Sony's PS3 Ark
Sony is building an ark.
All around, the flood waters are rising. Sony no longer is the dominant name in portable music, televisions or stereo equipment. Their namesake is sinking in a torrential sea of small, nimble companies. What is Sony to do?
All eyes fall on the Playstation, the only division of Sony to be profitable in quite some time. Once the laughingstock of the company, the unlikely bastard child of all things Sony; the Playstation name is now the company’s life preserver, and all divisions want to hold on for dear life.
Sony has created the Playstation 3 (PS3), not as a game machine, but as a vessel to float the company into new lands. They are burdening the system with a new movie format (BluRay) unheard of levels of digital rights management for music and video, Memory Sticks and more.
The results are already starting to show. A year ago, Sony promised to launch the PS3 in Spring 2006. Instead, they waited till Spring 2006 to announce that they won’t be launching the system until November 2006, in Japan, with other regions perhaps as soon as Spring 2007. Why? Digital Rights Management issues with the upcoming BluRay format.
The other divisions of Sony are dragging the PS3 down. The Playstation Portable (PSP) suffers from the same illness; too many hands in the basket. The PSP was designed around a slow-loading UMD format for distribution of movies which makes the machine less than ideal for game playing. Compared to ROM cartridges, UMDs are too slow loading and consume too much battery time. They make the machine more fragile and introduce problems with additional moving parts. In short, they are a sacrifice to the movie industry arm of Sony; giving up on the optimal game experience for the opportunity to sell you movies you probably already own on DVD.
Sony hopes that the PS3 will carry their formats of movie and music distribution will become the de-facto standard by attaching them to the PS3. 100 million PS2s have been sold in the last 6 years. One would think that using the Playstation’s success to launch a new standard format may be a good plan. The problem isn’t in the plan, it is in the execution. Delays and compromises will push the PS3 back while consumers looking for a game system will pick up another available option, such as an Xbox 360 or Nintendo Revolution; systems designed to play games first and foremost. Consumers looking for some of the other features the PS3 is to include, such as High Definition movie playback, will pick up more readily available and cheaper options, such as HD-DVD.
The delays brought about by making compromises to the core functions of the system will put a great strain on Sony. Currently, their ark is full of holes and loaded with baggage. The flood waters rise. How many gamers will wait until this time next year in order to pick up a PS3 when Xbox 360 games are available today and are getting excellent review scores? How many will pass up the Revolution this holiday season when it is affordable and fun? How high will the waters rise before Sony can launch the ark?
Will it float?