan have kept their UK colleagues terribly well informed, given that UK boss Ray Maguire has stated he’s “extremely disappointed” that their new Uber console won’t arrive in PAL (Europe, Africa, Audtralia, Middle East and Far East) territories this year.
So where does this leave Sony? Well, besides the egg on the face for not being able to match the Xbox 360 launch, let alone bettering it – and remember that this was a launch that they have very publicly criticised – news of the delay will have alienated many of its supporters in the affected territories.
Many of the people who’ve been saving up all year for the long awaited and much needed replacement to the PS2 will now just go out and buy one of the other consoles at Christmas.
This will be a bonus for Microsoft, but the real winner, from my point of view, will be the Nintendo Wii.
Rumour has it that Nintendo already have their consoles built and ready. They have made the correct choice; opting for ingenuity over cutting edge. They have no Blue Ray to worry about. They have no Cell processor to worry about.
Sony have made U-Turn after U-Turn with their console. The processor has taken several steps down in speed, and Sony are still struggling with the manufacturing yield on them. Blue Ray has been a thorn in their side, being both expensive and difficult to manufacture, and the console has gone from being a nice looking device to a behemoth 'health grill/toasted sandwich maker'.
Nintendo, on the other hand, have gone for proven technologies with proven reliability. The clever parts of the Wii are the interface, which could be the best thing to happen to gaming in years.
Microsoft are also going to have a good Christmas. All the people that have been waiting for the PS3 to take up next gen gaming, will now look back on their decision and think seriously about picking up the only real next gen console out there.
The Xbox has a good catalogue of games. In fact, the PS3 launch line-up is basically the same titles as the XBox will have a month beforehand. The prices are starting to come down for the consoles now, and have a proven reliability record.
What possible reason is there to buy a PS3? Blue Ray? Nope. I do believe that the Blue Ray camp has shot itself in the foot with all the arguing over copy protection, and finalising the standards. Cell? Well, IBM and developers have both openly commented that the PS3’s Cell will do nothing that the XBox360’s processors cannot do. 1080p? If you have the money to buy a native 1080p display, then you will buy all three devices anyway. Premium content? On this subject as well Sony have failed. The only exclusive content the PS3 will have that is possibly worth waiting for is GT4, and let's be honest, one game does not make a console.
What have the others got going for them? The XBox 360 will get the DVD-HD add-ons shortly, and this is the format that I believe will win the next gen DVD war, purely on a cost basis. The games are released at the same time as the PS3 games and, yes, Microsoft do have some exclusive content worth thinking about. There’s Bungie's games, Bizzare Creations’ games, Microsoft's in house games (like Flight Sim 2007 etc). Microsoft also have the Rockstar boys on board now, so GTA games will launch on PC/XBox first. And then there’s the whole Live experience including Arcade. Sony just cannot match this now or at anytime soon. The only slight downside is compared to the Wii, the XBox is still expensive.
Nintendo and the Wii have one overriding thing going for it: Compared to the other new consoles it will be cheap! There are also other benefits to the history of the Wii. Not only will it be backward compatible with its predecessor like its rivals, but it will play all of Nintendo's impressive back catalogue. Yes, it will be a bit like the Live Arcade experience – a concept which has proved that microtransactions can work – but it has the whole Nintendo back catalogue, and other major players have signed on saying they will host their games on the Wii, like Sega (Nintendo's old rival).
What will this all mean to Sony? I think it will be a strong year for both Nintedo and Microsoft, with Sony probably selling more PS2 unit's than it does PS3. The PS3 is going to have teething issues as well, all consoles do, which will have an impact on their losses. Sony have also realised that the Japanese audience will not queue around the block for the new device, only allocating 100,000 unit's for sale in it's home teritory, with the other 400,000 going stateside.
The console, even at the stratospheric price at which it will launch, will make a massive loss. I just cannot see them recouping on peripherals, hardware, games and online. And to add insult to injury, they have lost the vibrate functionality in their controllers.
The PS3 may just be the nail in the coffin for Sony as it currently stands. In recent months they have cut back on R&D and have seen a lot of their assets fail. The new 'WalkMan' range has not had the impact they where hoping for, neither has the PSP, and the PS3 will be the same.
I can see a time when Sony may just try to cut its losses. It may have to sell off the music and movie businesses and attempt get back to its core. Either that, or the electronics side of the company will be snapped up by one of the other consumer electronics giants like Matsushita (Panasonic, Technics and Quasar brands as well as others) who are the biggest electronics company in the business.
Thanks to Dan at IsThereFood for the help on this article.