Weekend Reading: What if the PS3’s launch was a year later?

We’ve all heard people say that Sony should have waited a year to launch the PS3 — and they’re right. The thing is, very few actually go into why this would have been a good move for Sony.

At the time, Sony was focusing very heavily on the PSP, as the system was starting to gain a strong library of games that has almost convinced me to buy one. Yet, everything else went on hold in order to go into full-on PS3 promotion mode. Sony had a console with a $599.99 price point that was going up against a $250 and a $400 console. So naturally, they had an uphill battle.

Yet, what if they had waited a year? What would have happened to their hulking monolith? Let’s take a look at the Sony that might have been, as I shall act as the Ghost of Christmas Future, or something like that.

First, there’s the Blu-Ray technology. Right now, we’re starting to see second generation Blu-Ray players come out, along with a drop in the costs of technology for it. At this point, I’m sure that the change in cost wasn’t so dramatic that it would have affected the price of the PS3, but from Sony’s standpoint, they’d be less in the red on every PS3 sold. We’d also be looking at faster Blu-Ray drives at the time of release, as well (4x as opposed to the current 2x speed). In addition to that, a smaller 65nm processor would probably be available for Sony to include inside of the system for less power consumption.

Second, there’s the increase in titles that would have been available for the system. Sony might have been able to stave off the massive delay of almost-guaranteed killer app Metal Gear Solid 4. Sony has had a strong relationship with third party developers, and so they have the benefit of being able to count on them for developing good titles for their system once they understand everything about how to work it. Another year would have allowed more content to be in Resistance: Fall of Man and other games, as well as the drought of PS3 games coming out to be shortened.

A third bonus for Sony would have been the fact that the nasty Immersion lawsuit would have been done before the PS3 launched, allowing them to put rumble in all of their controllers. Some of the more…vocal critics of the PS3 would have one less issue to deal with in the system.

Also, in terms of competition, they wouldn’t be launching right up against the Wii. Currently, the Wii doesn’t have any new titles to push more sales, and some of the Fall titles are up in the air — none of which are going to push massive amounts of new consoles sold. If the PS3 launched in the Fall of 2007, with MGS 4 attached or close by, they could have pushed a lot more consoles than they have so far. Plus for the time being, the PS2 is still pushing out good games that are keeping the console running strong.

It wouldn’t have been all sunshine and unicorn-farts for Sony had they launched a year later. For one thing, launching a year later would have given Microsoft complete control over the HD market, giving them an even larger install base than they currently have.

Also, there’s no denying the PS3 helped push Blu Ray to the forefront of the market. It’s given some 3 million people a reason to buy Blu Ray instead of HD-DVD. Without that, it would have been a more even-levelled fight — although HD-DVD getting cracked was sort of a nail in the coffin for the format. Still, it could have turned the PS3 into a Betamax player once again.

Sony wouldn’t have had to face direct competition against the Wii launch, and along with improvements on the PS3 parts (and maybe even a larger HD) and a better library of games, Sony would have been much better off on launching the system a year later. Oh well, hopefully they’ll do better next time.