How Sony Should’ve Launched the PlayStation 3

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Had Sony launched with such an advantageous plan from the get go, the PlayStation 3 would have flown off shelves at a similar rate to the Wii. The genius and strategy behind the Butler compaigns have had no trouble engaging the consumer even if the content of the commercial was a tad creepy. Oh, how different things could have been had Butler only arrived earlier.

Backwards Compatibility

This is probably a prime contributor to the slow adopt rate over time. Though eliminating the ability to play PlayStation 2 games probably saved on unit cost, it was a very big blow to the common gamer as well. I know a lot of families who purchased a PlayStation 2 and built solid libraries over time and would have liked to have migrated to the PlayStation 3 and brought the library with them. Of course, you can always make the argument that they could just keep the PlayStation 2 and do things that way, but it really comes down to simplicity of the situation. A lot of people don’t want two bulky consoles sitting on the entertainment stand or having four controllers just lying around because they couldn’t just use the PlayStation 3s controllers for PS2 titles.


It’s easy for Sony to want to remove the feature to help push software sales for the PlayStation 3, but I think a key selling point and selling advantage overall was the excellent library the PlayStation 2 had to offer to PlayStation 3 owners. Think about it this way — for gamers who went the route of the Xbox or GameCube in the last generation, how much more inviting would it be to know that not only would they be moving to the PlayStation 3 this generation, but they could now also catch up on a ton of affordable titles they missed out on last generation? I think that differential is huge when you really consider the numbers.

Overall, the lack of backwards compatibility had to play a major role in Sony not selling consoles as fast as they could have. Sure, some will make the case that if they wanted BC, they should have adopted early, but once again that comes down to launch price once more. You can’t expect everyone to afford the cost of the machine just so they can take advantage of BC. Also — there were no signs that Sony planned on removing it any time soon either…much like the Other OS feature.

Lost Exclusives

This epidemic surely brought the “lulz” to say the least. Watching titles like Devil May Cry 4, Final Fantasy XIII and Grand Theft Auto IV make their way to the multiplatform section of websites was something to truly behold. It lit forums up with the flames of millions through console wars and was then put out by the tears of thousands. Looking from the outside in, the hilarity of it all was overwhelming. It was crazy to watch grown men get so distraught over one of their favorite titles going multiplatform — however, I honestly believe that these situations hurt Sony a lot more than they expected.


It should go without saying that a console’s library of titles is the prime reason to purchase a console. If the unit doesn’t have a lineup of games that makes it worth your money, then you’re not going to buy it. Obviously multiplatform games are not going to factor in to decisions like this, but exclusives will. This is where Sony should have buckled down and realized that keeping its third-party exclusive titles is potentially the difference between zero sales and millions. How many more PlayStation 3s would have been sold had you only been able to pick up Grand Theft Auto IV, Final Fantasy XIII and Devil May Cry 4 on Sony’s console? I’m going to bet an astronomical amount — surely enough to make up the current three million gap that exists.

Anyway, these five instances have changed the console war throughout this generation entirely. Had Sony buckled down and made sure all of these things either never occurred or occurred immediately, they’d be in a lot better positioning than they are at this time. To be honest, they may even be roughly around the same units as the Wii had all of these been implemented sooner. However, it’s easy to have all of this hindsight now, Captain Hindsight, but still — it would have been incredible to see if Sony could have outsold the PlayStation 2 had these tactics been followed.

Readers Comments (9)

  1. Good read. I would have liked to see those games stay exclusive and backwards-compatibility still in the console.

  2. You do make some really good points that most likely would’ve kept Sony on top of MS and possibly even Nintendo, but I’m glad they made the bad decisions they did. The reason to this is they were too use to being on top and simply got lazy. Back when they first came out with the PSX, they were hungry and ready to give the public what they never had before and blow their brains out with pure entertainment. With the PS3, they just simply expected everything to take care of itself.

    Take PSN for example, that sucked major balls when it first came out, and if it wasn’t for LIVE, I believe it would still suck just as badly today. I just wish MS had something to compete with Home, then maybe they would pick up the slack with that too.

    All I’m saying is sometimes when certain ppl stay on top too long they forget about the struggles and journey they went through to get there (that ultimately made them the person/group/company they are today). So I’m glad they fell a bit, now they should start to feel hungry again and provide us with top notch entertainment like they did in the old days.

