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Friday, January 09, 2009

The Thing Is, Sony Has A Point

Sony recently put out a press release about value versus cost when it comes to the big three and naturally it's turned into a source of fanboy napalm and some blog snarkdom. Course, we've seen how well the blogs handle Sony at times.

And the other factor is quite simply - Sony's right.

I know 360 owners probably don't want to hear this - but $99 for a wifi adaptor is just this side of highway robbery. Especially for a console that relies on the network for so much value. The hard drive is sort of a take or leave it affair. Depending on what you want from the console, you might not really care about - but if you do care, Microsoft is again raking over the coals here. In this day and age, if you're paying $100 for a $120GB - you're getting robbed. And with the Pro, you get a lousy 60Gb for the same price.

And that the Elite goes for $399 and still doesn't manage to drop in wifi is just baffling.

Sony's hard drive setup really should be commended. It's dead easy to upgrade and it won't void your warranty.

That the Wii has wifi and no hard drive is a testament to Nintendo's concept - give them only what they really need for a simple plug and play experience. The lack of a HDD has hobbled the console somewhat, limiting what can and can't be done with WiiWare, for instance. But this is sort of a moot point - the Wii doesn't have a hard drive. It has no hard drive upgrade, it's never going to have a hard drive upgrade. The Wii isn't going to be downloading movies - where the PS3 and 360 have clearly gotten into the game. Sony and Microsoft want to be your digital hub, Nintendo just wants to sell you games.

As a digital hub, I think the PlayStation 3 is pretty top notch. I wish they'd get a Netflix deal going, because the Mini won't do streaming (Intel only) so we have to hook a laptop up to get that done. Since both console have downloadable content and upscale DVD's - the deciding factor is Blu-Ray.

Which is Sony's real problem. The PlayStation brand doesn't have an identity crisis, Blu-Ray does. For $399, you are really getting a great deal from Sony ... if you include Blu-Ray into the formula. Otherwise, even quibbling over wifi adaptors becomes somewhat academic. Without adding Blu-Ray into the equation, the question of value gets lost in the fog of debating between Microsoft's game library, Red Rings of Death and (*sigh*) the cost of cables (seriously people, I got my HDMI cable for $6 off Amazon. Get over it.), the cost of going online, etc.

Personally, I love Blu-Ray. Yes, I download movies - have from nearly every possible source. There's something to be said, though, for being able to put in a disc and have a high quality picture with no worries about compression, when is it going to be done downloading, etc. And the picture and sound is hands down the best you are going to get on the fancy HD set you paid so much for...

So I think Sony's right. I just don't think, especially in the middle of a recession, that it matters a lot. The Wii is outselling everyone for being neat and cheap. The 360 is doing well because Microsoft took the effort to score a good game library. If Sony wants to sell people on their console, they'll need to sell them on Blu-Ray first.

It was the cost of tying the two technologies together.

My suggestion to Sony? Play nice with Netflix. Get the streaming service on the console, and get it in HD. Get Blu-Ray prominently displayed as a rental option and get Netflix to clean up any oddness with putting Blu-Ray titles into your queue.

The chart is nice and all, but value is perception.


psu said...

Here is the problem.

The network stack on the PS3 is so pathetic that the wi-fi is practically unsuable for me anyway. So I ended up just wiring the box to my router anyway, just like with the Xbox. And downloads still take forever. What the hell.

I also had no luck at all streaming H.264 or other videos to the PS3. Stuff that the Xbox would play fine didn't play at all or played with crappy frame rate. Maybe I just did something wrong.

The PS3's problem is that it's a GAME MACHINE with no good games. All of this other functionality is irrelevant IMHO.

Josh said...

Huh, I've never had a problem with the PS3's wifi. It picks up my repeater without a problem and speeds are fine.

