Sony insider: PS3 is a “risk”

July 17, 2006

According to a Kotaku blogger, an unnamed Sony Computer Entertainment employee has claimed that smaller developers see the PS3 as too big a “development risk”:

Kotaku post: Kutaragi Obsessed with Tech, Internal Sony Strife & PS3 Seen As “Risk”
(via Digg)

Ken KutaragiThe article also cites the source as saying that Ken Kutaragi (SCE CEO) is only interested in technology: “Some SCE officers disagree with his approach, feeling that the company should be more market sensitive. Kutaragi does not care.” He goes on to say that there are divisions within Sony itself surrounding the perceived purpose of the PS3: some view it as strictly a games machine, others see it as a “home electronic device (like a TV or video player)”.

Since the “reputable” source (understandably) won’t go on record, this obviously shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but it does raise some interesting points which tally with what we’ve been seeing in the videogame industry since Sony dropped the E3 bomb.

Most significantly, of course, there’s the price point of the PS3 itself. At $600 for the non-b0rked version, it’s been widely decried as being far too expensive by gamers online. Now, while the internet is hardly representative of the general buying public, it is considered to be fairly representative of the demographic of so-called “early tech adopters” — those who generally rush out to buy the latest gadget as soon as it hits the streets. Yet even some of those previously uncritical Sony fanboys have been sounding notes of caution on forums about the absurdly high price. And these are supposed to be the people who rush to buy the new console on release day.

But the real shock came after the price announcement was made. Kutaragi went on record to say that the PS3 was actually too cheap and that gamers would purchase the console “without question”. Incredibly, some gamers lapped up this propaganda, seeing it as a way to distance the bourgeoisie PS3 from the proletariat also-rans Xbox and Wii. However, for many others Kutaragi’s arrogant attitude only served to strengthen their resilience against the PS3. This — along with Kaz Hirai’s equally self-important “the next generation doesn’t start till we say it does” claim — did much to damage Sony’s reputation as the consumer’s choice. And the damage control continues: just this week Sony’s Phil Harrison denied claims that Sony are arrogant.

Kutaragi’s statement may also reflect the idea that there’s no clear vision of the PS3’s primary purpose within the company. It’s certainly priced higher than the other next gen consoles, but whether that means it’s intended as an executive games console or a jack-of-all-trades home entertainment hub (a la Bill Gates’ vision for the Xbox) remains to be seen.

There’s always the danger of underestimating Sony in all of this; they may still have a trump card up their sleeve. But at this point the signs certainly don’t look promising for Sony in the next phase of the console wars.

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