  3. Great article, Dean. I think the last two points are the most important. Pretty much every person I know that currently wants a PS3 and hasn’t gotten one is because of the last two. The price also is a third factor but not the main. A co-worker of mine has been wanting to get a PS2 for a while because his kids want one, the library is huge and the games are cheap. He also has been wanting to play the games. However, he has three kids and a wife to support and can’t buy both the PS2 and PS3 because he did NOT have one last gen and early adoption was out of the question.

    So he can’t justify spending $300 on a system where the library is a fraction of the size and the game prices are a multiple of the PS2’s. He told me if the PS3 played PS2 games as well he’d have jumped at the chance but as it stands now, he will have to wait for another price drop for HIM to justify the purchase.

    For another friend he loves games like DMC IV, GTA IV, etc and had they only been on PS3 he could have gotten it. By when he can get those games on a system with HALO which is the one exclusive he cares most about, it makes the difference. I’m sure having DMC, GTA, etc would have weighed more than just HALO. But again, he couldn’t rationalize paying for the 360 AND PS3 with only a few exclusives he cared about and no PS2 BC. It wasn’t worth the price.

    For some, the price was justified at $600, $500, $400 or $300, it depends on where you stand financially or what’s the entertainment you are getting worth. To me, it was worth $400 so when it got to that price I bought one because it had a large enough library of both exclusive and multiplats and it had all the features I wanted in an entertainment system outside of gaming. Bluray, free online, multimedia playback, exclusive games AND multiplats made it as easy choice for $400 to me.

  4. Backwards compatability was cut not due to cost but due to the Ps2 being too much of a threat to Ps3. At the time Ps3 was being outclassed by Ps2 in game sales left and right, so to get rid of competition and force Ps3 people to buy Ps3 games they cut the feature. Came out of Jack Trettons mouth himself in an interview a few years back which you could probably find if you search hard enough. Getting rid of it didn’t lower Ps3’s price because the inclusion of Ps2 hardware was a non factor price wise by that time, again from Jack’s mouth.

  5. Its amazing how immature the games industry is – everything from gamers to the gaming press, it really shows how childish the entire games consumer industry is. Sony’s initial library wasn’t remarkably lackluster, it was a hell of a lot better than any starting lineup of any other console, people often forget that because they compared Sony’s lineup to the 360’s 2nd yr lineup, but if you actually compare the initial lineups not only to the 360, but also the original xbox, the ps1 and ps2 it was a lot stronger with Resistance and Motorstorm not behind it.
    As for the immaturity of the industry, its amazing how when a company comes out with a product that is clearly superior and therefore justify a higher price, the gaming press and gamers alike cried and whined louder than any baby you’ve heard in a grocery store. Just because last year’s model was cheaper doesn’t mean this year’s model is relatively similar in quality – I think everyone agrees that in so far the best ps3’s were the launch ones with the extremely rich feature set. It was as if they had come up with a supercar that was cheaper than all the other super cars (blu ray players) but people kept comparing it to last year’s family sedan, and complained the price was higher. The gaming press was the biggest culprit of the demonization of Sony for actually trying not to go completely bankrupt on a more advanced console – if they sold the ps3 200 bucks cheaper they wouldn’t have the cash flow to sustain it and the playstation division would be bankrupt. Is that what spoiled brat gamers and gaming press people would want?

  6. All of the points are nice to think about but only one of them is truly valid and that’s the inclusion of the DS3 at launch. They should have swallowed their pride and settled so they could launch with a controller that felt familiar and not cheap.

    If they had launched at the prices yo suggest they would have taken too much of a hit in production costs and it would have killed the brand because no amount of software, accessory, and peripheral sales would have been able to make up the cost difference. The price it launched at would have been more acceptable had Kutaragi not treated it like it was a persons duty to spend that much on a Playstation console. Had there been a bit of humility involved the gaming press probably wouldn’t have rode them so hard and sales would have been better.

