Pocket Gamer

Pocket Gamer
How Sony Lost the Game

Pocket Gamer | 11 Jul 2009 13:00
Pocket Gamer - RSS 2.0
image

Sony's PlayStation brand dominated the video game world for a decade. It started as a joint venture with Nintendo, but when Nintendo's Howard Lincoln announced, to Sony's considerable surprise, that Nintendo would instead be partnering with Philips, Sony decided to go it alone.

It all made for a compelling story. Big bad corporation betrays Sony. Sony, against all expectations, decides not to write off its work but to develop it alone. Big bad corporation enters a period of embarrassing subordination, first with the second-place N64 and then with the third-place GameCube.

Only the Game Boy kept Nintendo in the race, while Sony led two hardware generations. It seemed immovable.

Then, a series of events brought Sony crashing down to earth. Microsoft released the Xbox 360 at the end of 2005 and enjoyed a full year as the sole next-gen console. When the PS3 eventually arrived, it did so practically in tandem with the epoch-making, zillion-selling, game-changing Wii.

On the handheld front, Sony's attempt to remove Nintendo from its portable stronghold was equally disastrous. The PSP went head to head with the DS and came off far worse, hitting 50 million unit sales earlier this year as its rival reached 100 million.

Then the iPhone came along, but we won't talk about that.

Having released the PSP, Sony then spent a long time largely ignoring it and pouring energy into the PS3, with the result that UK PSP game sales collapsed in 2008. 2009 has been a better year for the device, however. In February a UK Sony product manager alluded to "significant PlayStation IPs" coming to the device's rescue, and soon afterwards her allusion proved true.

At the Destination PlayStation conference Sony ensured a late night for the staff of Pocket Gamer by revealing LittleBigPlanet, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge, Assassin's Creed and Rock Band Unplugged in a single breath, and many more high profile game announcements have followed.

No sooner had the first announcements come, however, than Shiny founder Dave Perry set Sony flapping by revealing via Twitter that the next PSP would be UMD-less. Sony carefully negotiated the rumours, with Sony marketing director John Koller ambiguously insisting that, "the digital component is very important to us."

Prior to this year's E3, news about the PSPgo was already in the public domain thanks to concrete rumours dating back as far as April and when the new hardware was featured in a leaked Qore video at the end of May even the marketing types had to throw up their hands. When Jack Tretton took to the stage at the E3 Sony keynote, he had no choice but to make a joke of it, introducing the PSPgo as the expo's "worst kept secret."

So why was it E3's worst kept secret? Is it because Sony is no longer a company worth keeping a secret for? Dave Perry's irreverent revelation on Twitter demonstrates a notable indifference to the wrath of Sony's PR operatives, and his insouciance has been echoed by figures like Valve's Gabe Newell and Activision's Bobby Kotick, among others.

Bloggers and consumers have joined in the baiting. When Sony revealed that the price of the PSPgo would be $249.99, there was derision from all quarters, with industry analyst Michael Pachter even calling the device a 'rip-off'. He apologised, but his comment echoed the thoughts of many. Sony's insistence that the PSPgo cost a lot because, "there is a certain premium" attached to it was met with scorn.

The blogosphere seems ready to ignore the PSPgo before it's even out, looking as we are beyond it at the rumoured PSP 2 and its quad-core, Xbox-level performance. This device is just a rumour, of course, but so was the PSPgo until June, and every important prediction about that came true.

Which is to say, unlike other devices we've carefully avoided mentioning, it's nothing special.

Pocket Gamer is Europe's leading source of news, opinion and reviews on mobile and handheld gaming.

RELATED CONTENT
Comments on