It has been a difficult year for Sony. In fact it has been a difficult two years for Sony. In the last generation they were the industry leaders, and now they are in an increasingly distant third position. They continue to sell solid numbers of both game and hardware, but the other two console manufacturers are pulling away each month. This is not indicative of the quality of the PS3. Despite the nit-pickings of many bloggers it is indisputable that the PS3 has the most graphical potential of the three, and the inclusion of the Blu-Ray player also positions it as the most technologically advanced console there is. But it is in trouble, and at this point it is certain that the previous dominance it held last generation will be unattainable this generation.
Beyond the PR slip ups, the arrogance and the disregard for developers which caused its initial problems, the stumbling block for Sony is now price. With its more humble attitude and frank assessments of its position in the console war, Sony is trying much harder to court prospective developers and customers, but as the most expensive of the three it is proving to be a pretty daunting task. It is a well know fact that $200 is historically the magic price at which the most consoles are sold. The Wii is $250, you can buy an Xbox 360 for $200 and you can buy a PS3 for $400. The Wii has a unique interface, and the Xbox 360 games look pretty much the same as the PS3 ones so the average consumer will see little reason to throw away an extra $200. You can argue all day (and many will) about whether the Xbox 360 or the PS3 has the better games, but that is no longer relevant. It’s about Blu-Ray.
It is well known amongst those in the industry that the PS3 is one of the best (and one of the cheaper) Blu-Ray players available. But the general public doesn’t know that. And whether they care is also a different matter. But as recent figures have shown, and with the launch of the Dark Knight on Blu-Ray, it is rapidly gaining in popularity. What we don’t know is whether people buying are PS3 are doing so because it is a Blu-Ray player. Regardless, that is what Sony needs to focus on at this point. In the same way that DVD made the Playstation 2 the most popular machine last generation, Blu-Ray is Sony’s only real hope to gaining leverage in the market whilst being significantly more expensive than its rivals. And in the global economic recession that we are currently facing, price matters.
Sony has been slow to respond to the threat of Nintendo and Microsoft. What they need to do is to drop the price, which would be incredibly expensive for them. Failing that they need to pack in Blu-Rays with the PS3 to show the consumer what it is capable of. When it launched there were a lot of bundles that included either Spiderman 3 or Talladega Nights. Then they stopped doing it. If they had made a Christmas bundle that included the Dark Knight on Blu-Ray then the kind of sales figures they could have achieved would be significantly higher. At this point it is no longer arrogance that is holding them back, it is a lack of foresight.