What Seems to be Sony’s Problem?
By Matt “Chtulu80” White
In this not so small community that we call gaming there are many games and a few consoles to choose from. Some companies do things better than others. Examples of that would be marketing their products, or how they protect their services, even down to what services they offer to their consumers and if they are pay or not. For this article I will be focusing on Sony here in the united states. Some may think that this may just want to fan the so called “flame” wars between consoles. I assure that this is not the case.
First off lets take a look at their online services. At the start of the current generation it seemed like their online service was an afterthought. Was it just a just a way of looking at it due to Sony’s culture? Whatever it happened to be, I believe that it set them back at the beginning of this generation which can cause a giant hole as compared to Microsofts Xbox Live service. What Sony has done is offer a no cost to the consumer solution to get online and play with friends. While this is great in thought, in practice can cause some problems. One of them is the so called cheaters and glitchers that seem to be everywhere in the multiplatform offerings such as the CoD service. With service being free, if a company bans a PSN ID, then the offender can just create another without even thinking. This continues unless companies decide to just ban the console instead of the offending ID. The exclusive titles seem to be better when it comes to less cheaters. With games like Killzone 3 and the Uncharted games, it seems that the portion of cheaters to legitimate gamers is a lot better. I tend to try to play “Killzone 3” with the 40Cast crew on their game nights and while we have seen a lot of good teams, I don’t think that we have come across people that could be classified as cheaters or glitchers.
Another thing about their online services is that most of their applications for subscription video services (Netflix, Amazon Streaming, ect…) are free to use as long as you have a subscription to that particular service unlike the Xbox Live service. That can be considered a big plus in the corner of Sony. As it sits right now, if my fiance wants to watch Netflix on the Xbox while I am on the other Xbox downstairs she has to have her own $60/year live account. Where if I put the PS3 upstairs she wouldn’t have to pay to access a service we already pay to access. Also another big plus for Sony is that new video applications seem to come to Sony first. Most folks do not know that the “Crackle” service that is on Live was on the PS3 first in their “Home” application. Amazon Streaming is on the PS3 but is nowhere to be found on the live service.
With E3 a few years back Sony decided that they wanted to introduce a premium paid service similar to the Xbox Live service, While I was skeptical when I heard about it I was also curious at the same time. They were not going to take anything away from their free services, but were going to give you things. This is not something that Microsoft has ever done with their paid services. After I had bought my PS3 I decided to run a 3 month trial of their paid “PSN+” service and was very surprised to say the least. I was receiving free full titles of games that I would have not otherwise played. Granted, I could probably pick some of these titles up for pennies on the dollar at my local game store, but free is free and I am not complaining. Also with the premium service I was able to get early beta invites to games just because of being a paid member unlike on Live where you basically see the line of begging for beta codes on the social network sites.
I would be amiss without mentioning the 1 huge failure of the PSN and that would be the hack/outage last year. Not only was it found out that some credit cards were not encrypted but also showed just how lax their security was in the first place. It was a huge blow to Sony. Maybe it was because the PSN was put up in a hurry, maybe because they didn’t think that it would be used, or some other reason. There was no excuse for this. Then Sony decided it was best to withhold information from their customers about the nature of the hack and if they needed to change credit cards or banking information. Myself I decided to contact my bank and get a new account along with a new debit card to go along with it. While the outage lasted quite a while, it cost them quite a bit of money as well. Not to mention the games that launched just days before the PSN was taken down. Those games would be “SOCOM 4”, “Mortal Kombat”, and “Portal 2”. “Portal 2” was probably the biggest of these titles because for the first time it came with a version of steamworks for PS3 and PC players to be able to play together. With the PSN being down, players could not do that or even redeem their code for a few steam version of the game to play on the PC while the network was down.
Another area to think of with Sony is their exclusives. It is my opinion that in conjunction with their marketing department that they, in past years, have went for quantity over quality. That said lets look at last year. “Killzone 3” at the beginning of the year. Very little marketing for it and may have been picked up by a good number of users but in the great scope of things did not sell huge numbers. While it is good, I don’t believe enough gave it a chance. “Resistance 3” was another game I had a lot of issues with this game. While it was a decent game, just didn’t give me that feeling of wanting to come back to it even with its multiplayer. Another big game for Sony was “Little Big Planet 2” I believe that may have suffered from the first game still being great with the add-on and user generated content that it did not warrant a sequel. “Infamous 2” was also released, also with very little marketing to speak of. A game that I had picked up at bargain basement price that I have have still yet to play. The big one though, was at the end of the year. “Uncharted 3” was released in November to much fanfare as it should be for being what I consider the Playstations “flag ship” title. This game had a ton of marketing for it. Television ads were abundant as well as marketing on higher traffic gaming websites. While the game was good many fee that it did not live up to the previous game in the series. I thought that the game was great and did live up to the franchise and was Sonys “one big game” as far as marketing went. While Microsoft had very few games, only one that really comes to mind is “Gears of War 3” that was exclusive, it was marketed great. Television had quite a few ads for it as well as more online. Pair that up with a successful beta program that left people wanting more in the retail release, Epic and Microsoft knocked it out.
Do I think that Sony doesn’t want their games to succeed? That is not it at all. I believe that, especially last year, that they had the mindset that they needed to get all these games out there to outsell others and get more console purchases. Why else would you not try to stagger your exclusive releases and give them all the marketing push of “Uncharted”? I think that especially “Killzone 3” could have benefited from this. Now Sony has tried something new with this series lately and just offered the multiplayer portion stand alone on their service. This is a win for them in my book. It allows players to play the multiplayer at a fraction of the price of the game. Maybe they should try this more with some of their other shooter titles and get more people to play them online.
All in all I think that their two major problems seem to be the afterthought of online capabilities as well as quantity of exclusive titles with little to no marketing budget for them. Sony has a lot of talented people and studios at their disposal, why not try to give them the push that they deserve and time to create quality games. Now I am not saying at all that the PS3 is horrible or terrible, just a few issues that Sony needs to work on in my eyes for the last part of this console generation and definitely into the next console generation in the next few years.