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Winning the console wars: Sony's not-so-secret weapon


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Initial post: Mar 4, 2013 1:18:30 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2013 1:24:30 AM PST
Waldo says:
Not sure if this was posted before or not, but whatever. It's a good read anyways!

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of value

This next generation of gaming is looking to provide the biggest industry shake-up in decades, with dedicated console manufacturers facing ever-growing competition from tablet devices, smartphones, and an upcoming wave of budget consoles like the Ouya.

This is why I was so bewildered by Sony's over-hyped PlayStation 4 reveal earlier this month, an event which seemed almost completely ignorant of this coming shift in the marketplace. I'd expected to bear witness to some sort of master plan from one of the leading console manufactures. Instead we were treated to the non-news of another Final Fantasy game and a two-year late Diablo III port, each new awkward PR robot that took the stage helping to reinforce the idea that Sony had no idea what they were doing.

Thing is, the more I've thought about Sony's current market strategy, the more I've come to believe that they may not be as stupid as that mess of a press event would indicate. Though Sony's newest announcements may have been lackluster, the company has already proven themselves to be the only console manufacturer aware of how shifting valuations of media are affecting the gaming industry, an understanding which could give them a leg up in the coming console war and keep them from making the same sort of epic pricing blunders which could take Nintendo out of the race before it's even truly begun.

The Wii U's traditional pricing model is one of the reasons consumers have been slow to embrace it.

See, the digital age has greatly affected how we value entertainment products. iTunes has taught us that songs are worth no more than a dollar (if we choose to pay for them at all), Netflix has taught us that thousands of movies are worth $7.99 a month. Though the publishers of $60 retail games have desperately tried to put themselves in a different category than $1 App store titles, it's becoming clear that many consumers don't make the same distinction, seeing the former as wildly overpriced.

Nintendo's Wii U is a reflection of the old way of doing things, an expensive new toy with expensive new games. Rather than learn a lesson from the abysmal first-year sales of their overpriced Nintendo 3DS console ($250 before a massive price cut), Nintendo launched the Wii U at $350, alongside a suite of $60 game titles. As a result, the Wii U is now selling worse than the GameCube did, with a pitiful average of just two games sold per console. With these numbers, many analysts are already predicting that the Wii U is a disaster Nintendo won't recover from.

Meanwhile, game publishers who have been bold enough to challenge the traditional pricing models have experienced huge success. Valve's popular Steam service continues to offer significant discounts on even newly-released games (as of writing, Tomb Raider on Steam is $44.99, as compared to $59.99 at retail), while the free-to-play market has gone from a fringe experiment to a recipe for printing money through microtransactions.

Steam's sharp discounts on popular game downloads have put a dent in many a gamer's wallet.

Point is, the simple promise of "better games" is no longer enough to convince people it's time to plunk down hundreds of dollars on a new console, especially with the majority of consumers happy to tap away at casual fare like Angry Birds. Steam is especially noteworthy, with many gamers revealing they'd rather have a ton of cheap games than one marquee title, even if they don't have time to play everything they buy (I still have games from last year's holiday Steam sales that I've barely touched). It's becoming clear that in order for traditional consoles to remain viable, there has to be a major effort made towards offering better value to the customer. Thankfully for Sony, they've already shown off a game-pricing model which is quite genius, and could stand to make them the clear winner of this console war:

PlayStation Plus.

I'll admit to being rather skeptical when I was given a free one year pass to PS Plus at Sony's E3 2012 press event, though in the months that followed I was blown away by the constant stream of quality games which continued to be offered through the subscription service. So many that I actually had to purchase a 500GB hard drive just to make room for the wealth of downloads. Perhaps most telling of the power of PS Plus is how it has completely swayed my opinion of the PlayStation 3 console.

As a supposed professional in this here game industry, all manner of family and friends are constantly asking me for my opinion on which console they should purchase. For the past five years my answer was always the same: Xbox 360, a platform which had historically been cheaper than the PlayStation 3, with access to a library of games far superior to that of the Nintendo Wii. However, since my time with PS Plus, my recommendation has fully shifted to Sony's console, simply on the basis of value.

