The PS3's Launch Price Was Way Too Much, Former Exec Says
Jack Tretton was named CEO right before the PS3 launch, which was "like being made the captain of the Titanic just before it hit the iceberg."
Former PlayStation executive Jack Tretton has shared some new insight into the situation surrounding the PlayStation 3's launch, specifically its $500/$600 price tag. Speaking to IGN, Tretton, who left Sony in 2014 after 19 years with the company, said it would have been easy to make a PS2.5 after the success of the PS2, but Sony wanted to push further. This came with a number of costs that drove up the price of the system and led to the PS3 suffering from a slow start, he said.
"That period of PS2 to PS3 was the most intense period of my career, at least at Sony," he explained. "Tremendous success with PS2; I think we had 60-plus, 70-plus percent market share on a worldwide basis. Just the most successful platform in history--and how do you follow that up?"
The PS3 was ultimately well-received and its technology appreciated, Tretton said, but it was a long road to get there. He also confirmed that, at $600, Sony was still losing money on every PS3 sold.
"The easy thing to do [after the PS2], would have been to have done a PlayStation 2.5; something that's enhanced but kind of staying the course," he added. "PS3 was really stepping out of the box. I think ultimately it delivered a lot of great technology that's ultimately appreciated today. But at the time, because of the Cell processor and all the proprietary technology, it was difficult to develop for, it was difficult to manufacture; it was extremely expensive to manufacture. So at the price it came out at, everybody knew that wasn't a consumer-friendly price. Amazingly, that was losing a lot of money for Sony, even at that price."
By the time the PS3 came out in November 2006, the rival Xbox 360 had already been out for a year and was available at a lower price point. Needless to say, things could have gone better for Sony.
"It was quite possibly the most difficult launch scenario you could ever imagine, knowing that Xbox 360 was already out, that you were much more expensive than you wanted to be, that you had much less inventory than you wanted to have at launch, and that it was going to be a learning curve in terms of software development and manufacturing efficiency," Tretton said. "A lot of real challenges there at that launch."
Another element to this is that Tretton was named president and CEO of SCEA just a month or two before the launch of the PS3. "It's like being made the captain of the Titanic just before it hit the iceberg," he said.
According to Tretton, the PS3's designers in Tokyo were set in their ways about how the PS3 should operate from a technical perspective; they didn't take feedback from outside of Tokyo, he said.
For the PlayStation 4, Sony sought the feedback of a number of developers, from Japan and the rest of the world. The console's lead system architect was Mark Cerny, who also worked on the PS4 Pro. That system got off to a comparably better start and is now the leader in the new-generation sales race.
The PS3 launch, along with the 2011 PlayStation Network hack, were the two most challenging moments of Tretton's career at Sony, the executive said.
The full IGN interview is fascinating and in-depth; go watch it here on YouTube.
Tretton is now serving on the advisory board for AI startup Genotaur, while he also helps fund indie games. Recently, he helped the teams behind Slender: The Arrival and Ark: Survival Evolved raise money.