    Complaining about BC is just as absurd, especially at this point. The PS3 has closed the gap on 360 sales faster than it did when there was BC, mainly because of the price, but if BC was that big of a concern then it still wouldn’t sell well. On top of that awesome remakes of awesome games are coming out. If BC was still integrated in every console then those remakes wouldn’t be possible. Also, there is no reason, other than to save space, to play PS2 games on the PS3, There is no advantage to playing it on the PS3, you get practically nothing for tradng in a PS2, so there is no reason why anyone should get rid of their PS2 just to play the games on a PS3. PS3 game prices are cheap as hell used on places like Amazon so there isn’t much a price difference between used games on either system.

    Lost exlusives suck but who cares. SE has yet to release a good game this gen on a console, GTAIV wasn’t that awesome and neither was DMC4. Yeah they were lost to Microsofts pocket book in order to cut into PS3 sales but it didn’t matter much since the PS3 is rapidly closing that gap and will lkely pass it by this time next year. The PS3 also has the most top notch line up of first party software of any gen since pobably the SNES/PSOne days.

    The only thing that Sony could have done to better the launch of the PS3 would have been to muzzle Ken Kutaragi six months prior to launch and not been so cocky. Not airing the creepy commercials would have helped as well because really, WTF was up with that baby and the crows. Sony adapted very quickly to the poor media reception of the PS3, consumer wants and needs, and many other factors that have lead to them regain market traction very quickly. Nothing they did would have cut to deeply into Nintendo’s lead though, except maybe releasing Move at launch instead of this fall.

  7. The Six-Axis was included instead of the Dualshock 3 because Immerision (the patent holder of rumble technology) was asking for royalty fees for the inclusion of rumble. Sony thought that adding the motion device would have been sufficient to make gamers forget about rumble, they were wrong of course.

  8. Great feature Dave! Definitely agree with marketing. The Play Beyond stuff was too weird. Imagine if Sony launched with Kevin Butler! ha

  9. This article kind of shows why Sony doesn’t pay much attention to web media, and why its shareholders should be thankful for that. Releasing the SixAxis saved Sony tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in license fees. Immersion naturally assumed that as the DualShock 2 had rumble, the DualShock 3 had to have it as well. As some fools in the US government had granted them a practical monopoly on rumble function in game controllers (a concept the company did not invent), Immersion felt that they could name their own price for Sony’s license fee. By demonstrating that the PS3 could, and would, be sold without Immersion’s IP if the price wasn’t reasonable, Immersion’s bargaining position was greatly weakened. The company ended up settling for a fee that was only $25 million dollars more than they had already been awarded by a US federal court in a previous patent infringement trial for the DualShock 2 (which was pending appeal and wasn’t money in the bank yet either). Sony did settle the case out of court, but because of the SixAxis Sony ended up paying a lot less than it would have otherwise. It was a risky, but ultimately very smart move. Similarly the price of the PS3 was as high as it was largely due to the Blu-ray player. While a lower price would ultimately have resulted in more first year sales, it is far-fetched to suggest that Sony or the PS3 would have been better off without it, especially when you consider that the PS3 was instrumental in dispatching the competing HD-DVD format. That alone was worth any lost sales as far as Sony is concerned. Sony could have left PS2 backward compatibility in the product easily enough, but it makes no sense to argue in one paragraph that the company should have lowered the launch price by $100 expecting to make it up in software sales, and then later in the same article argue that Sony should have continued to enable gamers to play the games they already owned on their PS3s, instead of buying new ones. The release of HD versions of PS2 games shows that many newer PS3 owners have little interest in standard-definition games, which works out fine for Sony. As for the lost exclusives, that was more a function of the greatly increased development cost for games, combined with the lower installed base of HD consoles. The publishers initially favored the XBox for the simple reason that it had sold several more consoles, but financially speaking the HD gaming market was small enough that you really had to ship on PS3, XBox, and PC to have a good shot at making a profit unless someone was subsidizing you. The era of third-party exclusives is largely over, although the PS3 gets more than its fair share now due to its market share in Japan. Microsoft is losing exclusives too, just when it needs them. Sony also was fortunate in that most of the lost exclusives, including DMC4 and FFXIII, didn’t turn out to be great games, and wouldn’t have been big console sellers anyway. I do agree about the marketing. It took a while for SCEA to find its stride, but you never know what will work in marketing. Stranger ad campaigns have succeeded.

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