PS Plus is fantastic for new console owners, whose gaming budget is likely running thin after the purchase of the machine, extra controllers, HDMI cords and other needed accessories. A year subscription to PS Plus lets these virgin gamers compliment their purchase with an instant library of titles, letting them immediately dive into everything the console has to offer, while exploring various genres to discover just what sort of games they most enjoy. Take a look at just some of the awesome games which have been available since Sony's relaunch of the service this past June, many of which prod gamers into trying out game genres they might have otherwise avoided:

Action: Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, Darksiders, inFAMOUS 2, Vanquish

Adventure: The Walking Dead Episodes I & II

Classic/Retro: Mega Man 9, Mega Man 10, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Pac Man DX Championship Edition

Family: Little Big Planet 2, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One

Fighting: Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown, Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, The King of Fighters XIII

Multiplayer: Lord of the Rings: Guardians of Middle Earth, Payday: The Heist, Dungeon Defenders

Puzzle: Quantum Conundrum

Shooter: Bioshock 2, Borderlands

Sports: NBA Jam On Fire Edition, NFL Blitz

Hell, you could probably find just three games on that list you like and still have made back your $50 investment (without even factoring for all the free Vita games also offered). Meanwhile, on Microsoft's side of the aisle, gamers are still paying $60 for simple access to online play and Netflix. My Xbox Live subscription came up for renewal recently and I happily let it lapse, a move I think more and more gamers will be making so long as Microsoft fails to provide the kind of value Sony is (while continuing to cheapen the Xbox experience with those obnoxious dashboard ads).

Booting up my PS3/Vita and checking for free games is my new favorite pastime.

In short, PS Plus is the right way to sell a console, providing the kind of value that consumers now expect from their entertainment. However, as great as the service already is, I think Sony is in a position to push it even further. Imagine if the PlayStation 4 console were sold in a similar manner to cellphones, with Sony taking a loss on the hardware and making up their costs by enrolling users in a recurring PS Plus subscription.

Given the excellent quality of games and frequency of new releases that PS Plus has offered thus far, I can guarantee that I'd be first in line for this new machine, as would many gamers. Take it another step further and supplement the rotating selection of newer games with a consistent Netflix-style library of classic PlayStation titles. Want to boot up Mega Man Legends? Grand Theft Auto III? God Hand? Just connect to the service for a quick download, and you're on your way. Sony has mentioned looking into different price tiers for PS Plus, and I'd be happy to pay for the top tier if it in any way resembled the above suggestions.

The biggest concern, and one which prevents the above scenarios from being feasible, is Sony's announcement that the PS4 will not be backwards compatible, something which seems to be a major misstep. Sony has mentioned that older PlayStation titles may be made available sometime down the line, through either software emulation or cloud streaming.

Though I personally believe that passing up on the chance to launch the PS4 along with the immediate library of games offered by PS Plus is insanely shortsighted, and my secret hope is that Sony has some sort of ace up its sleeve in this regard, perhaps even offering a small selection of free PS4 launch titles to PS Plus subscribers. Sony has confirmed that PS Plus will play a "prominent role" on the PS4, but it remains to be seen what that will mean.

Point is, this is Sony's chance to truly shake up the market, offering potential gamers some seriously juicy values rather than simply pointing them at the tired wall of $60 titles. Sony should recognize that the brilliance of PS Plus could put them far ahead of the pack in this coming console war, and take full advantage of the groundwork they've lain out before either Microsoft or Nintendo jump on the game-subscription bandwagon.

Or worse, before the console industry collapses entirely.

http://www.destructoid.com/winning-the-console-wars-sony-s-not-so-secret-weapon-247362.phtml?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Destructoid+%28Destructoid%29&utm_content=FaceBook

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 1:23:26 AM PST
Jonathan says:
Interesting read. I just got a PS3 on Black Friday and got PS+ soon after, and I can totally see his point.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 3:28:24 AM PST
Agree.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 8:36:19 AM PST
I always like to see it as.

PS+: Pay a monthly fee, we'll give you free games to play, auto updates for your system and games on it. And discounts galore! BUT if you dont' want it that's fine, you can still play your games online for free.

