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Old 02-10-06, 11:35 AM   #1
mrpayroll
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Could the Playstation 3 Kill Sony?

http://www.ehomeupgrade.com/entry/21...he_playstation

Category: Industry Buzz - February 09, 2006
By David Walker


As we quickly approach E3 in May, many people are eagerly anticipating more details on the Sony PS3. Since Sony burst onto the gaming scene with the original Playstation, they have been the company to beat in the console wars. As a matter of fact, while the rest of Sony has struggled, the Playstation division has been a cash cow that the rest of the company has relied on. With Microsoft having already launched the Xbox 360 to overwhelming demand, many are wondering what the counter from Sony will truly look like, hype set aside. It wouldn't be exaggerating to say that Sony is betting a large hand on the Playstation 3. It's not just the Playstation division that's making the bet, either. With the next-gen Hi-Def format war still raging, Sony is betting a substantial portion of it's future on Blu-Ray. While most analysts agree that HD-DVD will not likely win, some analysts are openly wondering whether Blu-Ray will as well. If it doesn't, Sony could be in serious trouble.

Isn't This Thing Supposed to Play Games First?

In order for Sony's Trojan Horse strategy with Blu-Ray to work, the Playstation 3 has to succeed as a gaming console. As a game console, the Playstation 3 has to deliver on several fronts. In pure horsepower and graphical ability, there's little doubt that the console will impress. There are serious reservations as to Sony's online strategy (compared to Xbox Live) and we'll cover that in a bit. However, one aspect of gaming that is often ignored, but can become a major issue is load times. Ask any Sony PSP owner what annoys them most about the portable console and you are sure to hear about it's dreadful load times. Gamers are an impatient breed and if Sony frustrates hardcore gamers - and developers, for that matter - it could greatly damage it's reputation with the group that will comprise PS3 early adopters.

Until now, it's been widely assumed that the Blu-ray drive that will make it's way into the PS3 will be single-speed. If true, this choice could be disasterous. Blu-ray single speed transfers data at a constant rate of 36Mbps (Megabits per second) or 4.5 MBps (Megabytes per second). Sound impressive? Think again. DVD single speed is rated at a little over 1.32MBps max. A 12X DVD, such as the one in the Xbox 360, transfers data at rates between 8.2 and 16.5 MBps for an average of around 13MBps. This article from Gamespot provides all the details on transfer speeds, but simple math should show that there are some serious concerns looming with a single speed Blu-Ray drive. So, all things being equal, a 20 second load-time on the Xbox 360 would equate to just under 60 seconds on the PS3!

In order for Sony to bring load times into the same range as the Xbox 360, it would have to use at least a 2X drive (which would transfer a little faster than a 12X DVD's minimum speed) or a 3X drive (which would closely resemble a 12X DVD's average transfer rate). Since Blu-ray is a new technology, it's a certainty that the faster speeds will increase the base cost of the PS3, which leads into the next point.

Money Doesn't Grow on Trees

The Playstation 3 will lose money for at least a few years. How much and for how long is key, and recent projections from Merrill Lynch Japan suggest that the PS3 could lose a tremendous amount of money for Sony in the first few years. Merrill Lynch is projecting losses of 1.18 billion in year 1, 730 million in year 2 and 457 million in year 3. By comparison, Sony's profits in the past three years has been about 1.86 billion. If the PS3 doesn't start turning a serious profit in year 4, Sony's bank accounts could start drying up. There's no indication if these losses also anticipate the costs involved with setting up the massive infrastructure for an Xbox Live competitor, which most people think Sony will provide. If not, Sony's losses could skyrocket even more as it looks to create a brand-new online presense.

Sony could try to offset these losses by launching the PS3 with a higher price point, but anything above $500 is considered too high for wide adoption. Will consumers agree with Ken Kutaragi's assessment that you will want to work an extra job to have one? Kutaragi has even lamented that "…the PS3 can't be offered at a price that's targeted towards households."

Additionally, Sony is stil having to compete with HD-DVD, which is getting significant backing from Microsoft (and their 37 billion in cash). Whereas Microsoft has little to lose if HD-DVD fails, Sony has everything to lose. Additionally, recent announcements at CES in January indicate that the least expensive Blu-Ray drives will start at $1000 while HD-DVD is hitting the market with players starting at $500. Many analysts saw these changes as giving HD-DVD a second-wind that could ultimately hurt Sony more than it helps HD-DVD, which leads to another point.

Tell Me Why I Need Blu-Ray More Than DVD?

