Wednesday, August 16, 2006

  Sony: Determined to go out of business.

Hot on the heels of Sony's half-assed entree to the HDV market (the sad, sad HDR-FX1 and the equally silly HVR-Z1U) Sony seems determined to take the Gold Medal in the corporate Bad Decision Olympics. They have announced the price point for their Playstation 3 and the damn thing is $600 US.

In the interests of full disclosure, there will be a $500 version with some reduced feature options but even that seems a bit beyond the price point acceptable to and even attainable by almost every gamer on the planet. Most gamers are driving CARS worth less than $600. Most gamers work more than three weeks to earn $600. Yet Sony expects to see sales topping the Xbox 360 out of the gate. Really.

In their defense, the PS3 will be powered by the "cell" CPU which makes the system "35 times more powerful than the Playstation 2" The graphics and physics simulation are said to be unmatched. Of course, thus far every piece of in-game footage from Sony has turned out to be render-ware. Still, I have no doubt that the PS3 will be able to produce awe-inspiring in game graphics. Graphics nearly as impressive as most home PC's.

And there in lies the problem.

At $500 to $600 US the PS3 is priced above many respectable computer systems. If you consider that the PS3 won't ship with an HD monitor, you can actually build an impressive PC for $600 with a native vertical resolution well above 1200. In fact, spokesperson Kim Otzman states that the PS3 is "a computer system. It can be expanded using adapters on the market." If true, how the heck do they justify the $600 price tag? The 'features' listed include "[support for] blu-Ray storage devices, which hold significantly more data than today's DVDs, as well as seven wireless controllers, and has outputs for two high-definition televisions (HDTVs)".

My PC has had better specs than the PS3 for nearly two years. Sony adds that there will be a free online network...I fear this simply means that the PS3 will log onto the internet.

Look, the PS3 will be a beautiful system. No doubt about that. The problem is that we already live in a game market where the console has to work very hard to justify it's existence next to the standard PC. Pushing your price point above $500 US actually places your console in direct competition with the PC market...and at that price, you need to have some pretty sharp enticements. The Sony PS3 just doesn't shine next to my Elder God (3.1Ghz, 1GB RAM, over 300GB storage, twin monitors running well beyond the remedial HDTV resolution, and access to well over 10,000 games). And, oh yes, Elder God has access to a free online service too. The final straw is the PS3's apparent compatibility with most off-the-shelf PC technology. Even worse, Sony "...was relying on the assumption that buyers would be able to use those through their home networks..."

I find myself asking why would I want a $500- $600US machine that can't play movies, edit video, download TV episodes, run excel or photoshop. Why not just spend $700-$800 and get an Alienware machine that puts the PS 3 utterly to shame? Or build one yourself. That way you can have as many graphics cards as you want and you decide what color to paint the case.

Look, the PS3 rocks. It does. At $400, I'd have one. No doubt.

As it stands, I'm going to wait two years and grab one from Ebay or a garage sale. I figure after the first wave hits the market, it's only a matter of time before those buyers realize that there are lots of really important things one can buy for $600US.

Gasoline comes to mind.

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