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How Sony Should’ve Launched the PlayStation 3

9 Comments | posted

It’s been a little bit over four years since Sony released the PlayStation 3 back in November 2006 to awaiting gamers. In that time, the video game giant has done a very good job in gaining on the early market share its main competitor was able to grasp a year prior to Sony’s launch. Despite all of that, the PlayStation 3 still remains around three million units shy of the Xbox 360 with the gap closing every day.

However, even while taking all of that into account, I firmly believe that Sony could have overtaken Microsoft and been hot on the heels of the Nintendo Wii had it just made some minor changes to its product and avoided certain changes post-launch as well. Obviously this is opinion alone and impossible to prove, but I guess that is what makes it interesting to think about.

I’ve narrowed the gap down to five potential issues that surrounds the reasoning behind Sony’s slow start and the lack of overtaking the competition by this point in the generation. If you disagree with any of them or have some ideas of your own, feel free to include them in the comment section below.

DualShock 3 instead of Six AXIS

Prior to the launch of the PlayStation 3, Sony revealed that the company would not be going with the patented DualShock controller, but instead, a motion-based controller that felt more tacked on than anything else. Instead of biting the bullet via an out-of-court settlement, Sony spewed out a bunch of PR babble about how the motion tech was incompatible with the rumble technology and thus rumble wouldn’t be included in the controller.

lair

Considering Sony eventually went on to release the DualShock 3 with both features included, this was one of the more negative aspects to the PlayStation 3′s campaign. Though some users (including myself) will tell you that the lack of rumble wasn’t a big deal, we’re definitely only kidding ourselves. Having the force feedback when playing video games is an important aspect in immersing the gamer into the experience.

Had Sony just swallowed its pride and paid for the technology, gamers could have enjoyed a much more sophisticated controller out of the gate and avoided having to pay out of pocket fees down the road to upgrade. I think this may have deterred a lot of potential buyers upon launch since they could get full feedback support from the competitor at a fraction of the price.

Launch Price

This is probably this biggest no brainer on the list. Obviously launching a premium console at $599.99 is a daunting task to look forward to. The general public in the midst of a recession was not willing to pay the price of admission to this entertainment masterpiece at such a high cost. However, had Sony released the product at $399.99 with a premium model at $499.99, I ultimately believe that not only would the launch have been significantly more successful, but it would have allowed Sony to get the pricing down quicker through software profits coming in quicker than they were.

kutaragi

I understand that ultimately this would have resulted in a much higher loss per unit sold, but when you’re selling three to four more million consoles than expected, you’re also raking a ton of money when it comes to licensing and first-party software and peripherals. I believe you have to take into account that with four million extra consoles in homes, you’re looking at a sale of two and a half million more SIX AXIS controllers and eventually even more DualShock 3s upon their release as well.

It’s no secret that Sony would have still be in the negative, but in the long run the market share would have been in their favor and the extra expenses like controllers, blu-ray adopters, etc,. would have balanced it all to be roughly the same as it ended up being cost-wise.

Marketing

This may be the number one detriment to the entire company. Upon the launch of the PlayStation 3, Sony was releasing the most absurd and creepy advertising trailers, commercials and billboards around the world. To be honest, the company was a complete laughing stock. Not only did its advertisements feature a baby crying in an empty room, but they didn’t make any sense either.

Enter Kevin Butler — VP of Marketing Brilliance. Butler just so happened to push Sony to that next level when they introduced him for MLB: The Show. He was an immediate hit with fanboys, non-gamers, and even fanboys of other consoles. Without a shadow of the doubt, Kevin Butler revolutionized the way the PlayStation 3 was marketed and sold to the consumer in the form of advertising. Through comedy, sarcasm and time traveling abilities, Butler was able to push families into purchasing PlayStation 3s and getting some gamers to pick up a second console for the bedroom.

Posted in Editorials, News |

Comments (9)

  • TRF

    Good read. I would have liked to see those games stay exclusive and backwards-compatibility still in the console.

  • O-EXTRA

    You do make some really good points that most likely would’ve kept Sony on top of MS and possibly even Nintendo, but I’m glad they made the bad decisions they did. The reason to this is they were too use to being on top and simply got lazy. Back when they first came out with the PSX, they were hungry and ready to give the public what they never had before and blow their brains out with pure entertainment. With the PS3, they just simply expected everything to take care of itself.

