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Blindfire avatar 2:38 PM on 07.09.2009  (server time)
The Console War: Or, how I learned to start worrying about Sony

Well, it seems like today is the day to weigh in on concerns over Sony’s place in the industry, what with all the discussion over price cuts and lack thereof, and the statements made by Tretton. So, here goes:

I think the price cut is a distraction from bigger problems. I honestly think it isn’t price that’s really killing Sony right now, it’s the absolutely atrocious marketing strategies Sony’s been utilizing. Their attempts to market their console and their games have had more stops and starts than a traffic jam in New York City during rush hour, and it’s almost as frustrating, too.

Instead of focusing on the differences between themselves and their competitors, Sony decided instead to play up their ability to best their opponents in the hardware department. Sony has repeatedly failed to recognize the beauty of the marketing strategies of Microsoft and Nintendo. Microsoft’s aggressive expansion into the consumer base allowed them to absolutely destroy Sony on the software front; it doesn’t matter if the PS3 is a more powerful system or not (which, frankly, I don’t think it really is, and if it is it doesn‘t matter nearly as much as Sony wants it to) when every home has an Xbox 360 and they have essentially the same games. Nintendo’s brilliant strategy of offering something different allowed them to slip into previously untouched markets.

Sony’s initial marketing strategy was a complete disaster. It basically consisted of “Wait for us, we’ve got better hardware.” Some waited, but others recognized the value of the 360 early, with its quickly expanding library thanks to its lightning fast explosion into the consumer base. And while Sony was still working on their console, Microsoft had already begun the second stage of its marketing plan: get more developers working on their framework and producing games.

Microsoft had done the inconceivable; they had gotten their console into so many households that most games that might have been exclusives instead go multi-platform in order to take advantage of the massive install base of the Xbox 360. Remember how Assassin’s Creed was a PS3 exclusive, and then it wasn’t? Or Final Fantasy XIII, perhaps?

Now, rather than admit or realize they’re actually in trouble, Sony has the sheer audacity to expect that their hardware will still come out on top because it’s “better”. Then, in a not-so-quiet fashion they start stripping down PS3s in order to cut the cost of making them. For me, this was basically like Sony screaming “Oh God, oh God, we screwed this up, but we can fix it!”, just without the honesty of actually saying it.

It was in this interim between terrible marketing that Sony had its one brilliant ad campaign. It reminded me why I was interested in the PS3, and why I still had a little inkling of hope for Sony: Metal Gear Solid 4 was on the way.

Remember this ad?

I thought this was where it was going to turn around for Sony. They’d finally caught on and began to advertise the PS3 primarily as a game system, only gently touching upon the concept that the PS3 could be a multimedia platform of monolithic proportions. It was like somebody smacked Sony over the head with a 2x4 and the amnesia finally cleared up. There’s the Sony I know and love, it’s still in there!

It was during this interim that I finally got a PS3; the 80GB model, packaged with MGS4. That’s right, I bought the PS3 for ONE GAME, and the potential promise of another in Killzone 2. Since then my library has expanded to include Valkyria Chronicles, Resident Evil 5 (didn’t feel right to be buying that on the 360), Dead Space, Street Fighter IV, and a few others.

Then they got conked on the head again and dove headfirst into the miserable joke that has become of Home. Sony’s attempt to market Home as a reason to buy their console is just flat out ridiculous. It’s gone from being a little sideshow to becoming Sony’s main “draw” for the online community; it’s a great big joke that everybody seems to get, except for Sony.

From there Sony moved to their networking campaign, PSPs on the go, in the hands of every trendy kid on every street corner, Playstation Network providing movies and demos and games. Oh no, Sony! No, no, no! Don’t tell me I need to spend another $150 to $250 to get the most out of your service!

And still Sony has the audacity to claim that the PS3 will conquer because they’re committed to a decade of service. So when we’re buying the next Xbox, and Microsoft’s still got a leg up on Sony, that’s when the PS3 will really start to kick into gear?

In the end, I love my PS3. I love everything it can do. I can seamlessly go from direct connect to wireless at the press of a few buttons, thanks to internal WiFi. My model can do backwards compatibility. My controllers don’t need batteries. The PSN store is easier to navigate than Microsoft’s Xbox Live Marketplace. There’s no hidden extra charges thanks to a wacky, self-determined currency. The cost of the PS3 isn’t the problem; Sony’s schizophrenic ad campaigns and marketing strategies have confused the consumer base so much that people don’t know what the identity of the PS3 is. Does it cure cancer, Sony, or does it play videogames?

I think, price cut or not, the real problem is that Sony hasn’t figured out how to market its console yet. I think this problem is driven by Sony’s inability to recognize that it is no longer the top dog, and it’s only getting worse with every day that they have the sheer gall to claim that the battle hasn’t been fought yet. The battle’s been fought, Sony, and you’ve lost. You’ve lost hard. And the war’s not over yet, though it soon will be if you don’t recognize what’s happening to you, and why.

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