Sony disaster


I think I should start this be saying that I have always admired Sony. Their combination of quality, technology and design has been spot on for decades. So I have bought a lot of Sony kit: hi fi, TVs, digital cameras, walkmen, diskmen, video etc etc. Not only that I have also worked on many Playstation games, helping to get a number of titles to number one.

So it has not been good that on this blog I have had no option but to document the slow motion train crash that is the Sony Playstation PS3. Sony have got just about everything they can wrong, they have lost sight of their customers and in doing so they have thrown away their previous dominance of the home console market. The simple fact is that the PS3 is a far less good ownership proposition than its main rival, the Microsoft Xbox 360. Even if they were the same price, which they are not.

And now we have the worst possible news. We are right in the middle of this console cycle so sales volumes should be ramping up considerably. They certainly are for Microsoft and the Xbox 360. So it came as a shock, even to me, that Q4 ’08 PS3 sales were 440,000 down on the same period in 2007. This is an unmitigated disaster and will take a huge amount to recover from if it is not going to be terminal for the Playstation brand.

Sony have their back against the wall in that the PS3 is too expensive to make, it has an uncompetetive software catalogue, its online offering is second best by a long way and Sony have no money to buy the manoevering room they need to fix things.

2009 will be a long and very hard year for the PS3 and I just hope that Sony find some way, against the odds, to get back in the game.


  1. I do not work within the industry or am an industry professional in any way. I’m simply a gamer.

    While I wont argue that Sony have not made mistakes, I believe they have, I would argue a few points you raise above.

    I’d like to know how can you be so sure the Playstation 3 is in the middle of it’s console cycle? I’ve read from many, many sources that Sony plan the Playstation 3 to have a 10 year lifecycle. I personally think 10 years is a little unrealistic although I certainly wouldn’t agree the PS3 is “mid-cycle”.

    Why would the Playstation 3 be a far less good ownership proposition? Yes, the Playstation 3 is expensive, that I agree, but then how much money would you need to spend on your XBox 360 to achieve similar specifications? No Wifi? Hard Disk standard? High Def? plus having to pay to play online.

    For Sony’s Playstation 3, 2009 looks to be the strongest ever year for game titles (most exclusives). I suspect Sony’s Playstation 3 will do fine (given the recession). It’s Microsoft’s XBox 360 you should possibly investigate.

  2. Sony thus far have gone for overlapping generations, giving them two consoles in the market at the same time. So whilst a console may have a 8 to 10 year sales life the cycle before the new model is released is 4 to 5 years.

    And as for Sony in 2009, last year and the year before everyone was saying “next year”.

    Just go to Metacritic and compare the catalogues of the three machines. The 360 has more games than the PS3 and the Wii put together. And Xbox Live is the best gaming portal by some margin.

  3. “Yes, the Playstation 3 is expensive, that I agree, but then how much money would you need to spend on your XBox 360 to achieve similar specifications? No Wifi? Hard Disk standard? High Def? plus having to pay to play online.”

    This argument keeps cropping up.

    What if I don’t want blu-ray? I have a bunch of DVDs still to watch and 90% of them wouldn’t be improved by anything more than scaling. If I was going to shell out for blu-ray I’d shell out for a dedicated blu-ray player.

    What if I don’t need wifi? I have a cable. It works.

    360 does have hi-def now. It also has a hardware scaler which is pretty nifty and it doesn’t cause a black screen that is a bitch to get back from when the tv can’t handle the resolution.

    Why does a hard drive need to be standard? So I can do mini-installs throughout like in MGS4? The Wii doesn’t need or have a hard drive (could do with an optional one tho).

    It’s also already been noted that an expensive hard drive was a massive albatross around the previous xbox’s neck. Same thing is happening to PS3

    And I’m not a fan-boy. I have a 360, Wii, DS and I actually play my PC more. I still have my PS2 set up. I just don’t have money to burn on something I wouldn’t get my moneys worth from.

  4. If you look at the 10 highest scoring titles on both the XBox 360 and Playstation 3 metacritic tables, I can only see THREE platform exclusive titles each. Surely as the XBox has been on the market approximately a year more than the Playstation 3 there would be more for the XBox? Yes, the XBox has many more titles, but are those extra titles worth mentioning?

    LIVE certainly provides a better service than PSN, but then it should considering users pay for it. Even then, the line between both online services and functionalities are beginning to blur.

    The Wii is a “casual gamers” machine so I generally ignore comparisons. I own one with about 10 titles in my collection…. every game “plays” exactly the same to me, but then my “casual gaming” wife and kids love it. It is of course a MASSIVELY successful machine, far more so than the XBox and PS3.

    There are many more exclusive titles released on the Playstation 3 this year than the XBox. This, plus if rumours are true of a price reduction in the Playstation 3 should not prove “disastrous” for the Playstation 3.

    I suppose I’m writing all this because I’m a little fed up with your “Doomed to failure” etc posts regarding everything Playstation 3. Other than that, superb blog Bruce.

  5. @ BC

    Although expensive for Sony, the adoption of Blu-Ray for the Playstation 3 has proven successful for the Playstation 3 in terms of hardware sales and of course from a games development perspective. YES, some people do actually buy a Playstation 3 simply to use the Blu-Ray component. It’s FAR cheaper than buying a dedicated Blu-Ray player. Check your catalogue.

    Quite simply, the XBox should have had Wifi built into it. I’m assuming as the Wii and Playstation 3 have this as standard that it is cheap to manufacture/include etc.

  6. Mike, the PS3 was a cheap BD player. Right now if all you want is the playback and you’re not interested in games, there are much cheaper and better player for the same price of a PS3 (and in some cases even for less europs/dollars/punds/yens) Check your catalogue a little better 😉

  7. Bruce: Pointing people to Metacritic totals to gauge whether a console is a good ownership proposition isn’t very convincing. People buy consoles as a means to access a specific slice of the best games available on them.

    What will be more interesting will be to see how the Killzone 2 bundle does, both before and after the price cut that is likely to follow later in the year. That is an exclusive game with a strong online component, glowing reviews and a big marketing push behind it. I don’t think it’s sales are going to be dented by the (subjective) perception that the 360 has a better catalogue or a better online service. The Call of Duty games have sold millions on the PS3 already, refuting the idea that these considerations matter to real world consumers.

    BC: Isn’t it lucky everyone in the world has the exact same priorities and willingness to paying over the odds for peripherals as you do?

    £300 for a machine that does everything it could be reasonably expected to do, and plays Blu-Ray movies, without the need for any additional hardware purchases down the road beyond maybe a video cable and extra controllers seems like good value to me.

    Of course Bruce will (and has, over and over again…) compare this as like-for-like with the £129.99 Xbox 360 Arcade, even though you’d need to spend at least the price of the machine again to be able to make decent use of the online functionality.

    Come to think of it, how do third party publishers benefit from their customers’ disposable income being constantly sapped by the hardware vendor? Not having to buy a wifi adaptor, or a Live subscription, or to wait around for weeks for faulty machines to be replaced, surely means more money-per-time-period going on actual games?

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