Monday, February 20, 2006


[Please note that this is in two parts: part one, which I wrote last night, and part two, which I just wrote after Sony released additional information this morning.]

PS3 speculation: it's gone crazy.

In the span of forty-eight hours last week, we got the following pieces of "information":
--Sony expects to ship 100 million PS3 in 2006. That's what Kotaku says, anyway, based on the following article from Digitimes.
Sony expects strong PS3 shipments in 2006, may work with Microsoft
Sony expects to ship over 100 million PlayStation 3 (PS3) game consoles, according to Tetsuhiko Yasuda, Sony Computer Entertainment Asia’s corporate executive managing director and senior vice president of Asia. He also said Sony may work with Microsoft in the future.

...Sony does not regard Xbox as a competitor. Rather, the company may even consider working with Microsoft to develop games together, Yasuda noted.

Hmm. So do they mean 100 million in 2006? There's a disconnect between the headline and the lead. Now if they actually had final hardware, or even close, or were actually making them now, maybe I wouldn't even notice, but they don't, they're not, and they're not. At this point, they've never even shown the PS3 in playable form for more than thirty seconds. And they're shipping 100 million of those this year? Um, good luck with that.

Nice form on the Xbox quote, by the way. That doesn't mean Sony wants to team with Microsoft. It means Sony dismisses Microsoft's console to the degree that they don't consider them a competitor.

Hey, Sony dudes, at least they've got final hardware. All you've got are mock-ups inside glass cases right now.

Then, not two days later, we get this (from Merrill Lynch
...the launch of the PS3 could be delayed by between 6 and 12 months, with the result being an autumn launch in Japan and a late 2006 or early 2007 launch in the U.S.

It's now clear that the box is prohibitively expensive to make
We wrote last November that Sony's design choices for the PS3 had resulted in an expensive and difficult-to-manufacture product, and we think that we're seeing the consequences of those choices play out now. In particular we think the problem points are the Sony Cell processor and the Blu-Ray drive. Our updated analysis indicates that the initial bill of materials for PS3 could approach to $900, falling to $320 three years from launch.

Plenty of additional analysis in the full article, by the way.

So those are two pieces of information that seemingly are totally mutually exclusive. They can't possibly both be true.

The question, though, is whether either one of them is true. I would guess "no."

Everyone, it seems, is talking out of their ass right now. Wildly. Sony just says anything they want to, and since they've been so incredibly secretive, no one can dispute anything they say. Analysts are so desperate to write about the console that they're speculating about anything and everything.

I think there are a few things that we can extract out of all this, though.
1. The 360 was cutting edge. The PS3 is bleeding edge.
Incorporating the Blu-Ray drive into the console was an absolutely horrible design decision. Standalone players aren't even on the market yet and the console is supposed to launch with one in just months? Not to mention that the most inexpensive standalone player I've seen is listed at $400.

That's for the cheapest one.

Here's something else that no one seems to have figured out yet. If your HD display doesn't support HDCP, you are shit out of luck. You will NEVER be able to watch HD movies on your PS3, even though it increased the price of the console by roughly $100.


There haven't been a bunch of articles about this yet, but there will be, as soon as Sony announces a price point and people figure out that while Blu-Ray is a standard feature, it's jacking up the price of the box (by as much as twenty percent).

You can argue that Sony's long-term strategy with the box is really that it's a stealth Blu-Ray player to get the format established in the market. It's still a risky strategy for the unit as a game console, because they might price themselves off the cliff.

Look. If the PS3 comes out at some crazy price like $599, it's dead in the U.S. Finished. It doesn't matter if it has a Blu-Ray player. It doesn't matter if it can (allegedly) display games in 1080p. It doesn't matter if it can make Belgian waffles and then sprinkle cinammon sugar on them from the USB ports. That price point cannot be successful.

I seriously doubt that a $499 launch point can be successful, actually. They need to hit $399, or, at the very most, $449. Anything else is suicide, because Microsoft will drop the price of the 360 premium unit to $349 this fall.

2. Sony is way, way behind.
I've been saying that for months, but I think it's actually getting worse instead of better. Sony would be showing what they had--if they had anything. They don't. I believe it's a combination of the compexity of programming the Cell processor and the low number of dev kits they had in the field until recently.

Plus, it's also possible that the PS3 is just so damn expensive that Sony doesn't want to start building it yet. They could still cut features in an attempt to lower the manufacturing price.
If that were true, though, they'd still be showing playable demos.

3. That controller is shit.
I don't care how many people Sony gets to say that the controller is the greatest-feeling thing in the world. It's a damned Batarang. It's wrong.

Remember how Microsft told us that even though the original Xbox controller was the size of an overfed guinea pig, that their focus groups told them it was the most comfortable controller ever? Well, they were full of it, and we knew it as soon as we picked the damn thing up. Hell, we could tell from the pictures that the controller was a disaster.

That's the PS3 controller. I don't have to have it in my hands to know that it's not going to feel right. And Sony's problem is that the 360's controller is, by far, the best controller ever designed in terms of ergonomics. It is incredibly comfortable. So Sony needs to get that fixed.

4. Sony desperately needs an online strategy.
Allegedly, they have one. After years of deriding Xbox Live, they've finally stopped lying and dissembling about how they don't need a centralized network. A few people are referring to it as the HUB. That hasn't been confirmed, but at least they're going to apparently have something.

Sony lives in interesting times. So to speak.

So I wake up this morning, ready to take one last look for edits before posting, but this hits me in the face over at MSNBC first:
Launch of Sony’s PlayStation 3 could be delayed
Next-generation video game console must meet certain industry provisions

That's the headline. The difference this time, though, is that it's coming from Sony.
TOKYO - Sony Corp.’s launch of its next-generation PlayStation 3 video game console could be delayed if industry specifications for some of its technology are not finalized soon, although it is still aiming for a spring rollout, it said on Monday.

...“We’re aiming for spring, but we haven’t announced specific regions,” a spokeswoman for Sony Computer Entertainment said, adding that it was waiting for the final specifications on some of the technology it is using in the PS3, such as that related to the Blu-ray DVD drive and to input and output video and sound.

The specifications are decided by industry consortiums.

“We’re waiting for them until the last possible minute, but the launch could be pushed back if they’re not decided soon,” the spokeswoman said. If the PS3 is not ready in time, the company will choose the next best timing for the launch, she said.

Here's one more excerpt:
Game development for the PS3 is also seen being delayed because the technology specifications have not been finalized.

“Game makers are developing games according to their guesses on what the final specifications might be,” said Takeshi Tajima, a BNP Paribas analyst.

There you go, and here's the link to the full article:

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