Unwinding down

Hooray for me, E3 is over. Alas for you, because that’s all I’m going to write about for the next few days. I’ve been immersed in the stupid event up to my eyeballs for the past five days — actually much longer when you count all the prep crap we did — and I can’t really think of anything at the moment that doesn’t involve oversized booths, overloud music and overodiferous fanboys. My brain is currently locked onto a single, painful track.

I guess I could write about everything in one gigantic chunk, but that sounds too much like work. And by work I mean “integrity.” So we’ll start with Sony.

Sony kinda lucked out this year — I was going to say their showing was the most pathetic thing about E3, but then I flew home on United via LAX where we got to sit in the terminal for an extra three hours because they misplaced the plane or something. (“Oh, sorry, I think we left it in our other pants.”) And to make matters worse, most of the restaurants in our terminal were closed because “they weren’t busy enough.” I guess since we only had to stand in line for 15 minutes to get through security, the airport was deemed too empty to turn a profit on $4 cups of coffee and $9 hamburgers.

Sony certainly tried, though. I didn’t have the poor fortune to attend the company’s pre-E3 press conference, but I’m told that the silence following the announcement of PS3’s split SKU and $599/$499 prices was legendary, interrupted only by the furious clacking of several thousand journalists textually crowing in triumph/amazement/schadenfreude.

Still, in case you ever forget the impact of that moment, you can easily remind yourself by telling someone who hasn’t yet heard the news. I was chatting with a Namco rep at the airport who was at the convention but had been too busy coordinating events to pay attention to all the E3 scuttlebutt. She mentioned that she didn’t know what PS3 was costing to cost, but she “was sure it would be a lot more than the Wii.” Surprised, I asked her if she hadn’t heard and told her the price. Her first response was that same legendary silence as at the press conference: her jaw moved wordlessly up and down in bewilderment. It’s pretty fun to watch and I recommend you try it on everyone you know.

In any case, it was a sad contrast to E3 2005 when the Sony keynote consisted entirely of the “$299” announcement (delivered to triumphant cheers); this year, Hirai and Kutaragi and friends spent the next three days trying desperately to justify the price, using tactics ranging from the bizarre (cafeteria lunch analogies) to the blatantly nonsensical (“Peter Moore says people are going to buy a Wii and a 360 for the cost of a PS3! But I say they’re going to buy a Wii and a PS3! For the cost of, uh… two 360s.”). They’re making Nintendo’s fumbling efforts to explain “Wii” a few weeks ago look downright genius.

Currently, videogaming’s most popular SAT question is, “PS3:Sony::___:Nintendo.” The answer, of course, is “N64,” a comparison which might sound familiar to the tiny handful of humans who actually pay attention to my rambling speculation disguised as editorial. It’s a hard conclusion to avoid, though, because both systems were/are bogged down by proprietary media; in the N64’s case, the high cost of carts resulted in expensive software for consumers and expensive manufacturing costs for third parties. BluRay probably won’t put much burden on developers (that particular gun-in-mouth onus will be provided by the need for HD graphics capable of competing with Kojima Productions’ wizardry), but consumers aren’t so lucky. Naturally, the system will come down in cost as BluRay manufacturing yields increase — assuming, of course, that the BluRay format actually catches on. (Not that Sony’s had much luck in that regard, well, ever.) For the next couple of years, though, PS3 is pretty much in bank loan/mortgage territory… especially when you consider that you’ll need a top-of-the-line TV to make full use of the system. TVs that start at $2000 — which maybe explains why Sony would even begin to think $600 is a reasonable price for a game console. (Or rather, $1200, since the first PS3 you buy will invariably break down.) Apparently it hasn’t yet occured to the company that, oh yeah, normal people don’t spend upwards of $2000 on TVs.

I guess the company’s future rests on whether or not people become incredibly wealthy in the next couple of years. Here’s hoping! I for one would not mind being so rich I could rolling naked in money in my free time and afford a PS3 without a second thought.

As soon as they get some good games for it, which based on what was shown in playable form I guess could coincide with the price coming down (roughly 2009).

Huh, I guess they planned this out better than I expected. Onward to victory, then.