Unless you have an HDTV set, you'll never see the difference between Blu-Ray and DVD. And considering that Hi-Def adoption is currently at 24% and more than half of consumers are waiting for price drops, the target market for Blu-Ray is not as lucrative as one might believe. When DVDs hit the market, there were several reasons to purchase them. For one, the quality far surpassed VHS. Additionally, menus and extra features made DVD content easier to access and gave it more value. Also, DVDs don't degrade in quality over time, making them a better long-term investment. The jump from DVD to Blu-Ray (or HD-DVD) is not as significant, unless you're an HDTV owner. Even then, the question remains: Is Blu-Ray content going to be compelling enough to make me say "I have to have it?"

Recent announcements also suggest that Blu-Ray disc prices will come at a significant premium over existing DVD prices. With broadband adoption growing rapidly, one also has to ask if a physical format has a long life ahead of it. Bill Gates has publicly stated that he thinks the format war is the last we'll see, because hi-def content will be soon be delivered over the Internet instead. HD-DVD may not win the war, but it doesn't mean that Blu-ray will.

Games, Games, Games

The Playstation 3 has wide support right now. However, rumblings have been surfacing that the PS3 is hard to develop for, due to the complexity of a brand new processor with multiple cores. Similar criticisms arose with the PS2, and while Sony was able to overcome the same hurdles then, there is one major difference now that may keep history from repeating itself: the Xbox 360.

Since the original Xbox came into the game a good bit later than the PS2, developers had to stick with Sony because it was the clear market leader. This afforded Sony liberties that it may not have had otherwise. Now, Microsoft has the head start. Additionally, the Microsoft unit has already been praised by the likes of John Carmack (creator of Doom, Quake, etc...) for it's great development environment, while Hideo Kojima of Metal Gear Solid fame has expressed some concerns that development for the PS3 could be more difficult than for the Xbox 360. Sony must have strong 3rd party support so that licensing fees will help recoup the costs of putting the PS3 into the market. Just being Sony may not be enough anymore.

Conclusion

While I don't think we'll see Sony close it's doors for good, I have some concerns about the affect the PS3 could have on Sony's financials over the next few years and into the future. Microsoft has created an impressive console with the Xbox 360 and while Sony has a strong history in the Playstation line, there are key components for concern. Blu-Ray, an online service like Xbox Live and a hard development environment create additional areas for financial loss that may not be recouped. For the sake of competition and a strong market, let's hope Sony can address these concerns adequately and while there is still time.


Since we don't have an active PS3 thread, I had to start this one.

Chris
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Old 02-10-06, 12:31 PM   #2
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I agree on most counts. I have to disagree about the 360 head start. It would be different if they actually shipped enough to get a jump on the PS3 but a half million consoles is a blip on Sony's radar.

I'm indifferent about Sony, but I think the PS3 will be their N64. Sitting way up on top of the game industry they think they can do no wrong and every decision is the right one, but I think this gen will be a stumbling block. Mostly for some of the reasons above. The whole "game system? This is our way to beat HD-DVD" mentality bugs me.
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Old 02-10-06, 12:45 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cleaver
It took Sega 4 losing consoles (Sega CD, 32X, Saturn, Dreamcast, each one better than the one before, each one lost it's console war) to die. So no, PS3 can't kill Sony.
I think it is a bit inaccurate to call the CD and 32X add-ons, "consoles". Since it is an optional add-on, you can't measure its success like a console. Sega CD add-on was hardly a "failure". The 32X was a technical success, but a commercial failure. And part of that failure was poor timing.

The lessons to take way from the Sega story is that timing is key and a fall in popularity can happen literally overnight.
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Old 02-10-06, 12:46 PM   #4
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I agree with you guys I don't think it will kill Sony. That being said I think it will damage them badly, MS will level the playing field a bit, even if Sony wins this console war (which they will) MS will make up alot of ground this time around setting up an even larger console war for the next generation (PS4 Vs. xbox whatever). All the while Nintendo will be making the same old good time games they've been making for a couple decades.

I'm a huge Xbox fan but I have owned all three current gen consoles and it would be pretty small minded to think that Sony will die due to this console, but I hope it makes them think twice about the way the build a console next time.
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Old 02-10-06, 01:00 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kakihara1
I agree with you guys I don't think it will kill Sony. That being said I think it will damage them badly, MS will level the playing field a bit, even if Sony wins this console war (which they will) MS will make up alot of ground this time around setting up an even larger console war for the next generation (PS4 Vs. xbox whatever). All the while Nintendo will be making the same old good time games they've been making for a couple decades.

