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OPINION: Sony's innovation may yet halt the decline in PS2 sales

There was good news and bad news for Sony this week - although as you might expect, the bad news received rather more column inches than the good news. The bad news, after all, was pretty bad - the company has dropped its operating profit projections for the year by 25 per cent, largely due to lower shipments of PS2 hardware, and is planning to lay off 20,000 workers worldwide as part of a cost-cutting plan, although Sony Computer Entertainment won't be affected by those cuts.

That's not good news, although the PS2 sales decline shouldn't really have come as a surprise to anyone. With over 60 million units of the console shipped, it's only natural that it should now be on the downwards turn of the sales bell-curve that any console sees over its lifespan. The fact that it's still outselling the significantly newer and more powerful - and indeed cheaper - GameCube and Xbox hardware is a testament to the success of the PlayStation 2, even as it begins to lose a little bit of steam.

So what was the good news? Well, it's a small good news story - but an important one. EyeToy: Play, the quirky and unusual webcam game and peripheral developed by SCE's London R&D office, has sold a million units in Europe in its first four months on sale, the company announced - and it's still selling strong. What's more, with launches in the USA and Japan still to come, this could turn out to be one of the most successful titles on the console this year.

EyeToy was a creative risk for Sony, but the very fact that it was prepared to take the risk on both the development and marketing of the product proves that the company has what it takes to keep the PS2 going for a good number of years. The game has massive appeal outside of the traditional gaming demographic, and sales of PS2 and EyeToy bundles have been brisk - suggesting that many people are picking up the console purely for the EyeToy experience.

For all its prowess in the gaming market, Sony has never really been perceived - rightly or wrongly - as an innovator in terms of software and gameplay. EyeToy changes that perception, and the soon to be released EyeToy: Groove is our tip for being one of the most successful titles this Christmas. Profits may be down at Sony, and shipments of the PS2 may be declining - but the industry's number one is still learning new tricks. Those who claim that the Cube and Xbox will eventually overtake the PS2 purely due to Sony's hardware reaching the end of its lifespan while they're still going strong might want to reassess the situation.

This editorial originally appeared in the GamesIndustry.biz Weekly Update, a free email news bulletin which is distributed to subscribers every Wednesday afternoon and features a round-up of the key headlines from the previous week, software charts, recruitment information and editorial opinion on key issues of the week.

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Author
Rob Fahey avatar

Rob Fahey

Contributing Editor

Rob Fahey is a former editor of GamesIndustry.biz who spent several years living in Japan and probably still has a mint condition Dreamcast Samba de Amigo set.