Oh, I repaired my wiki database. I’m stumped as to what precisely happened to it, but whatever, it’s fixed now. You may now resume being offended by my opinions of ten-year-old videogames.

32 thoughts on “Unwinding down

  1. Not everyone seems to be exasperated at the price. A family member of mine apparently has no problem whatsoever putting down the 600 big ones for the system at launch. Alternatively, the Wii holds no interest or facination for him.

    It’s all in what you want and what you’ll pay for I suppose.

  2. After you guys dropped me off at Terminal 1, I lined up in a “security queue”. Ultimately a useless gesture because I needed a boarding pass first, and then I got to line up in the security queue. The ticketing agent first hassled me about needing a passport (“You’ll need one to get to the States by 2007” because everyone knows terrorists come from Canada) then told me to drop off my bags at the section of the airport situated in New Zealand. When I got to New Zealand they told me to turn around and drop the bags off in Timbucktu instead. I made it just in time for boarding.

    I don’t know about Terminal 7, but in Terminal 1 the flight gates are so small that people spill out into the pathway and make it impossible to get to your own gate. I intensely dislike LAX, but thankfully CLT (Charlotte) was a bit more sane. Brought back some memories when I was sitting there, that’s for sure.

  3. And regarding the PS3 price, not one person told me they’re going to buy the system at launch, or at all for that matter. And I asked a lot of people.

  4. I should also note that the previously posted ad claims that the Neo-Geo has four dimentional realism. I think I’ve heard that about another system recently, but I can’t put my finger on it, frankly.

  5. My red-blooded Halo playing friends like the Wii because that tennis game looks insanely fun.

  6. A little perspective:
    The NeoGeo was released in 1990 for $649.99. In 2005 dollars, that’s $966.76. (The NeoGeo also came with two controllers and a pack-in game, a standard for many sysytems of that era, likely never to be seen again)
    The Sega Saturn launched in 1995 for $399.99. In 2005 dollars, that would be $497.66.
    If there’s something to learn, I’m not sure what it is. I wouldn’t want to fall somewhere between those two.

  7. Factoring in inflation or not, the fact remains that $600 dollars for hardware is just as much highway robbery now as it was then.

  8. Yeah, and the NeoGeo and Saturn were hardcore mainstream success! Oh… wait. They weren’t.
    It’s actually sort of silly to factor inflation into technology purchases. The price of computer-related hardware has steadily dropped in absolute dollars over the years, and plummeted in relative dollars. Nintendo, for instance, has always debuted new consoles at $199 — even though the NES’s $199 was “more” in 1985 than the GameCube’s $199 in 2001. You can buy a damn nice PC for $1000 now — but that thousand dollars wouldn’t have taken you far when the NeoGeo was shiny and new. There are of course people for whom $600 is no object for a shiny new toy… but they are very much the minority.

  9. I have a soft spot for Nintendo, so I am biased, but why the hell didn’t everyone laugh at Sony in that conference? I know I would have… for crying out loud! I just read (while writing this very comment) about the Net Neutrality thing. What the hell?

  10. “It’s actually sort of silly to factor inflation into technology purchases. The price of computer-related hardware has steadily dropped in absolute dollars over the years, and plummeted in relative dollars. Nintendo, for instance, has always debuted new consoles at $199 — even though the NES’s $199 was “more” in 1985 than the GameCube’s $199 in 2001. You can buy a damn nice PC for $1000 now — but that thousand dollars wouldn’t have taken you far when the NeoGeo was shiny and new. There are of course people for whom $600 is no object for a shiny new toy… but they are very much the minority.”

    Or 8086 PCs with 64K or so running in the thousands in the early to mid-80s IIRC.

    Oh, and I just found out that my recent acquisition of Capcom Classics Collection Remixed was for naught.

