How much will Sony really lose if it launches the PS3 later this year? Some say a lot, but we’re not so sure.
This week’s Game Over column addresses the recent flurry of news about a PS3 delay — news that Sony, by the way, has categorically denied while failing to produce any tangible evidence to the contrary. The basic reasons behind the delay speculation: the PS3 is very expensive to produce right now, and the specs for the Blu-ray drive haven’t even come in yet.
Chris Morris, the columnist, reminds us of all the pressures on Sony to get the PS3 on the market soon, and discounts a lot of the “chicken little” delay predictions.
Granted, the possibility of a delayed PS3 launch and prohibitively expensive production costs make for some great headlines and message board chatter, but there are a few other realities to consider.
He’s obviously been reading our headlines. Check out the column for his list of reasons why the PS3 can’t afford a delay, and why it won’t matter for Americans anyway. He’s right about one thing: if we get the system before the end of the year, all will be well and good. But he also cites a lot of market pressures that could force Sony to jump the gun. We’ll dissect them here, and explain why they’re not worth the rush.
Market Share: There’s no question that every Xbox 360 sold is a setback for Sony’s market dominance. But you know what’d be worse? Prematurely releasing a system that’s too expensive, in limited supply, and has only a sparse selection of underdeveloped games. That’s our forecast for spring, and we doubt Sony is desperate enough to blow a launch worse than Microsoft did.
What’s more, the lion’s share of the gaming market that PS2 occupies isn’t all about getting there first. It’s about brand recognition and loyalty and PlayStation still beats Xbox on that, hands down. It’s also about lining up the best games (and having the best fan web sites). Microsoft can chip away at Sony, but they’re in no position to take the lead. This time, Sony has the superior technology and the street cred. We’re not the first to suggest that the 360, with its early (and rushed) entry, is more like the Dreamcast than the PS2.
Blu-ray: We’ve talked a lot about how the Blu-ray DVD format, rather than games or consoles, is Sony’s real cash cow this time around. Since the format has to compete with the Toshiba- and Microsoft-backed HD-DVD, it seems like Sony should be desperate to get the PS3 and its Blu-ray drive into homes. But in reality, there’s no reason to rush.
The good news for Sony is that no matter when the PS3 comes out, it’ll immediately be the cheapest high-definition DVD player out there. Standalone Blu-ray players cost more than $1000, and HD-DVD players are still above the PS3’s price point, even if it’s $500. And we doubt the Xbox 360’s HD-DVD add-on will be a huge seller or a major threat. The truth is, Sony’s got the movie studios and computer manufacturers on its side. Blu-ray is in business. We can wait six months to upgrade our movie collections, and nothing is affordable enough to steal Sony’s share of the HD-DVD market in the meantime.
The Insiders: Here’s the bizarre part of it all. After outlining why Sony must launch now, Morris pulls out some off-the-record interviews with industry insiders — and they all say a delay is inevitable. He also seems to think that an American spring launch was never realistic, but Sony has gone to pains over the last 9 months to remind us that they haven’t decided which region would get the PS3 first.
There was a time that speculation of a Blu-ray-driven American launch was floating around, and with Xbox 360’s near-simultaneous worldwide launch, an American springtime launch was never really out of the question. That is, until any spring launch became nearly impossible.
So hey, we wouldn’t mind being proven wrong. We could use some shiny new Japanese games to play in a couple months, but we just don’t think it’s feasible — or reasonable — to rush the PS3 to the market. It’s not under as much market pressure as it seems, and a well-paced fall launch with enough units to keep shortages low would prove, for another generation, that Sony runs this show.
• PlayStation 3 delay? Don’t panic! [CNN/Money]