Can Sony PS3 Get in the Game?
November 12, 2007
Holiday Season Critical for Year-Old Console Amid Aggressive Push,
It's crunch time for PlayStation 3. But Sony's got a plan: to promote
its platform beyond video gaming.
With its most aggressive marketing push to date, Sony Computer
Entertainment America is aggressively positioning the PS3 console as
the center of consumers' home entertainment. Along with an equally
impressive price cut -- to $399 from $599 -- PS3 finally may be ready
to challenge rivals going into the holiday season, when, according to
NPD Group, nearly 50% of video-game products are sold.
"It's not a system that's just about one thing," said Peter
Dille, SCEA senior VP-marketing and PlayStation Network. "The
campaign speaks for itself in that it's really trying to demonstrate
everything PS3 can do -- it's bursting at the seams with all this
PS3's marketing will center on gaming but will also highlight features
such as its built-in high-definition Blu-ray player, downloadable
content options and compatibility with PSP.
While one holiday season can't make or break any console, most agree
this is a critical time for Sony. "It's the second season, and
you're now past the early adopters and tapping a more general
consumer," said Michael Gartenberg, analyst with Jupiter
Research. "Sony is facing not only a reinvigorated Nintendo ...
but also Microsoft."
Sony has been outdistanced by both of Sony's next-generation
competitors. PS3 had sold 1.9 million units in the U.S. through
September. But Wii sold more than double that: 4.5 million units in
the same time period, according to NPD Group. And Xbox 360, which
bowed one year earlier, outsold PS3 by a factor of three, with 6.8
million units in the U.S. in two years.
'Icing on the cake'
Gone are crying babies in the PS3 ads. Instead, PS3's latest TV spot,
driven by music from heavy-metal band Saliva, begins with black vinyl
hands punching out of the PS3 black box, some with clenched fists,
some wielding weapons and at least two brandishing sports equipment.
PlayStation Home, Network, and Blu-ray also appear morphing in and out
of the box. Mr. Dille said several more TV spots are under development
and will feature different types of content, entertainment features
and third-party partnerships. TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, which
created the ads, is defending its agency-of-record status in a review.
Sony is also working with retailers to craft end-to-end Sony product
packages, such as a Sony Electronics Bravia flat-panel TV bundled with
a PS3. Mr. Dille said those types of deals will continue through the
season. But what about gamers who still just want to, um, play games?
Analysts say that while add-on features and special deals help market
a console, game content still drives the majority of sales.
"Our research shows that the most compelling reason a consumer
purchases a new gaming system is to be able to play the games that
they're eager to get their hands on," said NPD analyst Anita
Frazier in an e-mail interview. "All the other features are
certainly icing on the cake, but game content is still king when it
comes to inspiring sales."
A strong holiday could go a long way for the PS3. Sony has already
seen a "very large uptick in sales across the board" after
just one weekend of the lowered $399 price, Mr. Dille said.
"We're feeling really confident, and there's a great sense of
enthusiasm here." He added that many in-house think the $399
price point will make a big difference.
Some analysts aren't so sure. "They created a product that was
priced out of the market, and the end result is the Wii came up and
stole their share," said Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group. "Wii
was outselling them 6-to-1 midyear, and while that's now closer, at
2-to-1, if you were once the leader and now you're the 1 in that
equation, that's not a good thing."
Beth Snyder Bulik
be fair to Sony, the actual hardware was never really going to be in
much doubt. And after your first few hours in the company of the
PlayStation 3, you're likely to be impressed.
initial thoughts went through this reviewer's head. Firstly, the
machine's really quite heavy. Secondly, aesthetically, it's really
quite smart. And thirdly, and surprisingly, is that given the
immense processing grunt under its glossy, buffed-up exterior, it's
very quiet in operation. It certainly puts the Xbox 360 in the shade
in that department.
we switched on for the first time, following as simple a connection
procedure as you'd expect with a games console, we signed up for the
PlayStation Network and downloaded an advised, albeit not
compulsory, update. This involved us getting the machine online,
which was thankfully straightforward. A built-in wireless receiver
or the Ethernet port at the back are your two choices, and we tried
both, finding the machine adapted to either at breakneck speed.
download and application of the upgrade took care of the first five
minutes or so, but eventually we got to spend some time with the
browser interface. This bears striking similarities to the one Sony
employed with the PSP, and given that the two machines have a degree
of interoperability, that's perhaps unsurprising.
was interesting to note, going through the menu, just how Sony has
made it easy to support elements you'd usually not expect it to be
so welcoming of. The option for an OS install took us aback, and we
were pleased to see the Folding@Home client built in too. But on top
of that, the likes of keyboards, mice, Web-cams and such like - all
of which can hook up via the assorted USB ports - are very easy to
support is well-rounded, too. That 60GB hard drive inside the
machine can be filled with music files, for instance, and several
codecs are supported. Likewise, there's Blu-ray and DVD playback.
The former - the reason why the machine is so over deadline and so
over budget - actually turns out to be a bit of a trump card. While
we've not had the pleasure of many Blu-ray players, we're informed
by colleagues who have that the PS3 is one of the finest, if not the
very best, Blu-ray disc playback device on the market, to the point
where many are picking up the PS3 for precisely that reason, rather
than for its gaming prowess. It's aided - again, for the time being
scoring a point over its Microsoft-produced rival - by the native
inclusion of HDMI, meaning full 1080p output is well within the
realms of the console (a new model of the Xbox 360 is expected to
add this feature shortly).
games, which ultimately will be the biggest influence in the rise or
fall of the machine, we'll look at in a separate review. But there's
little doubt that the PS3 is capable of some incredibly
impressive-looking games. There's no obvious outright classic
available as this review was written, nor a clear one on the
horizon, but Sony's track record should ensure that the shortage
isn't a long-term one. There's also, of course, Sony's equivalent to
Xbox Live Arcade, whereby games can be bought and downloaded onto
the console online. A free game was available at launch and you can
expect lots more, for sub-£10 price tags, in the future.
there are still problems here, and they break down into price, the
competition and backwards compatibility. In reverse order, then, the
European model has been compromised slightly and the hardware that
allowed support for PSOne and PS2 games has been cut back. As a
result, software emulation is doing more of the work, and it renders
a massive chunk of the Playstation back catalogue incompatible at
this point in time. Given the price premium Europeans are paying, we
find this a complete and utter disgrace.
for the same money as the PlayStation 3 goes for, a gamer could pick
up both a Wii and an Xbox 360, and arguably they'd get better value
that way. £425 for a games console is, in the modern era,
unacceptable, and ironically the only people who will initially get
real value from it are the aforementioned Blu-ray player customers.
Gamers aren't getting the best end of the deal.
it all leads to point one: price. £425 is a massive price tag and
one that, while the hardware may justify, the competition makes a
mockery of. Sony is, infamously, making a heavy loss on each unit
sold at the moment too, which may yet tie its hands for future price
cuts, and that leaves the PlayStation 3 in a very weak place. The
machine is genuinely excellent and in many ways it's better
your expectations for a safer future
can ....... The World in Your Hands