Live Gold: Give us your money or you can't play your games online. We also wont' give you anything but a REALLY difficult time if you want to cancel your subscription. Also we won't tell you this but if you chose NOT to auto-renew, we know you meant you wanted to renew it so we checked yes for ya anyway.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 8:39:41 AM PST
FOGE says:
PS+ is literally overloading my HD with games I want to play. Im struggling now to beat games in time to make room for more. $50 never bought me so many good games.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 8:40:36 AM PST
Careful, you'll start getting the people who are going to through the "Rent" word around in hatred of the PS+.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 8:42:56 AM PST
FOGE says:
I know. I really dont care. Im over that discussion. I will always renew my subscription, so its about as close to owning as could be. Besides, once I beat a game, I wont want to replay it save for a few gems.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 8:43:35 AM PST
You and me both.

"Keeping" my old games isn't what makes me want to continue PS+, getting the chance to play new ones is.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 8:47:41 AM PST
saskamazon says:
Sonys crossbuy is steep competition ... things like Bit Trip 2 - I could put it on the U, but if I buy the PSN version, I get it for the Vita & PS3 for the one price .... with a 20% discount for + members ... if Nintendo doesn't start sweetening the deal, & possibly tie in digital DLs to both the U & 3DS, I think they will have difficulty getting consumers to go with their digital offerings ...

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 8:56:45 AM PST
user22 says:
It cracks me up every time I hear someone talk about Nintendo's imminent doom. As if one [possible] console failure could ruin them beyond recovery despite their globally beloved game franchises, their domination of the handheld market and their plethora of officially licensed merchandise.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 9:09:10 AM PST
Kruger says:
Sony's secret weapon is Jesus. Jesus with canon's strapped to his back - shooting exploding ninja midgets at MS. And, if you get too near to Jesus, tenticles with spikes and poison soaked boardswords cut you up.

It's over gaiz.

So over.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 9:33:08 AM PST
M. Stifler says:
I'd definitely buy into that Playstation Plus! Netflix-style library for PS1 titles and discounts on PS2 titles would be nice.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 9:36:18 AM PST
M. Stifler says:
"Game over man, game over!"

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 9:39:12 AM PST
I thought one of the coolest features about the PS4 is that it could sense if you own an Ouya, and the PS4 would hunt it down every night and torture it.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 9:44:08 AM PST
"Sony's secret weapon is Jesus. Jesus with canon's strapped to his back - shooting exploding ninja midgets at MS. And, if you get too near to Jesus, tenticles with spikes and poison soaked boardswords cut you up. "

So... a Moonkin Druid?

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 9:44:39 AM PST
GarionOrb says:
PS+ is certainly a game-changing feature...but this guy is totally wrong when it comes to consumers not making "the distinction" between a $1 app and a $60 game. I think consumers know just fine...it seems to be journalists who aren't making that distinction.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 9:47:52 AM PST
"With these numbers, many analysts are already predicting that the Wii U is a disaster Nintendo won't recover from."

They said the same thing about the 3DS too..If these moronic analysts actually allowed time for a handheld/console to mature so to speak, then we wouldn't have these doom and gloom predictions.

Oh and the author of this article fails to mention how PS+ isn't really helping the Vita that much. The way the author makes PS+ out to be it seems the Vita should be doing a lot better.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 9:49:52 AM PST
DVvM says:
Plus is great value for Playstation owners, I won't argue that, but I really don't think that Plus is an incentive to invest in a new $400 gamebox, particularly not during the PS4's launch period when there simply won't be that many games that run the thing.

Four years from now, Plus being awesome is potentially a reason to buy a PS4 instead of something else, but four years is a long way off.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 9:51:23 AM PST
Why 4 years?

So far the PS+ has proven to be a damn good reason to have a Playstation 3 or Vita.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 9:54:51 AM PST
GarionOrb says:
PS+ on the PS4 probably won't hit its stride until at least a year in, provided it'll be the same service it is now. They need to build up a game library, and I doubt they'll be giving away launch titles for "free".

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 9:55:48 AM PST
maybe not launch titles but indie titles could be.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 9:56:31 AM PST
FOGE says:
I figure theyll give away PSN titles and PS3 games at first.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 9:57:11 AM PST
And who knows they could give discounts to launch games.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 9:57:29 AM PST
Cyberphobia says:
Another Angry Birds is the future of gaming professional analyst? I gave up reading the OP after chapter 2.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 10:01:56 AM PST
Except you can't play those on your PS4.
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Discussion in:  Video Games forum
Participants:  27
Total posts:  70
Initial post:  Mar 4, 2013
Latest post:  Mar 5, 2013

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