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Henning’s PS3 Soapbox: Sony Must Now

First Sony ships a (60GB) console without rumble controllers and with backwards compatibility (BC) to PS2 and PSOne titles. Then they release a console with less BC (60GB in Europe, 80GB elsewhere). Then they announce rumble controllers, but say that they’ll be sold separately. Then they announce 40GB consoles with no PS2 BC whatsoever. (They still have PSOne BC.) And it won’t include the rumble controllers.

At first you could argue that this mishmash of different consoles is confusing to the consumer, but I would argue that in theory it’s no more confusing than Microsoft’s multi-SKU approach. After all, their 360 Core console has no BC. But it’s the way that Sony is going about things that is confusing. They’re not communicating clearly what they’re doing and why. And it’s really quite frustrating. 60GB North American price drop! Cool! Wait a sec… That’s because they’re phasing it out? Oh now you tell me!

The lack of BC wouldn’t annoy me so much if the current BC in my 60GB NA PS3 worked better. I can’t play the Guitar Hero games, because the guitar doesn’t work with the PS3. I can’t play some very timing-sensitive games like Frequency because my PS3 (or digital HDMI in my TV?) introduces lag that I don’t get on my PS2. Lastly, some games just don’t run on my PS3, like F1 2001. So I still need to keep my PS2 hooked up to play PS2 games, which I do quite often. But it would be nice if my PS3’s BC really worked.

Sony needs to get their messaging clear this holiday season and beyond. Consumers need to understand what they’re getting, and why. Plus they need to clear up this whole DualShock 3 mess. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Offer Two Clearly Differentiated PS3’s
    I don’t have a problem with a multi-SKU approach, but I think that Sony should be limited to two. One high-end, tap-dancing machine with full backwards compatibility for those who don’t have the BC issues I do. And one lower-priced machine that is still quite capable, but without BC. I think it is a mistake for Sony to give up on BC so quickly. If it costs more to include BC, then only include it in the higher-end SKU. Makes sense. And when I say “two PS3’s” I mean that we should only have two PS3’s on the shelves, and on our minds, at the same time. And I know that some people might not agree with me on this one, but I say: introduce new SKU’s quickly. If you phase out the 60GB SKU, the 80GB one better be on sale the same day the 60GB one runs out. And only announce it the previous week. You know, like Apple. It’ll require that you hold a secret better than you do now, but it’s worth it in the long run.
  2. Don’t Confuse Us
    When you drop an SKU, please tell us why. Be honest and upfront about it, and tell us what’s going to replace it, if anything. Don’t leave us in the lurch, unable to figure out whether or not we should buy a current SKU or wait for a new one. And please don’t say “We have no plans to decrease the price” when in fact you do. It’s better to have a strict policy where you say something like “We cannot comment on future product decisions”. At least that’s honest.
  3. One Controller Only
    Dump the current SIXAXIS. Stop making them. Only make the DualShock 3, and include it in all SKU’s. The whole multi-controller approach is simply not fair to the consumer. Forcing the gamer to buy an extra controller to rumble is mean. Just plain mean. Don’t do it. I could go on and on, but I won’t. This one is pretty clear.

Just three things. I think that’s all it takes for Sony to start sending a clear, consistent message that gamers understand and will applaud Sony for.

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