Sony had a good run with its original Playstation and PS2. Rather than go for the family-friendly, classic gamer market that Nintendo had a stranglehold on, Sony decided to carve out its own audience. They attracted the disgruntled teenagers, the technology elitists, and the guys that ‘just wanted to play some Madden’. Yes Sony did a great job securing itself a gullible share of gamers with more money than sense. When the economy was afloat, things were ‘champagne and lobsters’ for the executives at Sony.
Across the continents people were shelling out cash for the Playstation brand. They dealt Sega a fatal blow- effectively bringing down one of the last 2 classic console makers. With only Nintendo standing strong, Sony turned its attention to the new upstart on the block. Microsoft. MS succeeded in raising its own army of supporters- pre-teens that loved shooters and grown men with the mental stability of pre-teens that love shooters. It was a time when each of the 3 remaining competitors stuck to their guns.
Nintendo stumbled when it decided to listen to the idiotic criticisms from gamers on the outside fence. Gamers that didn’t own GameCubes ‘would have bought one’ if all their games weren’t like the old ones. In an attempt to innovate for these potential buyers, Nintendo foolishly sent their beloved franchises into new territory and genres. Looking back we can all see how serious a mistake this was. Some choices were celebrated- other’s highly disappointing.
They gave Donkey Kong some bongos. Kirby and his warp star became racers. Mario had FLUDD strapped to his back. Hyrule was flooded and Link turned into a toon. Samus switched to a first-person-shooter. Fox landed on a ‘Dinosaur Planet’ and for some reason they thought GBA connectivity would be a killer-app. Some were successes, some are best forgotten. Whatever your opinion of that era, it certainly was a struggle for Nintendo.
Fast-forward to present times and you’ll see that there’s a new sheriff in town. Nintendo is packing a six-shooter with Super Smash Brothers Brawl, Super Mario Galaxy, Wii Sports, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Mario Kart Wii, and Metroid Prime Trilogy as its bullets. A second gun was at Nintendo’s hip with Super Paper Mario, Wii Play, Wii Fit, Punch-Out Wii, New Super Mario Bros, and Metroid: Other M all waiting- just in case. The tables had turned and suddenly Sony and Microsoft were two out-of-luck outlaws.
Microsoft started out great- it came into the saloon early with two shotguns raised. Many gamers joined up with MS, only to discover that the Xbox 360 had forgotten to put pants on. Or, more accurately, to go to the doctor. In their haste to enter the market before Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft had rushed an unreliable console with a failure rate as high as 40%. Not even the combined efforts of Halo 3, Fable 2, and Viva Pinata could salvage their position.
Sony, a penniless homeless person at this point- its latest endeavors were all largely failures. The PS3 and PSP were and still are openly mocked on the internet, in Gamestop, on the news, and pretty much everywhere else. In short, Sony’s throne had crumbled with the economy. We have to ask ourselves- with Sony’s investors losing so many millions, what’s next for them? Will the Playstation brand eventually be sold off the highest bidder?
Why It’s Likely:
Let’s be realistic, this won’t happen this gen. Sony might be dragging itself behind its two rivals, but they know they can recover. At this point the PS3 is simply devouring all the profit Sony earned with its previous 2 systems over the years. If things keep going at this rate, Sony will survive. They’ll most likely try to earn as much back as they can by supporting the PS3 through a portion of the next generation of consoles, but how likely is it that anyone will care by then?
However, the gaming industry is a pretty harsh frontier. Too many lackluster releases or unprofitable winters can take its toll on a company. If the Playstation brand sinks too far for the rest of this generation and into the next one, Sony might not have a choice but to sell its floundering gaming department. Companies make video games and consoles for a reason. Not to make you happy- for money. If the PS brand isn’t earning money, it has to go.
I, like most analysts, predict Sony will learn its lesson for the next go-round of consoles. Rather than try to squeeze people’s wallets and focus solely on having a powerhouse console, they’ll probably go the Nintendo route. Produce a cost-effective gaming machine that outperforms its predecessor by a decent margin and innovate in other ways. In turn this may help them to recover for the blows and falls suffered by the PS3 and PSP.
The fact is, consumers don’t like it when they’re given the same thing over and over again for a decade. Just increasing the graphical power and using different disc formats with each console release isn’t enough. A harsh lesson Sega didn’t learn in time and Nintendo caught at the perfect opportunity. If Sony doesn’t wise up, we’ll be seeing Ubisoft, Konami, and Capcom bidding for the Playstation.