This Christmas is not the most critical for the PS3, says Sony Europe boss

President of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe David Reeves has been talking again, this time re-iterating Sony’s mantra of “a marathon, not a sprint” by stating that it’s actually going to be Christmas 2008 that the company aims to nail as a big pay-day rather than the one coming up.

Talking to the semi-official Three Speech blog, Reeves fielded questions about the lack of a European price-cut, the potential for a price drop before Christmas, and what SCEE is planning to do to improve the PS3’s games line-up over the next 18 months. When asked how the PlayStation 3 will fare during this year’s Christmas battle-zone, he responded: 

I think each peak is crucial to maximise what you can do, but I don’t think this Christmas is necessarily the most critical one – I think that’s going to be Christmas 08. I see this more as kind of like a tsunami – it starts small and gathers speed, and eventually, after four or five years, it will start to take you over. At least, that’s the way we’ve mapped it out. We’re not necessarily trying to take a scatter-gun approach with all the top titles just before Christmas. Again, it’s like reducing the price in summer – we don’t believe it works to put six or seven of our own games out [at Christmas], because consumers don’t have enough money to buy them all. And the trade doesn’t quite know where to put all the top titles. So what you’re going to see is that we might put some of our jewels out in February, March, May and right through the year. We call them pillar titles. I think, probably, that third parties will try to put their pillar titles out before Christmas, because that’s where they get the best sales. But we have a slightly different approach. 

Hit the jump for Reeves’ explanation for the lack of price-cut in Europe. 

If you’re a consumer — and we introduced the PS3 in March for £425 or 599 Euros – let’s say you bought one at the end of April and have been using it, playing Resistance: Fall of Man and MotorStorm. We’ve only been on the market for three and a bit months. Our thought process was: “Wait a minute – we’re actually not doing too badly – we’re not selling as well as Wii or DS – but seasonality-wise, compared to, say, PS2 at the same time we launched it in 2001, we’re actually doing quite well on a regional level”. It’s exactly the target that we sought. July is not really a gamers’ month unless you get a big, big title. So we thought if we reduced the price, we’d annoy a lot of people. We did think about it, but we also felt that it wasn’t doing that badly. In the US, they’ve been going for more than six months, so they took the decision that going down in price was a better thing to do than a value pack.

Interesting indeed. While Reeves’ statements have obviously caused some pretty severe problems before, there are some who are actually beginning to warm to his honesty, whether the news he gives is good or not, and it doesn’t get much more honest than admitted that Sony basically didn’t drop the price of the PS3 in Europe because it didn’t feel it needed to. Explaining that the company didn’t want to annoy early adopters with a price drop however, is a bit tenuous to say the least. 

Thanks to the internet, we live in a global gaming community, and whereas ten years ago Europe vaguely knew that it was getting screwed, today it knows every detail of what’s going on across the pond and understandably wants the same perks. The PlayStation 3 might only have been out over here for three months, but European gamers have been following its progress since day one and many don’t feel the disconnection from the global market that Sony seems to assume. Of course, the extra Sixaxis and games in the UK bundle packs do definitely help in balancing out the value, but a lot of gamers would still like to be able to buy the machine for a price at least comparable to America’s and have a choice as to what they spend the rest of the money on. Extras or not, there’s still a big difference between £250 and £425.

As for the statements about Christmas and the slow and steady approach, I tend to agree that it’s the best way to go, at least in part. While there can’t be many who’d believe that Sony actually had this plan all along – Would the company really be using a slow-build business model if the PS3 had taken off as it had hoped? I think not – after the beating the console’s had, Sony needs to take a step back, shut up, and build up the PS3’s quality titles for a while before it starts showboating again. A good Christmas would obviously do the company no harm at all, but Sony can’t afford to be rushing in over-assured for a second time.

Having said that though, writing the period off as unimportant is something that clearly should most definitely not be done under any circumstances, and I certainly hope Reeves is aware of that and merely covering himself in case of disappointing Christmas sales. 

While the resetting of its goalposts has obviously been forced by the PS3’s currently unspectacular progress, E3 did at least show some promise for the future. It’s going to take a while however, and a company on far better behavior than we’ve seen so far, before that promise comes to fruition. Let’s just hope that having this measured approach forced upon it does actually teach Sony some humilty. It worked wonders for Nintendo. 

Make sure to check out Three Speech for the rest of the interview.  


David Houghton