Sony needs to capture its past for success in the future

Posted by Mark Raby

Sony today posted a massive quarterly loss on its video game unit, while Nielsen found that gamers are still enthused by the Playstation 2.  The PS3 has certainly set off on the wrong path.

The PS2 was brilliantly crafted, superbly marketed, and an easy platform for developers to use.  It fit all the pieces of the video game puzzle, attaining very strong third-party support, making it easy for game creators to think outside the box.

Although Nintendo usually takes all the credit, the Playstation brand has been the home for a lot of gaming innovation.  It was the platform that brought Dance Dance Revolution out of the arcade and into the living room.  It spawned the idea of musical instruments and microphones as console game controllers, and the Eyetoy made everyone take another look at the basic fundamentals of how a game is played.

None of these ideas incorporated great visual effects.  In fact, many Gamecube titles even looked better than Karaoke Revolution or Guitar Hero ever did.  It's kind of confusing to me why, then, Sony seems to be so intently focused on the graphical power of the PS3.

High definition video capability should just be something that's mentioned in passing.  It should not be the main selling point of a system, because seriously, that isn't going to sell all by its own.  Sony knew that with the PS2, and in fact it still seems to know that, but only with the PS2.  Sony is still working on producing exclusive titles for its last-gen console.

As trite as it sounds, Sony tries to fix something that isn't broken.  It's tough to really define the PS2, because it did a little bit of everything. The PS3 can easily be defined, however, only as a console that is so powerful it can’t run. Today, there is little more than some graphically violent games and tired multi-platform releases.

In June, the PS2 was still the second best selling console.  It just sort of makes me wonder why this success could not be easily translated to the new system.  Sony really missed what gamers were looking for in the next generation and now has to back peddle to get into the crowd already captivated by Nintendo's Wii and Microsoft's Xbox 360. Sony has lost its advantage and, it seems, almost has to start all over again.

On top of everything else, the PS3 is a beast for programmers.  Most lower-tier developers and independent game makers are almost shut out of the console until they can figure out a cost effective way to use the platform.

As a sequel, the Playstation 3 should be bringing an experience that screams the brand, and it just doesn't.  I need to remind myself sometimes that it's a Sony console.  As we near the PS3's one year anniversary this fall, Sony needs to wow gamers and do something that can make the PS2 crowd feel there is some value to migrate to the new device – and not to the Xbox 360 or to the Wii.  Expectations for Home, Ratchet & Clank and Killzone are high, but it seems unlikely that these highly hyped titles can really bring in the numbers that Sony need to make to fill the gap it has built between the Wii and Xbox 360.

Can we please have some new ideas - other than high-def flying bullets - that show off the horsepower advantage of the PS3?