Time to shape up, Sony

Just days ago, Tyson discussed the many ways that Sony shot themselves in the foot, which have led to incredibly lagging console sales. He covered just about everything important. I am here to talk about why it hurts so much.

See, I just got a PSP. Before a DS. Shocking, I know, but it was a good deal that I couldn’t refuse. Truth be told, I’ve been pining for one for a long time, though I was constantly afraid that I would regret it months down the road and find a way to obtain a DS.

It has been three weeks, and I love the damn thing. I take it everywhere. I’ve tried out all its features. Somehow I love it so much that I already have five games for it, and I got three of them by trading in old titles at Gamestop.

I have never done that until now.

I’m still rather shocked at myself. There was a time, right around the PSP launch, where I genuinely wanted to see it crash and burn, mainly because of how gamers were enthralled by some strange concept of “sexiness” in a electronic device, while the DS was gearing up to give us some serious quality.

But as much as Sony drives me nuts (and they really, really do), they made a good handheld. It feels sturdier than I was led to believe, the analog nub is easier to use than I was led to believe, and for my own usage habits, the battery life isn’t abysmal. Most importantly, there really are some great games, and if you missed out on the Playstation classics like I did, there are even more. Then of course there is homebrew if you can actually get it to work. To put it all together, I was led to believe a lot about the PSP, and it turns out that like many claims in our hobby, they were blown way out of proportion by typical snarky gamers, many of whom were probably in love with the thing at first, until it became cool to start loving the DS.

Now this is how you appeal to gamers.

So as an owner, I suppose I now want the PSP to succeed, so that I may enjoy prolonged support and games. Considering how it has fared against the DS, I’m still quite impressed by the size of its library, even if most of it is shovelware. Nevertheless, if I have to blame anyone for the PSP’s solid but nowhere near industry leading success, I can’t pin it on gamers who “don’t understand,” or on the DS, or anything of the sort. The blame falls 100% on Sony.

For one, the price point is no excuse. I suppose they could have removed features in order to make it more affordable, but even before its now-cheaper MSRP, the PSP was a decent value for the scratch. Unfortunately for it, Sony had no idea how to convince people of this. It is possible after all – Apple has price gouged the shit out of customers, and yet we all walk around with iPods. Through several means, Apple has convinced us that it is worth the extra money, while Sony has made us believe they aren’t worth any money.

Part of this is because of image. Whatever happened to the once highly influential Sony marketing? PSP advertising has been abysmal. Not only is it hard to find, but what is there is so bad it has turned people off of the handheld for good. Once we had ads that directly attacked the competition (I don’t like them, but they worked) and ads that showed us really good games. Instead, we got PSP commercials with Mexican squirrels and cluster bombs.

Cluster booooooooooooommmmmmbbbbs!!!!

The marketing is like the absolute worst of Sony’s old ads, made even more mature. We’re smarter and far more jaded as a community than we were during the Playstation days. It doesn’t just not work, it works against them.

Sony has also gained an image of laziness. Did you know that the Japanese Playstation Network has an amazing list of downloadable games for the PS3? It’s true, and as of now we likely won’t ever see them. And it isn’t because they’re all Japanese exclusive either. Sony just hasn’t seen it fit to give them to us. They also haven’t seen it fit to give us downloadables for the PSP yet; and when they do come I can’t wait to see the paltry selection.

Then, of course, there is the Dual Shock 3, which we didn’t get right off the bat because Sony wanted to play hardball in court, and then they had to lie to us about their reasoning. We still won’t even get it for many months. Toss in their attempt to remove backwards compatibility, and it isn’t easy to see Sony as a company that actually gives a shit about what few loyalists it has left. Microsoft, for all the mistakes they have made, have managed to fix Halo discs and broken 360’s, as well as provide worthy content for their online service. They’re a big and evil company, but when enough people complained, they did what they should have. No one seems capable of convincing Sony that they have it all backwards. It’s almost sad.

It didn’t have to be this way. We could have had healthy competition in the handheld market. Imagine having a price dropped PS3 with full BC, upscaling for PS1 and PS2, a wonderful selection of downloads and a Dual Shock 3. We could have had great things from Sony, but the way things look we won’t for at least another generation. All this time there was plenty they could have done to save the sinking ship, but nothing logical seemed appealing to them.

“First, we will lose money on each system sold, then we will release a new model. OK, then we will lose more money on each system sold, but here is where it gets really clever – we release a new model. Then again, only our losses are higher. Now here is the kicker – Final Fantasy 13 comes out and we all become jasplillionaires!

I wrote another article like this one about Sony. I was told it was far too harsh. I admit that this may be true, but aside from some allusions to Stalinist Russia, I couldn’t think of anything I was comfortable removing. While Sony’s current trends will probably continue the cycle of no company dominating the console world for more than two generations, they have gone from king to chump with the PS3 in a year’s time. That just doesn’t seem healthy.

Meanwhile the PSP will never catch up to the DS, despite being the best competition Nintendo has ever seen in the handheld market. When you realize how much they could have done to solve their problems, it’s hard not to be incredibly frustrated with Sony, and I feel that such boneheaded decisions should be met with unapologetic criticism. Every company makes mistakes, but right now no one is paying for theirs quite as much.

If Microsoft cancels the Xbox line due to lack of profits, or Nintendo finds the Wii craze dead in its tracks, I’ll be sure to knock on their door. Right now, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, Sony needs a wake up call. PSP sales look to be getting better, and maybe the PS3 will hit its stride with a flood of new games. If not, however, the only thing I can say is “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it”.

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