Lesson from the Future

November 20th, 2006  |  Published in etc

The NYT doesn’t care for the Playstation 3:

A Weekend Full of Quality Time With PlayStation 3 – New York Times

Sadly for Sony, the best way to explain how the PlayStation 3 falls short is to explain how different it is to use than its main competition, Xbox 360. When I reviewed the 360 last year, I wrote: “Twelve minutes after opening the box, I had created my nickname, was in a game of Quake 4 and thought, ‘This can’t be this easy.’ “

I never felt that way using the PlayStation 3. With the PS3, 12 minutes after opening the box I realized that Sony inexplicably does not include cables to connect the machine to a high-definition television. Keep in mind that one of Sony’s main selling points has been that the PS3 plays Blu-Ray high-definition movie discs. But high-definiton cables? Sold separately. The Xbox 360, by contrast, ships with one cable that can connect to either a standard or high-definition set.

It’s almost impossible to escape the neeeed impulses the gaming industry has been pumping out since Friday, but here it is Monday night and I think I’m in a safe place. The busted flash on my camera has anchored me, even as the surprise of just how little a ticket to Virginia in late January will cost served to fill me with an unholy craving for a Wii. I busied myself in the late afternoon with putting together a FreeNAS machine from a spare clone in the basement, and that helped.

Anyhow … on the other side of my craving, I take that excerpt from the NYT to serve as the bookend to my kvetching about the Zoiks … Zune last week. Sony is on the verge of becoming a cautionary tale, to judge from both the gamers I trust and the casual types writing for the likes of the NYT. All it had to do was cruise into this round with an edge in technology, a slightly contrite approach with the marketing and a decent launch lineup and maybe it wouldn’t be like this. But it looks now like the turf claimed by the Playstation 2 is up for grabs from “serious gamers” who are at some risk for defecting to the Xbox, and casual gamers who might give the Wii a spin. Sony has lost me, though, that’s for sure. I’ve got my PS2 and it’s going to last me, and whatever replaces it, it won’t be a PS3. $600 is lunacy, $400 would be insanely extravagant, and by the time it plunges to $200? We’ll be getting Wiis in our happy meals and throwing away the burgers in the parking lot.

A sign of even uglier times to come for Sony: Amazon’s holiday sale voting scheme looks likely to offer up an Xbox 360 Core System for $100. It’s a limited offer, but that’s a huge discount that must surely presage more price cuts just as the PS3 tries to move against a tide of bad reviews.

So … blam. Like I said last week, I jeered at the very idea of the Xbox when it was first announced, but a lot of satisfied gamers and generally happy reviewers seem to show it’s here for this round and building a foundation that could carry it into the next. Sony? Everyone thought Nintendo was an unstoppable juggernaut at one point, too, but there’s something decidedly humble and Hail-Maryesque about the Wii … a system that says “we’re still here” as opposed to “celebrating our 20th year of untrammeled world domination.”

So, you know … Zune. We’ll see next year, or the year after.

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