Sony Gives Critics Cause For Pause

"Sony is launching a social network for PS3 users called Playstation Home, according to news coming out of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco today. The network is a 3D virtual world similar to Second Life, says Engadget, except that it’s much, much better."

I’ve been pretty tough on Sony for their DRM strategy, their crappy stores, inability to build a decent online music service, and most recently for really screwing up the PS3 launch. I guess it was only a matter of time before the odds turned in their favor and they delivered something that is truly impressive.

The new Playstation Home service is probably less about being a Second Life killer and more about giving game consoles a new purpose in life, or in this case, virtual life. What I find appealing about Home is that it can extend the audience for PS3s beyond gamers, and for gamers it holds the promise of giving them something without a definitive ending point for them to participate in. In other words, games have beginning points and ending points, virtual worlds don’t.

The Sims being an example of the exception… but even the Sims is essentially a primitive virtual world, so Home should appeal massively to the same audience that is into the Sims (which is heavily women, BTW).

To close the point about games having end points, the game business is a hits business just like movies. Success rides on killer titles and franchise games driving consumption of consoles. Titles like Gears of War, Madden Football, and Gran Turismo become resasons for buying, and if a console maker and their software partners are unable to turn those titles out, well they suffer.

However, while game consoles used to enjoy exclusivity of titles, today’s market increasingly features producers putting out killer titles on both Xbox 360 and PS2/3… it’s somewhat analogous to the PC world where when everything runs in a browser window the choice between Mac and Windows becomes one of what Apple and Microsoft are doing with respectively and less about the ecosystem of software providers.

Playstation Home could end up being something that has greater value to Sony that game titles, if the experience of Linden Labs with Second Life is any indicator. While not putting game titles at risk anytime soon, I can see a trajectory where Sony builds a killer experience for users while at the same time giving them a platform to converge their other businesses like movies and music into, and indeed building entirely new businesses around advertising and content.

Tags: , , ,

4 thoughts on Sony Gives Critics Cause For Pause

  1. Just to play devil’s advocate, does this *really* matter? It’s a nice add-on, but is anyone really going to be compelled to spend $500-600 on a gaming console because of a Second Life clone? (I’ll point out that SL is ostensibly free to play, at least from a subscription perspective).

    The price to me is still the killer thing. Both the 360 and the PS3 offer media center capabilities, but the one really smart thing I think Microsoft did (well, aside from launching a year earlier than either the Wii or PS3) was not building in the price of the next-gen drive. I don’t watch enough movies to be really interested in either HD-DVD or Blu-Ray, and Microsoft gave me the ability to avoid (or defer) that additional $200 cost. Classic market segmentation. (Even the core to premium gap was a smart one – though most would eventually buy the hard drive, it was a smart move lowering barrier to entry to many parents. The PS3 had two levels, but from what I recall it’s not possible to upgrade later because of built-in components… though I may be wrong there).

    Until the premium comes down significantly on the Blu-Ray drive, the PS3 is going to have a severe disadvantage when it comes to the casual user, and most gamers either made their mind up before either system came out or are getting both.

    Just my opinion though 🙂

  2. Pingback Global community spirit « Joe Duck
  3. Tim,
    I think you are right about the pricing strategy. However, if Sony keeps coming out with services that leverage the PS3 they could end up making those price points look a lot more reasonable. Keep in mind that it’s not about coming up with reasons to make people buy a $600 console, but rather making a $600 console a lot more appealing to a segment of the market that just needs to be pushed over the edge.

  4. Pingback ITechTips

Comments are closed