Price cuts and entry points: Sony press briefing, Gamescom 2011
"What's now, what's new and what's next"
Sony's marketing slogan for the PS3, 'it only does everything', has been increasingly apparent as a central ethos for the company's gaming arm over the last few years, as the corporation has added services, technology and new avenues of development to its already considerable CV.
Perhaps it was ever thus, after all, this is a company with significant interests in gaming, film, music and almost every branch of consumer electronics. In a presentation which covered movie streaming, social networking, 3D, music services, fitness, casual and hardcore gaming, however, it sometimes felt like perhaps they spread themselves a little thin.
The PS3 is now as cheap as the Vita. Or the Vita is just as expensive as the PS3 - a confusing prospect for new customers
For a group that's undeniably hurting, Sony managed a great degree of bombast and confident swagger, making price cuts, hardware announcements and announcing new feature sets throughout the hour, some of which even managed to remain secrets until their official unveiling.
Some things don't change, however. During a twenty minute delay at the start of the show a murmured rumour rippled through the crowd, confirming what many already either believed or knew to be true. Amazon, by way of a listing, outed the PS3's price cut, down to £199, $249, €249 and ¥24,980.
Business as usual at one of the industry's most notoriously leaky companies, you may think, but surprises were still in store in the shape of the new model PSP (€99), and the confirmation of the 24", 3D and dual view enabled TV in Europe, complete with two pairs of glasses.
Sony are in a position of having invested heavily in the technology of 3D, some might suggest prematurely so, and the launch of an entry level model, described by new SCEE president Jim Ryan as "perfect for students and family rooms", makes perfect sense. Whether that will be enough to spark the 3D revolution Sony is so clearly hoping for remains moot.
What's odder is the new PSP model. Certainly cheap at €99, there'll likely be an increase in demand, but the model's total lack of wi-fi , alongside the fact that many retailers no longer stock UMD makes it a strange prospect.
After all, it seems unlikely that it was the price point which was keeping sales down in Europe and the US, and with developers eager to switch to the Vita, a slew of new AAA games for the ageing handheld would seem unlikely.
Jim Ryan's assertion that the PSP is now a "perfect entry level device" did not ring particularly true.
Vita itself, having been the target of accusations of over pricing, over specialisation and poor timing, got a good share of the limelight in terms of games, with classy puzzler The Escape, Resistance: Burning Skies, ARG Reality Fighters and LittleBigPlanet. Still no street date, however.
Which brings us to perhaps the biggest conundrum of the evening.
With its price cut, the 160GB PS3 slim is now as cheap as the Vita. Or the Vita is just as expensive as the PS3, depending on which way you slice it. That, in itself presents an confusing prospect for new customers.
Tying customers into a tech ecosystem with integrated and compatible products can be devastatingly effective, as Apple continues to prove. However, for new customers, faced with a choice of a multi-media console with a large back catalogue, HD output and Blu-ray player, or an unproven portable device which seems to be straddling an odd generational gap between smartphone and gaming device, Vita seems like a less tempting option.
In the face of the 12 months which Sony has experienced, there's plenty to applaud in a brave and forward-looking approach, but much lies in the balance here. One can't help but feel that the number of acceptable failures left in Sony's hand is dwindling fast.
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