Wednesday, 12 Aug 2020

Remember When PS3 Almost Lost The Console Race

Sony has dominated the current console generation with PlayStation 4, which has welcomed third-party developers with a comfortable development environment and a gaming first focus. But the climb to success wasn’t an easy one for the Japanese company, and in fact, the console it followed plunged the PlayStation brand into uncertainty.

In the previous episode of Remember When we looked at Microsoft’s efforts to turnaround the fortunes of the Xbox One, and how it began paving the way for the Xbox Series X. In this episode we’re casting our minds back a little further to look at a similar story for Sony, which dropped the ball with the PS3, but learned some hard lessons that ultimately made the PS4 shine.

As always, writer and host Kurt Indovina has provided his insight into the process of making this episode, which you can check out below. If you haven’t already, make sure to check out the previous episodes of Remember When on YouTube.

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/cTHD22RWGGQ

Kurt: I’ll never forget when I first saw the price reveal of the PlayStation 3. I was 15 years old, and I remember thinking to myself, “I will never be able to have this.”

Back in 2001, when I was 11, I begged my father for a PS2 for Christmas. I was obnoxious about it: I would leave him notes around the house, send him emails while he was at work saying only ‘PS2,’ and I’d remind him every day once he walked in the door after a long day of work–I must have been the most annoying child in the world. Come Christmas morning, I got a PS2. Thinking back, it felt like a hardship for my father. We were the kind of family that was always a generation behind with video game consoles, so asking for a PS2 only a year after its launch felt like a lot of strain on the family wallet.

So when the PS3 launched with that $599 price tag, $400 more than its predecessor, the prospects of ever affording it felt downright impossible. Instead, my family and I got the Nintendo Wii. And when I’d go over to my friend’s houses, we’d play the Xbox 360. As I think back on those times, I remember that I didn’t have a single friend who owned a PS3. To me, it was as though that console had fallen off the face of the earth. That was, until 2009.

I have the most vivid memory of going over to my friend’s house and seeing the PlayStation 3 Slim for the first time. He had just gotten it, and was playing Uncharted 2. The game’s detailed graphics, cinematic storytelling, and acting was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Suddenly, excitement rushed through me; the same sort of excitement you get when a new and shiny console is released–but this wasn’t new, it was the PS3 and it had been on the market for three years already. But still, something just felt different. Most specifically, its price tag.

Finally in 2010, with my own money, I bought a PS3. I played through games like Uncharted 2, God of War 3, Heavy Rain, Little Big Planet, and Journey. As time passed, more and more I grew this borderline irrational affinity to the PS3. The console I had once written off as a 15-year-old kid suddenly became the ‘end-all’ for me and games.

Now, 14 years since the PS3’s launch, I view my own journey with that system in a different light. The PS3 had a rough launch–what it was and who it was for got buried under Sony’s muffled pitch of its powerful cell technology and HD compatibility, all of which was bookended with that $599 price tag. It was hard to justify to the average consumer, let alone young gamers like myself who had to turn to parental finances to get one. I can’t help but ask now, “why did Sony even do that?”

Making this episode of Remember When put all that into perspective. It gave me the time to understand and dissect Sony’s place in the video game industry at the time, and see it in the simplest term: hubris. The PS1 and PS2 were some of the most successful video game consoles ever made. It’s no wonder Sony was convinced they could sell its audience anything at the time. But, I’ll allow the episode to delve into that story.

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