    Capcom Classics Collection vol. 2 game list:

    Side Arms
    Black Tiger
    Knights of the Round
    Super Street Fighter II Turbo
    Three Wonders
    Eco Fighters
    Tiger Road
    Captain Commando
    Last Duel
    Mega Twins
    Magic Sword
    Quiz and Dragons
    The Speed Rumbler
    Block Block
    King of Dragons
    Street Fighter

  11. Whatever. Talking about expensive systems and the good ol’ days. I downloaded Road Avenger for Sega CD today, just to see what I missed. And I missed a lot. The theme song for the game alone made me cry of excitement and happiness. I declare Road Avenger’s theme song as the greatest theme song for a videogame ever… EVER! And the intro combined with the theme song is almost a heavenly experience of adrenaline and joy. Wow. I hope 20 years from now we have machines that emulate the PS3, because I’m sure as hell I’m not getting it.

  12. The PS3 sounds like a whole lotta money. Just how loyal ARE all you Metal Gear fans? I guess we’ll see.

  13. The inflation argument is without merit. Its almost really telling you how much more worthless your money is now compared to 10 years ago without taking into account other factors. But on the upside, if you wipe your butt with $1 they’ll be worth $100 eventually because of inflation… Its like the Macguyver method to wiping your butt with $100 bills.

  14. The only thing I saw at E3 that made the PS3 look very good at all was a build of the first level of Marvel Alliance Heroes X-Men Legends Ripoff. It looked smooth and gorgeous, not entirely next gen, but with a whole lot of proimise. Still, even that, their best offering, wasn’t even close to making me want to spend $600 on the PS3.

    But my view has always been that Sony has this built-in, rabid, mindless fan base who doesn’t wish to be bothered with things like facts and figures. They see that Sony Spiderman font and they think, “Gee golly willikers, I need to get me one of them there Sony dowhatzits!”

    Don’t you think that, despite the pricing, Sony is going to dominate sales of next-gen consoles? Or am I grossly underestimating the mindset of the average gamer?

  15. “Don’t you think that, despite the pricing, Sony is going to dominate sales of next-gen consoles? Or am I grossly underestimating the mindset of the average gamer?”

    I think you are. Sega was dominating the industry for a better part of the early 90s until the Saturn and look what happened to them.

  16. Saturn was the final stop in Sega’s campaign to make gamers hate them — Sony hasn’t quite been on that level. Yet. Although… the PS2 HDD is nothing if not a modern-day Sega CD. And the PSP is very clearly playing Game Gear to DS’s Game Boy. But, nah.
    In any case, Sony is certainly not the only company with drooling fanboys.

  17. I think the reason Sony more or less shot themselves in the foot is that they got overzealous and wanted to make their console do everything. “It’ll play games! It’ll let you watch movies! It’ll play our stupid proprietary format discs! It’ll let you take photos and such off of memory sticks and store them in a hard drive! It’ll let you play online! It’ll let you use 1080p (or whatever the term is) on TVs that cost what you make in 2-3 months! It’ll file your taxes! It’ll do your laundry!” And of course to fit all that shit in there they had to make the damn thing expensive as hell. The last console I can remember that tried that approach was the CD-i. We all know how successful that was.

  18. Toastyfrog, I am angry at your opinion of a ten-year-old videogame.

    The thing with the PS3, I believe, is that Sony is invincible at the moment, and feels like they can charge whatever the hell they feel like, and people will gladly pay it. And if Sony can convince everyone to stay on board, continuing to make games for them, they might even pull it off. The PS2 is so popular even among the hardest of core Nintendo fanboys like myself because with their huge software library, there is bound to be something you HAVE to have. Man cannot live on Mario and Pokemon alone.

    If the third parties get a scent of dissatisfaction after the PS3 launches, though, it’ll be fun to watch everyone jump ship off of Sony’s sinking boat. Kutaragi is probably the Xbox360’s best salesman (sorry, J. Allard).

  19. Well, the one constant in the game industry is that – save for those which have failed spectacularly – no two consoles have had identical life cycles. Also, no two have launched under exactly to the same conditions.

    The N64 – PS3 analogy doesn’t really seem convincing to me as far as the storage media’s concerned. If anything, it’s the opposite: Nintendo went with cartridges partly to keep the costs down, partly to choke money out of third parties; on the other hand, Sony’s going with blu-ray simply to push the format and provide greater storage capability.

