Forums - Sony Discussion - Who Is This For? The Sony Problem And Solution

"The next generation of consoles is rapidly approaching.  Nintendo has already launched its horse in the next gen race before its competitors have even announced their new systems.  It’s highly expected that both Sony and Microsoft will announce their new consoles at next year’s E3.  If I was a Sony fan, I think I’d be a little concerned right about now.  The PS3 has finally managed to find its footing, but Sony has had great difficulty when it comes to launching new hardware.  Sony’s last truly successful hardware launch was way back when the PS2 debuted.  Since then, Sony has repeatedly made the same mistake.  They’ve designed hardware without defining its market.

While I can’t claim to have an intimate knowledge of Sony’s internal workings, I think I could make an educated guess as to how their gaming division works in terms of hardware production. I imagine there is a group of yes men who agree with any idea presented from the top brass. In their defense, these ideas sound good on paper. Sony’s products are generally well made and often sport interesting functionality. Sadly, nobody stops to ask the crucial question: Who is this product for?

Exhibit A: The PSP Go

For all of the flak it got, the PSP was a fairly successful product. Sony had the first handheld console outside of Nintendo that could truly be called a success, but that success was overlooked due to the unprecedented sales of the Nintendo DS. By 2009 it was clear that the PSP wouldn’t match its competitor, but Sony had an ace up their sleeve. Sony was set to release a smaller version of their PSP that focused on digital distribution. With Marcus and a smaller slicker PSP, Sony was ready to turn the tide in the handheld war.

Things didn’t quite turn out as Sony hoped The PSP Go failed to give the PSP a meaningful boost, and it was discontinued after a couple of unsuccessful years. The thing is, like many of Sony’s hardware releases, the PSP Go was not a bad product. It was a sleek portable that was small and convenient to carry. Digital downloads made the need to carry around a pocketful of games a thing of the past. The PSP Go even had a somewhat more powerful processor than the good ol’ PSP 3000.

Who Was This For?

Here’s the million dollar question. Who was the PSP Go designed for? Was it designed for avid PSP gamers who were looking for a smaller and more portable option? If so, the lack of UMD support or any method of transferring UMD games to digital games (in the US at least) was a deal breaker.  Forget backwards compatibility, the PSP Go wasn’t even sideways compatible.  Was the PSP meant for the late adopter who was just arriving to the portable gaming scene? If so, the price of $250 made it a poor option. For the life of me, I can’t figure out exactly who Sony thought would buy the PSP Go.

Exhibit B: The Playstation Move

With the introduction of the Wii, motion controls were suddenly the hottest thing in the gaming world. It was only a matter of time before others joined in on the trend. In 2009, Microsoft showed off the Kinect, a camera which tracked players bodies to control games. Sony showed off their own motion controlled solution, and it was… kind of similar to the Wii.

Functionally, the Move worked well. It was accurate and ergonomic. It was certainly more accurate than the standard Wii remote, and was superior in many aspects to the Wii Motion Plus enhanced Wiimote. The real advantage of the Move was the fact that it would connect to superior hardware. The PS3 was capable of top HD graphics and was far more capable than the dated tech in the Wii. With the combination of powerful hardware and accurate motion sensing technology, what could go wrong?

Who Was It For?

Once again, we have to ask who the target audience for the Playstation Move was. Was the device made for Wii Sports fans who wanted to play games in HD? Did such gamers really exist? If so, did these casual gamers want to pay $400 for Wii Sports HD? Was the Playstation Move for “hardcore” gamers who wanted to play motion controlled games? If so, Sony should have realized that “hardcore” gamers had little interest in motion controlled games. Perhaps some gamers could have been lured over from Nintendo’s fanbase, but Sony never developed an adequate software library to support the peripheral.  Was Sorcery going to draw Nintendo devotees away from Skyward Sword?

Exhibit C: Xperia Play

For those of us who like to play our games on the go, a cell phone/PSP hybrid is the holy grail. A device that combines all of the features we’ve come to rely on in our smartphone with high quality software and the buttons that gamers need would be a dream come true. Sony took a stab at creating this divine combination with the Xperia Play. After months of speculation, the Xperia Play made its debut on the grandest and most expensive stage of all. Sony ushered in their new device with an ad during the Superbowl. Sony proudly proclaimed that the Android was ready to play.

The Xperia Play did feature the best controls to be found in a cell phone, and it had the features you’d expect out of a cell phone. It was also a pretty well designed phone with a nice curvy aesthetic and a sleek layout (I’m a sucker for flip up screens). It was, as advertised, an Android phone with a d-pad and buttons, and it did what it was supposed to do fairly well.

Who Was This For?

The Xperia Play still has me scratching my head. You’d guess that the Xperia Play was designed for gamers hoping to free up some pocket space with a phone that could play high quality games. However, the selling point of the Xperia Play was its ability to access the Playstation Pocket app which enabled the Xperia Play to play PS1 games like Crash Bandicoot. Not quite the killer app to entice gamers to sign a contract and shove their DS in a closet. Gamers could also use the Xperia Play to play certain Droid games with enhanced control. Playing Zenonia and Nova with touch controls was nice, but hardly appealing to gamers looking for experiences like God of War: Chains of Olympus and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. Maybe the Xperia Play was for avid mobile gamers looking for a better gameplay experience? In that case, the Xperia Play was outclassed by many other Droid Phones. It was doubtful that the dpad and buttons of the Xperia play would convince mobile gamers to choose the Xperia Play over the Galaxy SII.

The Xperia Play did eventually find a small but devoted market in the homebrew communities. The Xperia’s fair amount of power and its buttons made the device a natural fit for running NES, SNES, and PS1 emulators. Somehow, I doubt that this is what Sony intended for the device.

