Why I hope the PS3 will fail. Sony has deservingly garnered a lot of ill will from gamers over the past two years. Promises have been repeatedly made and broken, technology is being forced upon the legions of fans at their expense but the worse aspect of Sony's next gen? Their arrogance ("The next generation doesn't start until we say it does." Kaz Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America.) towards developers and gamers alike.
Fed by their success in the previous two Playstation generations, the brass has lost sight of what the gamers want. Instead they feel as though their dominance during the past decade has given them the insight and power to dictate what the fans should buy and at what price they should pay. While that may be the case for the initial shipments of the PS3, we will know six - eight months from now whether or not technology drives the systems or game play. I've been a big fan of the PSOne and PS2 and was an early adopter of the PSP (eventually trading it away for the DS) but clearly Sony has lost its way and they don't seem to be getting the lesson with the stagnant PSP.
While Sony focuses on technology it's obvious that Nintendo as with their previous systems has taken the other route, focusing on game play rather than raw power and features. Microsoft has also taken their stance, happily straddling the Xbox 360 between the PS3 and Wii, along with a healthy lead of six million units (or 10 depending on which numbers you believe are more relevant). Technology alone doesn't produce a winning game system, just look at the high-tech failures of previous generations, the Neo-Geo, NEC's Turbo series, the 3DO and the Atari Jaguar all had plenty of horsepower but did not offer the game play at the prices the masses commanded.
Back to the PS3. I've received plenty of questions as the buildup for 11/17 draws near asking me what next-gen system they should consider purchasing. Those that actually want it for the games have been very receptive as I explained to them the different mentality of each camp and ultimately I've steered them to either the Wii, the XBox360 or in some cases, both. Those that have stated they would purchase the PS3 never mention the game play. Instead they focus on how much profit they could make by reselling the unit. More power to them. Anyone who obtains a system stands to make 3x their investment while the Wii is barely doubling the initial investment.
With that type of demand (artificially created by the overall lack of units), one would think gamers are unphased by the costs of the systems. Hell, Ken Kutaragi thinks the MSRP of $499 and $599 are in fact too cheap. What does half a grand buy you? The cell processor and Blu-ray DVD along with the quasi-endless delays the blue lasers have caused for Sony. That's great, but gamers didn't ask for those two pieces of technology and delays. They asked for next-gen games and the premium commanded by these two pieces of technology does not guarantee that. There's also been talk of how hard the new technology is to develop for. Given that the Playstation was pretty much the only success Sony has had in recent years, they saw it as a way to piggy back other proprietary technology into the living rooms across the nation (and the world). Again, the gamers were asking for a next-gen game system, not a hybrid do it all device using a DVD standard that is still in its infancy (and may go the way of the do-do if the HD-DVD format wins out) and a processor that offers minimal improvements over other methods of achieving the same visual effects (for now). And why force the user to pay all that money for a system without packaging the cables (we are talking at most a few dollars here for them to include it) needed to see the visual glory the cell processor has promised (high definition television required)?
I'm not the only one that feels this way. Even though I've been a Sony fanboy for a while, it's time for them to be dethroned. The PSP left a bad taste in my mouth. It's a toss up as to who I should vote for in this current generation. Nostalgia calls for Nintendo to reclaim the crown, but it looks as though the Xbox 360 will reign supreme for the current gen, if Nintendo decides to jump into the technical battles, they may have a shot of dethroning Microsoft in a few years. Sony, I'll be kicking you now, while you are down and after you've turned over in your grave until you stop forcing proprietary technology on the public that really does not offer any benefits. Honestly if they did, everyone would have adopted the MiniDisc, Memory Stick, and UMD (for movies). Maybe they are still ticked that their Betamax lost out even though it was technically superior. Bad batteries are only the beginning... feel the pain. Oh and packaging Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby with the PS3? Are we buying a Blu-ray DVD player or are we buying a game system? How about packaging a game or changing the name to ViewStation 3? What does the Wii package get you? Only a compilation of sports games showing off the immersive experience that is to be had. Now that's a game system.
Sony and TBWA. Now for the original intention behind the rant above. Recently Terry and I were walking through Chinatown and started talking about the AWFUL ads Sony has employed to 'sell' the PS3. The one we saw on Canal Street is the one shown here based in LA. That's great Sony/TBWA. For $599, I'll get to play a glorified Battle Chess mixed with some oh so dated shock value from the mid-90s Mortal Kombat franchise (Battle Chess on the computer was awesome though). Anyway, while we were walking through Chinatown and cracking jokes about how Sony doesn't get it, we came up with 'Pay B3yond', a spoof on their 'Play B3yond' tagline. Too bad some people (if you read the article linked at the beginning of this paragraph) already beat us to the punch. Anyway, I went ahead and created a spoof of the ad, hope no one did this already. The piggy bank photo is by Paul Katz, and the rest of the imagery is provided by Sony. In case anyone was wondering, the font used in Sony's PLAY B3YOND campaign is 'Flatiron'. With the crappy graffiti, stupid subway ads and ridiculous PSP white ads, I don't know how much advertising will be able to change. Sony's ridiculous PR snafus over the past two years (advertisements and executive comments included) has dug a hole so large, the new system won't be able to dig them out of.
Update: Just came across a Fast Company article, Time to Get Trigger Happy, by Dan Heath and Chip Heath authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. Turns out the faux PS3 ad up top is called 'idea judo'. Read more about it in the FC article linked above.