    In Nintendo’s case, the media was a burden on third parties but it would help keep the price down, favoring early adoption; in Sony’s case, the media allows third parties to cram more stuff in there, but it’s the very thing which is ultimately responsible for the sky-high retail price, which could stiffle early adoption.

    Personally, I’d like to see Sony lose the top spot just for the heck of it, but considering first generation PS3s will sell out just as surely as they’ll break down within six months, I think it’s too early to tell how the launch price will affect the console’s eventual performance in the market.

    Though there is *one* thing Nintendo’s N64 and Sony’s PS3 have in common: they’re both a brainchild of hubris.

  20. “If anything, it’s the opposite: Nintendo went with cartridges partly to keep the costs down, partly to choke money out of third parties;”

    i would encourage you to review your history.

  21. If I’m mistaken, I’d only ask for clarification as to how. There’s always a great deal of history to review. ;-)

    Lest there be any misunderstanding, though: by “keeping the costs down” I mean keeping the price of the console itself down by not equiping it with any form of optical drive.

    And it’s my understanding that cartridges were a win-win situation for Nintendo because third parties had to “buy” them from the company, regardless of whether they were eventually able to sell them or not. This is what I meant by “choking money out of third parties.”

  22. Not really a win-win situation because the cartridges couldnt hold as much as a CD and not many third parties really wanted to put up with having to buy the carts in the first place.

  23. Zoh em gee! That guy in the neon red mohawk did a Taekwondo pattern. That’s a Taekwondon’t.
    Anyway, I’m not even waiting for the PSThree, anymore. The price wasn’t the only disappointment Sony revealed last week. Oh, but let’s count them!
    •Two SKU’s
    •”More Affordable” SKU is very barely upgradeable
    •Sony Tilt ‘n’ Tumble Controller (DualShake)
    •Still using the Spider-Man font
    •Their launch lineup
    I was expecting you to mention Squarenix’s plans for the Compilation of Final Fantasy XIII, Parish, but I guess I’ll go ahead and point out that it’ll be 3+ games directed by the people who brought us the FFVII technical demo, and Advent Children.
    Spend every day dreading it’s release, ladies and gentlemen!

  24. To be honest, after spending so much time researching the damn system, the price itself didn’t surprise me at all. Industry analysts and general speculation placed the thing at somewhere in the $400-600 range (or higher if you included analysts that were only taking a stab at what the thing would cost Sony to produce), and there’s always the (sadly desperate) “that’s a really good price for a Blu-Ray player” argument.
    No, my surprise is at the dual skus. I completely understand why Microsoft did it with the 360. In making one version of the system $300, they could still hit the console launch “sweet spot” (and give those with a light wallet the ability to buy their console peicemeal), and at the same time, while $400 was pretty expensive, it somehow seemed that much more affordable when you looked at it like “well, it’s only $100 more than the bare bones version”.
    Not so with the PS3. It’s not like Sony has a bargain-priced version and a premium upgrade – both are too expensive. Even at $500, you’d basically be deciding to buy a videogame console instead of, say, a cheap car. Or, you know, feeding your family for a few months.
    What’s worse is that Sony’s “retard pack” is priced $100 higher than the 360’s premium version, a comparison that will surely not go unnoticed everywhere outside of Japan. And as for Japan, I’m sure even this gaffe wouldn’t help Microsoft very much right now, but it raises a big “what if” regarding the possibility that Nintendo might actually retake the lead in the console race in their homeland (and yes, I know they claim not to be competing, but still).

  25. The day a videogame console is something “I have to have” is the day I know i should stop playing the stupid things and read a book or go for a walk. A videogame console is a toy, for kids and grownups but a toy nonetheless. Toys are good, toys are things we’ve had for centuries, probably since the begining of mankind, but when the toy tries to take over your life it becomes a burden and something that alienates you, when your identity depends on a toy to remain strong, and the pleasure you feel when you relax with your toy is gone, it becomes a burden. So, fuck you Sony, I’m glad Nintendo still gets it. And Sony, I think making the Halcyon 2 wont bring you any luck and I hope gamers are still people who want to have fun and not drug addicts that are dependant on a product to have an identity. And if any of you depends on a videogame to go through life being yourself, you are a fucking loser.

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