As I've mentioned before, I believe Sony is in for a rude awakening with its PlayStation 3. The company's expectation that video game consumers will flock to the PS3 because of its technical prowess was disastrously incorrect, and the notion that Sony can sell hardware that is too expensive and difficult to develop for is something it has yet to address.
And while some Sony fanatics have called me biased, I assure you, I'm not alone in my assertion that very little can save Sony and the PlayStation 3.
Yoichi Wada, president of game publisher Square Enix, told reporters Friday that Sony must change its strategy if it wants to see the release of the PlayStation 4. According to Wada, "Sony first unveiled the PS3 as a mighty home electronics product. Then, after some badgering from game companies, it shifted the position of the console closer to a game machine. (The future of the PS3) would be tough if its marketing strategy is not straightened up."
The verdict is in: one of the most important video game developers in the business is saying the PS3 is in trouble. Isn't that enough for Sony to overhaul its entire strategy?
Square Enix is extremely important to both Sony and the entire video game industry. With such classics as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest under its belt, Square Enix has proven to appeal to both Japanese and American gamers--a feat that should not be overlooked. In fact, Square Enix was a significant player in the PlayStation's original success.
But today, the company is releasing hits on most major platforms and has been successful enough to wield power in the video game industry. And if Wada's criticism of Sony's marketing strategy is any indication of the future, Square Enix may be losing its patience with Sony and the PlayStation 3.
Square Enix is not the only developer that has issues with the PlayStation 3. A few weeks ago when Madden 08 was released, many gamers were upset with the poor PS3 performance compared with the superior Xbox 360 version. "Rob B." from EA Sports explained that the issues can be attributed to the experience developers have had with either console, but some players and reporters were skeptical if that was the entire truth.
Sony relies on developers. As Nintendo learned in the previous two generations, going it alone is not the best solution when you are trying to sell hardware. And while Sony is, by no means, "going it alone," it's running the risk of losing the support of developers who find the high development costs, steep learning curve and poor revenue gains increasingly annoying.
Wada was correct in his assessment that Sony really doesn't know where it's going and how to market the PlayStation 3. First, the company tries to tell us that it's a multimedia powerhouse that will become the centerpiece of our living room. Realizing the Wii was beating it up with a solely gaming angle, Sony tried to tell us that the PlayStation 3 was the world's best gaming console because of that, oh so amazing, Cell processor. Sure, it may be great, but I haven't seen anything spectacular come out of it.
Finally, the company seemed like it realized we don't want to pay so much for a game console, "dropped the price" and then announced that a new higher capacity version will be coming out for the old price. What a deal!
One of the most common arguments I hear against my (and Wada's) assertion that the PlayStation 3 is in trouble, is the notion that I'll "just need to wait and see what comes out next." The reference? Exclusive PlayStation 3 titles like Killzone 2 and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots.
Sure, I'll concede the fact that these games could significantly improve the PlayStation 3's footing in the console wars, but I'm not so quick to assume that they definitely will.
As anyone who has ever played a first person shooter on the PlayStation 2 or 3 knows, it's not that great of an experience when compared with an Xbox 360 FPS. First off, the analog sticks are poorly engineered and secondly, the L and R buttons simply don't work as well as the Xbox 360's triggers. That said, the PlayStation 3 FPS experience is far better than its predecessor, but still lacking when compared with the Xbox 360.
And as for Metal Gear Solid 4? Well, I guess you're right, I'll just need to wait and see. But if Sony doesn't get its act together, it wouldn't surprise me if the game is released on the Xbox 360 with a few improvements thrown in. Sales dictate exclusivity in the video game industry, not loyalty. My guess? MGS4 on the Xbox 360 by Christmas 2008.
The PlayStation 3 is nothing more than a lost puppy. Is the PlayStation 3 a living room solution? Is it a video game console? Is it both? If so, which is more important to the target market? Is it too expensive? Is it too hard to develop for? Are developers losing patience? These are the questions Sony must answer. And if it doesn't hurry up, Wada and I agree: it's in deep trouble.