I'm a huge Xbox fan but I have owned all three current gen consoles and it would be pretty small minded to think that Sony will die due to this console, but I hope it makes them think twice about the way the build a console next time.
I don't think that Sony's dominance with the PS3 is a given. The stakes are far higher now that ever before. Sony has allowed various rumors and buzz about what the PS3 is going to be. It is unrealistic to think that they will be able to produce a console with the specs being talked about with a Blu-Ray drive at the target pricepoint. On top of that, unveil an online service that will be able to compete with a seasoned service.

I believe that the next round is Microsoft's to lose. If they drag their feet on expanding capabilities of Live and multimedia support of the 360, they will be squandering the lead they have. Having said that, I do believe that Microsoft will be a bit too conservative and lose it.
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Old 02-10-06, 01:07 PM   #6
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On the one hand the other divisions of Sony are not doing all that well, and they do seem to be relying more and more on the revenue the games division makes. On the other hand, because of this, it's certainly a very important division to the company, and one where they can ill-afford to make huge mistakes, so I see them being very careful to ensure the success of the PS3.

Unless MS can up the production of 360's quickly, I agree that the headstart doesn't matter that much... I love my 360, but the games currently out are not going to change PS2 fanboys into Xbox fanboys, since it's just more of the same.

And I thought it was common knowledge that every company loses money on consoles at release, but make up for it with accessory and game sales? Is it just that the thinking is that sony will deliver this too far under cost?
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Old 02-10-06, 01:10 PM   #7
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By the end of the year, Sony will have gone the way of Sega.
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Old 02-10-06, 01:13 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Groucho
By the end of the year, Sony will have gone the way of Sega.


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Old 02-10-06, 01:18 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sracer
I don't think that Sony's dominance with the PS3 is a given. The stakes are far higher now that ever before. Sony has allowed various rumors and buzz about what the PS3 is going to be. It is unrealistic to think that they will be able to produce a console with the specs being talked about with a Blu-Ray drive at the target pricepoint. On top of that, unveil an online service that will be able to compete with a seasoned service.

I believe that the next round is Microsoft's to lose. If they drag their feet on expanding capabilities of Live and multimedia support of the 360, they will be squandering the lead they have. Having said that, I do believe that Microsoft will be a bit too conservative and lose it.
I don't necessarily think it's a given either but you have to aknowledge the fact that sony's following is rediculously huge and I'd be willing to bet that if you repackaged the PS2 in a different case and slapped "PS3" on it with a pricepoint of $500 a large percentage of sony fans would be climbing over each other to get thier hands on it, regardless of the fact that it can't play next gen games.

I am going to buy a PS3 for sure. What's not sure is whether or not I'll buy one at launch or wait a few months till the craze dies down, I really hope they put together a kick ass console; and I know they will sell a metric shit ton of them, even if it sucks.
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Old 02-10-06, 01:25 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kakihara1
I don't necessarily think it's a given either but you have to aknowledge the fact that sony's following is rediculously huge and I'd be willing to bet that if you repackaged the PS2 in a different case and slapped "PS3" on it with a pricepoint of $500 a large percentage of sony fans would be climbing over each other to get thier hands on it, regardless of the fact that it can't play next gen games.
Ok, ok... y'got me on that one!

Quote:
Originally Posted by kakihara1
I am going to buy a PS3 for sure. What's not sure is whether or not I'll buy one at launch or wait a few months till the craze dies down, I really hope they put together a kick ass console; and I know they will sell a metric shit ton of them, even if it sucks.
The XBox 360 is my first NEW console since the Atari VGS (before it was called the 2600) and the first one since my used Sega/32X/CD combo. So I'm not really in-tune with the game console industry.

If MS does not increase its support for non-gaming features and Sony DOES with the PS3, I would consider buying a PS3.
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Old 02-10-06, 01:50 PM   #11
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It was a good read, but I don't think this will kill Sony.

