I was going to write about something entirely different today, but Kutaragi forced my hand.
I have to confess, I have no idea what's going through his head most times. He speaks, and I feel like on some fundamental level, it should make sense, but somehow, it doesn't. Let's take the above news story as an example.
Kutaragi considers the PSP a success. Sure, it did sell out up front, but since then sales have declined. Know why? It's not hard to see -- there aren't a lot of great games out for it. Most of the sales for it lately have been movies, and that's not good, kids. My flatmate has one. He owns two games for it - Lumines and Wipeout Pure. And nothing else. I'm with him on this. I haven't even bought a PSP yet, and I have a 90 minute commute every day each way. Of course, I haven't bought a DS yet either. But in the DS's defense, it's got a good library of games out for it, and a good number of better ones on the near horizon. The PSP's dance card is looking pretty empty for at least the next few months. And yet, the machine itself is a success in the eyes of its creator.
Read that story again and there's even more to confuse you. The PS3 is going to launch later than the 360, and it's going to cost more. And this, Kutaragi says, isn't a problem. Now technically he could be right. I've always been a big advocate of that the systems themselves don't matter, the games do. And without good games, a system is going to die on the vine, as I think the PSP is currently proving -- sorry PSP owners. Unless the PSP gets some killer games in the near future, the system could easily go the way of the Lynx, the Game Gear, the TG16, the Neo Geo Pocket and others. Because I've held a PSP for a good while in my hands and they're slightly uncomfortable. I wouldn't want to use one for long periods of time unless there was a truly fantastic game involved, and so far, I haven't seen that game yet.
If the PS3 launches with a huge amount of fantastic games, then maybe they can justify that huge cost. But you're going to need to have a game that sells the system. It's going to need to be something so fantastic, that I have to get the system on Day 1. Xbox didn't have that. Hell, PS2 didn't have that. The last console that had a single game that convinced me to buy the console was the N64 (yeah yeah, don't remind me -- it had its shortcomings. But hey, it had Mario 64, and Goldeneye, and Conker, and Zelda, among others...) and Mario 64. I don't mind shelling out $300 for a console. I'll pay that for the 360, on the premise that good games are coming. I've seen the developer list, and the fact that Sakaguchi-san and his team over at Mistwalker are making games for it is enough to convince me they have good talent coming. I didn't seen any great games from them at E3, but the system's going to be backwards compatible. Plus $299 is about what I expect to pay for a system at launch. $399, however, is a whole new ball of wax. At the $399 price point, the PS3's going to involve a more sizable investment, therefore my expectations of what the machine can do go up. Kutaragi says it's better than the Xbox 360 -- well, it's going to have to be, considering it costs more.
Pretty much everything we saw at E3 was smoke and mirrors when it came to the PS3, and for some people that's enough, but not for me. I'm a skeptic, a cynic if you will, and I don't have room for error. I know right now that I'll probably end up getting a PS3, just because I'm one of those people who needs to be in the know on all the systems out there. But I consider this a bad omen on Sony's part.
I was talking about the whole thing with a friend of mine who's in the development side of the industry, and he compared Sony's position now to Sega's position in 2000. The Saturn burned bridges with developers. The PS2 is starting to do the same. People complained about how the PS2 architecture was hard to program for, how it didn't have enough RAM, and all of those complaints... people found a way around them, but people also found they enjoyed programming for the Xbox more. And Sony's lead began to slip. Just like Nintendo's hesitation to let go of the cartridge format put them into third place, Sony's persistence on making machines that are theoretically quite powerful and yet are still insanely hard to program for could be the weak link in their armor.
Sony's not done yet and I'm not even beginning to count them out. But I see dark days ahead for them. And Kutaragi's denial does not give me hope. Microsoft's admitted there's a battle to be fought. Nintendo has said they have an alternative strategy that makes them sound like they want to be the guerrilla fighters of this console generation. And Kutaragi's claiming that there is no war; Sony simply hasn't cleaned away the carcasses yet.
It's a bad thing to see a leader in complete denial. This is not an omen that should please people. People have called him the Father of the Playstation, and I've heard him described as the Emperor of the Sony gaming empire.
Well, Mr. Emperor, you have no clothes on. Someone should've told you that by now.