We used MediaLink for streaming video from the Mac for a while, but honestly just stopped bothering, especially now that we've got the Mini hooked up to the HDTV directly. For a while it was nice to download videos to the laptop and then watch them off the PS3 - but there's a part of me that thinks the whole deal is a bit of a party trick. Streaming really should be a "when you have no other choice" option for video.

When it comes to streaming, the real kick in the pants for Sony is Netflix. We frequently rent/buy titles from PSN though, especially if they're offered in HD.

As for no good games - I dunno, I seem to waste plenty of time on it just fine. It lacks the punch of MS's exclusive titles and some of the lack of DLC is a pain in the ass - but considering the hours I've poured into Bad Company and Fallout 3 alone...

Case in point: when we have people over, it more often turns into a game of PAIN these days, rather than the previous standby of Wii bowling.

sterno said...

I have a PS3 and I use WiFi and it works just fine. One of the things that struck me about the system when I got it was how it just worked. The easy of setting up WiFi was a big part of that. It was overall elegant and easy to setup. It feels well built and high quality.

As for good games, there's plenty of good games. Now to be totally honest I don't have a big thing for most of the platform exclusives out there for PS3, but I also don't find myself wishing I could play Halo or Gears of War all that much. I do own MGS4 and I think that's a pretty damn good game give or take the excess of cut scenes.

Lots of people have suggested that the PS3's problem is lack of exclusives, but honestly I don't think that's it. There's plenty of good games to play on either system. I mean yeah I can't play Gears, but I'm playing Fallout 3 and loving it so who cares?

Sony's real problem is the following:

1) Microsoft has an easier to develop for platform with better tools that also make it easy to right a game for PC and 360 simultaneously

2) Sony was a year behind the 360 giving MS more time to build an install base and attract developers

3) The PS3, in spite of what I think is somewhat better value for the money is more expensive. If you're trying to decide between the two and one is under $200 and the other is $400, you probably don't get past that price point. Sony made a bet that HD would be critical in this generation of devices and they may ultimately be right, but that's largely why it's pricier.

I think the only thing that Sony did badly with the PS3 as a platform is not putting more emphasis on the networked elements like MS did with Live. There's lots of games I've played online but I found that the network integration can be sketchy depending on the game.

The bright side for Sony is that the networking element is something they can fix without touching the hardware in my living room.

sterno said...

Oh and ditto on Pain. That's the default party game here. It's simple and fun.

The reality is I never think, "gee, I'm bored and I have no games to play on my PS3". There's TONS of games I haven't touched yet. COD4, COD World at War,

Josh said...

I mean honestly, Sony's chart is incomplete. They should add a "ability to fling William Shatner into a wall" row as inexpensive on the PS3 and just not supported on the other systems...

sterno said...

That would make an awesome ad campaign. Two people having a little argument about which is better. Then the guy just trumps it all, "yeah, but can you fling David Hasselhoff into a wall?" :)

Greg Tannahill said...

PS3 has certainly made up some ground in my eyes this year; last year I was quite happy to rip it to pieces if people asked if they should buy one; today I just shrug and say the 360 is the same console with a wider games library and better online experience but no built-in wi-fi. It's no longer the inherently stupid console, it's just the slightly less good console.

The Wii's performance this year has been abysmal though - virtually no A-list games, still no fix for the storage problem despite assurances Nintendo were working on it, very few interesting game announcements for next year... I stopped recommending people buy one in about March and haven't had mine plugged in since I moved house in July.

sterno said...

You know, I would love to have a year as abysmal as the Wii's :). I mean yeah what you say above is true, but they are still selling like hot cakes.

Basically my take, pretty much from the beginning, has been that if you've got an HD setup, the PS3 is the better buy. If you don't, then just get the XBOX. The reality is that you'll never be bored and wanting for games on either console. You just might not get access to a few exclusives that you may or may not care about.

Josh said...

This is going to be the year that Nintendo realizes they can't drift on cool hardware anymore. OK, it might take till Q3, but I swear this will be the year.