It definitely won't help them since they seem to be trying to spend too much time killing two birds with one stone.
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Old 02-10-06, 01:54 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Walker
Since Sony burst onto the gaming scene with the original Playstation, they have been the company to beat in the console wars.
They didn't establish their dominance until the PS2 was released.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Walker
As a matter of fact, while the rest of Sony has struggled, the Playstation division has been a cash cow that the rest of the company has relied on.
The rest of the company does not need to rely on the games division. Consumer electronics still vastly outsell it in dollar terms, but Sony Pictures and their financial services are just as profitable, especially recently.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Walker
With Microsoft having already launched the Xbox 360 to overwhelming demand...
I like the 360 as much as the next guy but the demand has only been overwhelming because the supply has been so constricted.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Walker
Ask any Sony PSP owner what annoys them most about the portable console and you are sure to hear about it's dreadful load times. Gamers are an impatient breed and if Sony frustrates hardcore gamers - and developers, for that matter - it could greatly damage it's reputation with the group that will comprise PS3 early adopters.
My understanding is that what annoys PSP owners is that there are no games.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Walker
So, all things being equal, a 20 second load-time on the Xbox 360 would equate to just under 60 seconds on the PS3!
Maybe, maybe not. It depends much more on the programming than the speed of the drive, especially these days.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Walker
The Playstation 3 will lose money for at least a few years. How much and for how long is key
Wait, I thought the games division was a "cash cow"? Which is it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Walker
Sony's bank accounts could start drying up.
Sony has US$7.2BN in cash and cash equivalents.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Walker
There's no indication if these losses also anticipate the costs involved with setting up the massive infrastructure for an Xbox Live competitor, which most people think Sony will provide. If not, Sony's losses could skyrocket even more as it looks to create a brand-new online presense.
It already has an online presence. Sony Connect was launched in 2004.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Walker
Even then, the question remains: Is Blu-Ray content going to be compelling enough to make me say "I have to have it?"
This is actually a strong & solid point - it all boils down to ease of use, and DVDs provided a big jump in ease of use (arguably). BluRay and HD-DVD won't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Walker
I have some concerns about the affect the PS3 could have
I have concerns over the author's drivel.
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Old 02-10-06, 02:01 PM   #13
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No, they have too big a lead and too much brand name recognition to die this gen. They could lose some ground, but as long as it launches at the price of the 360 and has some good exclusives at launch and in the first year it should easily be the top system again, though it may not dominate as much as the PS2 did.

MS really missed a golden chance to build up a big lead by not having many units out at launch or the holiday season when they were the only next gen system out.
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Old 02-10-06, 02:41 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sracer
I don't think that Sony's dominance with the PS3 is a given.
No, it is.

Microsoft will occupy about the same place as they did in the current (er, last?) generation.

The real question is what will happen with Nintendo, position-wise. The Revolution looks like it will be aggressively marketed towards non-gamers, with the remote control-style controller. Obviously if that controller fails to take off they'll introduce a "normal" controller, but it will significantly affect their positioning if the thing doesn't do that well at launch.
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Old 02-10-06, 03:08 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Josh Hinkle
No, they have too big a lead and too much brand name recognition to die this gen.
Exactly. They will still come out on top but not reach PS2 sales in the least. They have that MTV Cribs & Pimp my Ride crowd marketing their products for free to the easily influenced pre-pubecent children(which includes those up to around 21 or so). Like I said before, I think the PS3 is going to be a stumbling block because they have their priorities all fucked up just like Nintendo did putting together the N64. Not enough to kill them, but it will be a bump in the road.

I'm with BWG, Microsoft will sell about the same and Nintendo is a big wild card. With the DS being such a huge success it shows there are new gamers to be had than the typical demographic. Also seems to show that gameplay trumps pretty graphics any day of the week. Nintendo could be on the brink of something big. Live Arcade game sales seems to back up those assumptions as well. I'm just wondering if Microsoft didn't beat them to the punch on the virtual console.
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Old 02-10-06, 03:13 PM   #16
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I'm just wondering if Microsoft didn't beat them to the punch on the virtual console.
Are you saying that white box on My A/V rack is just a figment of my imagination?
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Old 02-10-06, 03:17 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kakihara1
Are you saying that white box on My A/V rack is just a figment of my imagination?
Well I was thinking more or less it being old hat by the time Revolution hits.
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Old 02-10-06, 03:17 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kakihara1
Are you saying that white box on My A/V rack is just a figment of my imagination?
He is referring to Xbox Live Arcade which is similar to Nintendo's upcoming Virtual Console aspect of its new system.
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Old 02-10-06, 03:23 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by PixyJunket
He is referring to Xbox Live Arcade which is similar to Nintendo's upcoming Virtual Console aspect of its new system.
I'm thinking for the type of games on Live Arcade, Nintendo is going to kick much ass in that department. Geometry Wars and the like are great fun but Nintendo will do it better IMO.
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Old 02-10-06, 03:36 PM   #20
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A few points:

1. More people come in every day to where I work asking about the PS3 than the 360, and this started when the 360 was first announced. Also, all of these people fully expect the PS3 to be $500, and STILL want to pre-order it on the spot.