    Take PSN for example, that sucked major balls when it first came out, and if it wasn’t for LIVE, I believe it would still suck just as badly today. I just wish MS had something to compete with Home, then maybe they would pick up the slack with that too.

    All I’m saying is sometimes when certain ppl stay on top too long they forget about the struggles and journey they went through to get there (that ultimately made them the person/group/company they are today). So I’m glad they fell a bit, now they should start to feel hungry again and provide us with top notch entertainment like they did in the old days.

  • Reneid Klein

    Great article, Dean. I think the last two points are the most important. Pretty much every person I know that currently wants a PS3 and hasn’t gotten one is because of the last two. The price also is a third factor but not the main. A co-worker of mine has been wanting to get a PS2 for a while because his kids want one, the library is huge and the games are cheap. He also has been wanting to play the games. However, he has three kids and a wife to support and can’t buy both the PS2 and PS3 because he did NOT have one last gen and early adoption was out of the question.

    So he can’t justify spending $300 on a system where the library is a fraction of the size and the game prices are a multiple of the PS2′s. He told me if the PS3 played PS2 games as well he’d have jumped at the chance but as it stands now, he will have to wait for another price drop for HIM to justify the purchase.

    For another friend he loves games like DMC IV, GTA IV, etc and had they only been on PS3 he could have gotten it. By when he can get those games on a system with HALO which is the one exclusive he cares most about, it makes the difference. I’m sure having DMC, GTA, etc would have weighed more than just HALO. But again, he couldn’t rationalize paying for the 360 AND PS3 with only a few exclusives he cared about and no PS2 BC. It wasn’t worth the price.

    For some, the price was justified at $600, $500, $400 or $300, it depends on where you stand financially or what’s the entertainment you are getting worth. To me, it was worth $400 so when it got to that price I bought one because it had a large enough library of both exclusive and multiplats and it had all the features I wanted in an entertainment system outside of gaming. Bluray, free online, multimedia playback, exclusive games AND multiplats made it as easy choice for $400 to me.

  • Wally-G

    Backwards compatability was cut not due to cost but due to the Ps2 being too much of a threat to Ps3. At the time Ps3 was being outclassed by Ps2 in game sales left and right, so to get rid of competition and force Ps3 people to buy Ps3 games they cut the feature. Came out of Jack Trettons mouth himself in an interview a few years back which you could probably find if you search hard enough. Getting rid of it didn’t lower Ps3′s price because the inclusion of Ps2 hardware was a non factor price wise by that time, again from Jack’s mouth.

  • cameron

    Its amazing how immature the games industry is – everything from gamers to the gaming press, it really shows how childish the entire games consumer industry is. Sony’s initial library wasn’t remarkably lackluster, it was a hell of a lot better than any starting lineup of any other console, people often forget that because they compared Sony’s lineup to the 360′s 2nd yr lineup, but if you actually compare the initial lineups not only to the 360, but also the original xbox, the ps1 and ps2 it was a lot stronger with Resistance and Motorstorm not behind it.
    As for the immaturity of the industry, its amazing how when a company comes out with a product that is clearly superior and therefore justify a higher price, the gaming press and gamers alike cried and whined louder than any baby you’ve heard in a grocery store. Just because last year’s model was cheaper doesn’t mean this year’s model is relatively similar in quality – I think everyone agrees that in so far the best ps3′s were the launch ones with the extremely rich feature set. It was as if they had come up with a supercar that was cheaper than all the other super cars (blu ray players) but people kept comparing it to last year’s family sedan, and complained the price was higher. The gaming press was the biggest culprit of the demonization of Sony for actually trying not to go completely bankrupt on a more advanced console – if they sold the ps3 200 bucks cheaper they wouldn’t have the cash flow to sustain it and the playstation division would be bankrupt. Is that what spoiled brat gamers and gaming press people would want?

  • Makidian

    All of the points are nice to think about but only one of them is truly valid and that’s the inclusion of the DS3 at launch. They should have swallowed their pride and settled so they could launch with a controller that felt familiar and not cheap.

    If they had launched at the prices yo suggest they would have taken too much of a hit in production costs and it would have killed the brand because no amount of software, accessory, and peripheral sales would have been able to make up the cost difference. The price it launched at would have been more acceptable had Kutaragi not treated it like it was a persons duty to spend that much on a Playstation console. Had there been a bit of humility involved the gaming press probably wouldn’t have rode them so hard and sales would have been better.

