First announced back in, 2005; the Playstation 3 became the center of attention for a mass audience that catered up to 70% of the market. Sony had dominated with two successful game console generation sales, each moving over 100 million units worldwide! The dominance of both their first console, The Playstation garnered the support of third party publishers and with their aggressive marketing campaign, their name was spread far and wide within the gaming community.
After a successful run with their second console, Playstation 2 that supported video format; Sony took the next step in advanced gaming with the development of the Cell processor and their new video format: Blu-ray. This however led the company to some substantial financial costs as a standalone Blu-ray player ended up costing a hefty $1,000+
Playstation 3 first reveal at E3 2006
Concerns grew with the media and gamers alike as to the cost of the next popular console brand and likewise their fears came true. In 2006, Sony revealed the next generation of Playstation with a hefty $599.99 price point. To top it off it revealed a lineup of impressively jaw dropping games from Killzone 2 to Gundam: Crossfire. The aftermath however forced the company to lose a great deal of market share to both, Nintendo and Microsoft with the latter taking advantage of the poor business decisions the giant made.
What went wrong?
Part of the major 70% of consumers who bought Playstation products were casuals. A $599.99 price point for a game console is unthinkable so they migrated to the less expensive, more family friendly device: The Nintendo Wii. Even core gamers struggled to decide which console would sit next to their television. After all, Sony had some promising games in the works but after the disastrous launch that involved one death (A, Wal-mart employee trampled); theft and attempt of murder and games thatwere nothing more than cheap-underwhelming builds, things took a turn for the worse.
It was inevitable for the, Nintendo Wii to pull the casual audience in their favor. The Core only went with what was cheaper and had a decent library of games already available to play. The fact that, Microsoft had a year's in advance gave them the needed edge to outperform Sony's console. Promises were made by the corporation only to be broken later on. Game demo's revealed a promising coming of unique experiences but over and over, they delayed, put on hold or cancel game titles throughout the console's lifetime.
Last Guardian.. Where art thou?
A brand in jeopardy
The industry was becoming aware of the drastic changes happening in the next few years. Most shifted their focus to develop for the current successful console, Nintendo Wii (With negative results afterward) while major studios shifted their focus on the, Xbox 360. Once second party studios that supported Playstation, decided to go multi-platform. Microsoft's aggressive marketing campaign also swayed a number of Japanese developers in their favor to commit exclusive titles such as, Tales of Vesperia, Lost Odyssey and Star Ocean 4.
The brand was in jeopardy. Having a small library of exclusives in their arsenal with the competition offering more than twice the exclusive content and third party games promising slightly better quality and deals, it was a no-brainer for gamers to choose the cheapest priced console that offered a "Next-Gen" experience on the market.
A major comeback
Sony didn't give up (They've already invested billions into it). While the console was deemed a failure and a disaster by both the media and gamers around the world, the major console manufacturer continued to support their console. 2007 gave breath to a number of titles such as, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, Heavenly Sword and Motorstorm: Pacific Rift. In 2008, the release of, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriot became a major event that moved almost two million units in it's first week of release and Sackboy became their mascot that made platformers appealing. Finally in 2009, Sony pulled a major strategy that gave them the boost they needed to go back on track: A $299.99 price point; Kevin Butler marketing campaign and the blockbuster title: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, which earned it Game of The Year.
From there the publisher pushed to make content more accessible with a rich focus on games. Two of their most talented studios: Naughty Dog and Sony Santa Monica only made the brand strong with stellar games from the Uncharted and God of War series that used tools such as, MLAA that the competition did not have at the time. Both titles: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves and God of War III, became the darlings of the industry, racking up mass attention and positive feedback from both official reviewers and gamers alike.
Kevin Butler advertising console re-branding and price drop
Kevin Butler advertising console re-branding and price drop
Catering to the Casuals
Re-capturing the favor of the core audience was an important step in recovering from the major disaster they went through. Games were being released in a timely fashion and sales were good but with the success of the Wii, Sony wanted a piece of that market so they invented the, Playstation Move (Prototype first introduced back in, 2001). Accompanying the peripheral, 3D gaming was promoted as a way to change gaming but it didn't last long as it was deemed too expensive for the average gamer. Move still has potential but with the lack of content, it also became lost in the vast regions of dust collection.
[SUB]Sony's attempt to capture the casual audience [/SUB]
It might of shifted some units and gained some attention from the casuals but there wasn't much impact noted from those two focuses. Instead, their Playstation + subscription models that offer significant discounts; instant game collection of free games and exclusive content sounded more appealing for any gamer. The drawback to this is their DRM requirement for free games and their terms of service with having to continue paying the annual (Or 3 month) fee if you want to continue playing your free games.
Playstation Plus lineup of free games. For a $49.99 annual fee with these games available, major discounts and exclusive content such as first beta access to games, it's a great deal for newcomers and current Playstation gamers.
It was all a cluster of bad decisions from implementing a new media medium (Blu-ray), to investing over a billion on a new - difficult to develop architecture, Cell; to getting ripped off by, Nvidia. Combined together cost them a huge market share and second party support. Let's not forget that each console sold at $499.99-$599.99 (20GB and 60GB SKU's), cost them money.
What probably saved them was the notion that it was the most powerful console on the market even though the Xbox 360 has been proven to match some Playstation 3 games (Which didn't happen until much later into this generation), Blu-ray since it became the only physical media available after it conquered HD DVD with the console being the cheapest Blu-ray around. They also have to hand it to their pool of talented developers and mastermind directors that pushed the boundaries of gaming. Their focus on targeting a variety of demographics and business models will only lead them to success (Minus their, Online Passes and Season passes which will destroy their games if not stopped!).
Even with the upcoming, Playstation 4 release, the Playstation 3 is showing that it still has a lot to offer with, The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls and Gran Turismo 6 just ahead of us. There is so much that it can offer to us now. Tales of Graces f, Ni No Kuni and Valkyria Chronicle are some of the exclusive diamonds that you should experience.
From left to right: Valkyria Chronicles, Tales of Graces f and Ni No Kuni
Playstation 3 is a console that is worth every penny (Currently, you can buy it from $199.99-$249.99[NA]). Be it that you'll criticize it's services and slow online features; heck you will even be annoyed by their inevitable and painfully long firmware updates and game installs! But I know that as a gamer, you will enjoy the games available. There is already so much to choose from.