2. Developers are not complaining about the PS3. What some of them are complaining about is that they can no longer develop a game for all three platforms, as the consoles this generation are three entirely different pieces of machinery. Sony just announced 30 confirmed launch titles. Many of them are third party. They have massive third party support. And a larger fan base than Microsoft.

3. Microsoft shot themselves in the foot with the 360. Launching with massive shortages worked to create hype during Christmas, but two weeks into January, everyone but the hardcore gamers moved on. And considering only one (one!) title has been released since launch, with no new titles even coming in until next week, Microsoft really bungled the release (Just to note: I own a 360, so this isn't me bashing Microsoft, this is based on customer response that I see every day). Furthermore, Microsoft's Japanese third-party support is almost nil. And with American companies taking so long to release games, the system may actually live or die based on the marketplace offerings.

4. Nintendo is a much bigger threat this time than Microsoft. The Revolution is getting huge buzz, and Nintendo isn't even pulling out a hype machine. That means the buzz is being generated by gamers and, even more devastatingly to Sony, developers. Almost every major developer, from whole companies to well-known individuals, has expressed an intense interest in making games exclusive to the Revolution, solely to use the controller. I think the Revolution will blindside everyone.

5. Nintendo's virtual console will not be overshadowed by the 360's marketplace. Why? The games, pure and simple. With Nintendo potentially offering every game through the N64, it's going to be gamer heaven. Older gamers will download the games they grew up with, and the ones they always wanted to try. Younger ones will probably try out big name titles like Mario and Metroid and find out why they're such important games. By contrast, Microsoft can offer a few good arcade classics, and some updates on older games, but they cannot begin to touch what Nintendo has.

5. I've been hearing the blu-ray drive is going to be 2X anyway, so I guess that point is moot.
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Old 02-10-06, 03:39 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Corvin
Live Arcade game sales seems to back up those assumptions as well. I'm just wondering if Microsoft didn't beat them to the punch on the virtual console.
As I said in the XBox 360 thread, XBox Live Arcade games account for 80% of my playing time. They have good graphics, simple gameplay and are verrrrrry addictive.

And once I get my Philips 60" back from being fixed, these games are going to look great in HD (which hasn't been working properly for almost 6 months).

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Old 02-10-06, 03:41 PM   #22
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I was just playing some Marble Blast and Bejeweled 2 last night.
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Old 02-10-06, 03:42 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Corvin
I'm just wondering if Microsoft didn't beat them to the punch on the virtual console.
I don't think that will matter. It comes down to the games, and what MS is able to offer on their can't touch having at least all the first party NES, SNES and N64 games available, and probably a lot of third party games, and maybe even Genesis games.
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Old 02-10-06, 03:42 PM   #24
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I disagree with a lot of that article. For one, I think blu-ray will be a HUGE selling point. People will be anxious to get their hands on the latest in home entertainment and given a choice of a $1000 HD-DVD player and a $500 PS# that both plays games and BR discs, I think most would opt for the latter (in the same way many were able to swallow the $300 PS2 price because they didn't have a DVD player yet). Additionally, I disagree that people won't notice any difference between DVD and BR if they lack a HDTV : I saw a nice BR demo last month at the CES and the BR has TONS of cool interactive features (instant downloads, live online video commentaries, much more interactive menues, etc) that will certainly be appreciated by even those without a HD set. In addition, the ability to watch an entire TV season on one disc will be a very popular thing. And of course, if a person doesn't have a HDTV, how much could they possibly be getting out of a 360, anyway (according to EGM, without HDTV, the differences between it and an XBOX are minimal at best for most games).
Now I certainly don't think the PS3 is a slam-dunk champ yet, but it would be foolish to expect them to fumble too badly. After all, for all the negative press the PSP gotand it's high price point, it still sells very well. Figure major PSP-PS3 interactivity (like the ability to download progams to watch on-the-go) and you've got a huge built-in market for your new system already. It may or may not be the best system. It may be hard to program for and load time may stink. Still it'll sell like hotcakes.
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Old 02-10-06, 03:45 PM   #25
Supermallet
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Also, Sony announced a nice list of first-run Blu-Ray titles, so people will have movies to play on their PS3 right away (including the remastered version of For A Few Dollars More that was never released in America!).
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Last edited by Supermallet; 02-10-06 at 03:52 PM.
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