    Complaining about BC is just as absurd, especially at this point. The PS3 has closed the gap on 360 sales faster than it did when there was BC, mainly because of the price, but if BC was that big of a concern then it still wouldn’t sell well. On top of that awesome remakes of awesome games are coming out. If BC was still integrated in every console then those remakes wouldn’t be possible. Also, there is no reason, other than to save space, to play PS2 games on the PS3, There is no advantage to playing it on the PS3, you get practically nothing for tradng in a PS2, so there is no reason why anyone should get rid of their PS2 just to play the games on a PS3. PS3 game prices are cheap as hell used on places like Amazon so there isn’t much a price difference between used games on either system.

    Lost exlusives suck but who cares. SE has yet to release a good game this gen on a console, GTAIV wasn’t that awesome and neither was DMC4. Yeah they were lost to Microsofts pocket book in order to cut into PS3 sales but it didn’t matter much since the PS3 is rapidly closing that gap and will lkely pass it by this time next year. The PS3 also has the most top notch line up of first party software of any gen since pobably the SNES/PSOne days.

    The only thing that Sony could have done to better the launch of the PS3 would have been to muzzle Ken Kutaragi six months prior to launch and not been so cocky. Not airing the creepy commercials would have helped as well because really, WTF was up with that baby and the crows. Sony adapted very quickly to the poor media reception of the PS3, consumer wants and needs, and many other factors that have lead to them regain market traction very quickly. Nothing they did would have cut to deeply into Nintendo’s lead though, except maybe releasing Move at launch instead of this fall.

  • plmko

    The Six-Axis was included instead of the Dualshock 3 because Immerision (the patent holder of rumble technology) was asking for royalty fees for the inclusion of rumble. Sony thought that adding the motion device would have been sufficient to make gamers forget about rumble, they were wrong of course.

  • Justin

    Great feature Dave! Definitely agree with marketing. The Play Beyond stuff was too weird. Imagine if Sony launched with Kevin Butler! ha

  • Geoffrey

    This article kind of shows why Sony doesn’t pay much attention to web media, and why its shareholders should be thankful for that. Releasing the SixAxis saved Sony tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in license fees. Immersion naturally assumed that as the DualShock 2 had rumble, the DualShock 3 had to have it as well. As some fools in the US government had granted them a practical monopoly on rumble function in game controllers (a concept the company did not invent), Immersion felt that they could name their own price for Sony’s license fee. By demonstrating that the PS3 could, and would, be sold without Immersion’s IP if the price wasn’t reasonable, Immersion’s bargaining position was greatly weakened. The company ended up settling for a fee that was only $25 million dollars more than they had already been awarded by a US federal court in a previous patent infringement trial for the DualShock 2 (which was pending appeal and wasn’t money in the bank yet either). Sony did settle the case out of court, but because of the SixAxis Sony ended up paying a lot less than it would have otherwise. It was a risky, but ultimately very smart move. Similarly the price of the PS3 was as high as it was largely due to the Blu-ray player. While a lower price would ultimately have resulted in more first year sales, it is far-fetched to suggest that Sony or the PS3 would have been better off without it, especially when you consider that the PS3 was instrumental in dispatching the competing HD-DVD format. That alone was worth any lost sales as far as Sony is concerned. Sony could have left PS2 backward compatibility in the product easily enough, but it makes no sense to argue in one paragraph that the company should have lowered the launch price by $100 expecting to make it up in software sales, and then later in the same article argue that Sony should have continued to enable gamers to play the games they already owned on their PS3s, instead of buying new ones. The release of HD versions of PS2 games shows that many newer PS3 owners have little interest in standard-definition games, which works out fine for Sony. As for the lost exclusives, that was more a function of the greatly increased development cost for games, combined with the lower installed base of HD consoles. The publishers initially favored the XBox for the simple reason that it had sold several more consoles, but financially speaking the HD gaming market was small enough that you really had to ship on PS3, XBox, and PC to have a good shot at making a profit unless someone was subsidizing you. The era of third-party exclusives is largely over, although the PS3 gets more than its fair share now due to its market share in Japan. Microsoft is losing exclusives too, just when it needs them. Sony also was fortunate in that most of the lost exclusives, including DMC4 and FFXIII, didn’t turn out to be great games, and wouldn’t have been big console sellers anyway. I do agree about the marketing. It took a while for SCEA to find its stride, but you never know what will work in marketing. Stranger ad campaigns have succeeded.

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