Sony: What Is Happening Is Not Happening

Thank goodness Sony is a Japanese company, because they can at least claim that English isn't their native language when someone points out the nonsense in claims ilke the latest regarding PlayStation 3 sales.

Things start out fairly innocuously:

"In terms of units, it is true that PS3, as compared to last year, is slightly worse, but on a full-year basis we believe we are on track to sell the 10 million units that I said at the beginning of the year."

Okay, that's not so bad. Specious perhaps, but possible. After all, the fact that 2008 was not as good a year for them as 2007 doesn't necessarily mean that 2009 won't be as good as they are planning. It would strongly indicate that, given that presumably they predicted that 2008 would be as good or better than 2007 (which they did); and if that prediction turned out to be wrong, might not this one, too?

Then they start digging:

"...Relatively speaking, [compared to] the growth of other platforms, we are behind, but it's not the case that we are not meeting the target."

If they are behind the other platforms but still meeting their target, this means they were planning to be behind at this stage? I think that's not true. I seem to recall that initial projections from Sony for the PS3 included catching up to MS and the Xbox 360's one year head start fairly quickly, and in no way included getting trounced, month after month, quarter after quarter, by Nintendo, a competitor that many commenters gave up for just about dead last generation, myself included.

Here's a little factoid: In absolute terms, the gap between the worldwide installed base of the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 is larger now, two years after the PS3's launch, than it was just before the PlayStation 3 launched.

That's right. In other words, the gap between the two consoles, in absolute terms, was smaller when there were NO PlayStation 3s sold yet at all, because it was not yet for sale.

What part of Sony's game plan included letting the Xbox 360 continue to pull ahead for a couple of years in the US and the UK, while getting plowed by Nintendo at home as the Japanese market shrinks? They planned this?

Maybe there's something cultural going on here. Maybe there is something about working at Sony that means you can't ever admit that things have not gone to plan, aren't going to plan, and most likely will continue not to go to plan. Contrast that to, say, the dominant American response to the current financial crisis, especially from bankers and the financial industry, all of whom are quick to point out that not only did not anyone plan what is going on or predict it, but that nobody could have. I'm not sure which approach is preferable.

All Sony can do I guess is keep moving the goalposts-- they say they want the PS3 to have a ten-year lifecycle, and they have pegged their honor to making sure the worldwide installed base for the PS3 exceeds that of the Xbox 360 before the end of that period. That, despite being saddled with a higher priced box in a financial downturn and watching many franchises that were previously exclusives move to crossplatform development or being wooed into becoming Xbox 360 exclusives or Xbox 360 firsts.

How long can they go on admitting that they didn't meet last year's targets, but that they will meet this year's target-- the one that was made last year, the one that makes it possible to hit the eventual goal within the allotted time? Is there going to be anyone left to fall on their sword by 2016? They're getting beat by both their competitors currently, not just in terms of absolute sales but also in relative terms-- in terms of which way sales trends are moving. If current trends continue there is no way they can ever sell more than the Xbox 360, to say nothing of selling more than the Wii, which is something neither MS nor Sony even want to talk about. To make such a prediction requires predicting that at some point, the trend reverses. The longer the period of time between now and when that trend reverses, the more dramatic a reversal is necessary to create the desired effect.

Exactly what cause can be imagined to cause that reversal? How many such reversals have occurred before in console generations? What features can Sony add that Microsoft cannot in order to make their console a more compelling value proposition? If the PS3 costs more to make than the Xbox 360 now, and is benefiting less from the economies of scale that come with a large installed base, how can it ever become cheaper without becoming less capable? What price cuts can Sony possibly make that MS would not or could not match, if it deemed necessary? What franchises does Sony have that will make the PS3 a must-purchase which have not done the job so far? We're already into two sequels for supposed Halo-killers (Killzone and Resistance) and so far neither has turned that trick. Final Fantasy is no longer an exclusive outside Japan, and if the trend in the Japanese market continues as it is that exclusivity will be worth a lot less when the next FF game ships than it was when the last one shipped. The last big bullet in the gun was supposed to be MGS4, and while it's gotten great reviews, sales have been disappointing.



Just saw this over at Silicon Alley Insider:

Seemed to fit nicely with the self-delusion they show in your piece.