Exhibit D: The Playstation 3D Display

Sony makes TVs.  Sony makes video game systems.  Logically, Sony should be able to make a kick ass TV for gamers.  Sony finally combined their two passions with the Playstation 3D DIsplay, a TV (well technically a monitor) designed specifically for the Playstation 3.  The Playstation 3D Display featured an impressive 240 HZ refresh rate, full 1080p HD, 3D and a unique simulview feature that made screen watching a thing of the past.  Oh, and it was 24 inches big.

Who Was This For?

When they revealed the Playstation 3D Display, Sony explained that its purpose was to make 3D affordable and accessible to the masses.  Sony’s marketing team didn’t seem to realize the public’s general apathy towards 3D (a lesson Nintendo would learn the hard way as well).  There were some people looking for 3D TVs, but those people were not interested in a meager 24″ screen.  The Playstation 3D Display’s size did make it appealing to someone in a dorm room or someone looking for a second TV for the bedroom, but it was prohibitively expensive for this audience.  The TV was too small for entertainment junkies and too expensive for the typical 24″ TV market.

The technology market is a volatile one, but few products have seen such an incredibly swift fall from grace.  Within weeks of its release, the Playstation 3D Display was down from 500 to 400 bucks.  By the end of two months, it was down to about 300.  This year, the device hovered around the 200 dollar mark.  It seems like the last of Sony’s stock was sold off this Black Friday for 100 bucks a pop.

Exhibit E: The Playstation Vita

Sony’s had a hard time making successful hardware, and their most recent portable console has followed that pattern. On paper, the Vita is one hell of a machine. The specs of the Playstation Vita make the 3DS look like a joke. While modern smartphones beat out the Vita, the Vita’s gaming optimization should keep it at the high end of gaming visuals for the foreseeable future. It’s the first dedicated handheld to feature twin analog sticks, and it’s rather well designed in an aesthetic sense. Its graphics approach those of the PS3 and X-Box 360.

Who Was This For?

You would assume that Sony wanted to reach the “hardcore” gamers with the Vita. They wanted the folks who play Call of Duty, Uncharted, God Of War, and maybe even games like Final Fantasy. I seriously doubt that Sony ever expected the Vita to outsell the 3DS. I think Sony expected the Vita to have a smaller market, but a market that was more willing to spend their hard earned cash on games.

What went wrong with the Vita? Sony understood what market they were shooting for this time, but not how to appeal to that market. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, most people who own handheld games are likely to play them mostly at home. Why this is the case is a whole different article, but the short version is that handhelds offer different experiences than consoles that true gaming fans appreciate. A console experience on the go sounds nice in theory, but time and time again, we’ve seen that’s not what sells in the portable market.  Portable ports of PS3 games aren’t going to cut it.  Games from popular franchises developed by second tier studios aren’t going to cut it either.  Games like Gravity Rush are a good start, but the software support for the Vita is sorely lacking.

The Sony Problem

These examples encapsulate the problem that Sony’s had over these past years. Sony doesn’t have a clear idea who they’re marketing to.  Sony’s tagline for the PS3 is “It Only Does Everything”.  Unfortunately, when you try to do everything you don’t do any one thing particularly well.  Products like the Playstation Move tried to please hardcore and casual gamers and wound up appealing to neither audience.  The PSP Go couldn’t figure out whether it should appeal to new adopters or longtime PSP fans.  The Xperia Play existed in a limbo between handheld gaming console and cell phone.  The Playstation TV was too high tech and expensive for those who might buy a small TV and too small for the 3DTV market.

The Solution

The point of this exercise wasn’t to bash Sony for the sake of bashing Sony. While I’ve dwelt on the negative, that doesn’t mean that Sony does nothing well. In fact, there are a lot of things I love about Sony. Original fat PS3 notwithstanding, I’m a big fan of Sony’s hardware design.  Sony’s products look a whole lot nicer than their rivals.  Sony’s major first party releases generally sport nearly unrivaled levels of polish in terms of visual style and gameplay. Sony is one of the few companies that invests in new IPs throughout a console generation. We just saw Sony launch a new IP, and next year already has two new IPs slated in. This is unheard of this late in the console cycle. While Sony sometimes have a nasty habit of copying their rivals (usually Nintendo) they’re also capable of making surprisingly ahead of the curve products like Heavy Rain and LittleBigPlanet.

In short, Sony excels in execution. When Sony sets out to make something, they usually make it very well. With the possible exception of the Xperia Play, none of the products I’ve listed above are bad or poorly done. They’re well crafted products that perform their intended functions well, but there isn’t a clear market for them.  If Sony had spent a bit more time defining their audience before releasing the devices, they could have been very successful.

In the coming generation, Sony has a huge opportunity. As much as I love Nintendo, I accept that they’ll never be the company of choice for hardcore gaming, and I wouldn’t want them to be. Meanwhile, Microsoft seems to be focused more on Apple than their rivals in the gaming sector. The days of Microsoft being the company that caters to hardcore gamers ended with the Kinect. While Microsoft is distracted, Sony has the potential to steal a large portion of the X-Box fan base from under their nose.

If Sony wants to eat away at the X-Box’s audience, they need to have a big company meeting. They have to look over the mistakes I’ve listed above. They have to make a decision to focus squarely on the hardcore gaming market. After they do that, they have to think very deeply about how they can best serve that market. From there, Sony just needs to do what they do best and make excellent and polished products. In short, Sony needs to stop trying to do everything and focus on doing one thing really well.  If they do this, Sony could see tremendous success in the coming generation. However, if Sony maintains its unfocussed approach, the PS4 may wind up as exhibit F on my list."

http://gotgame.com/2012/12/08/who-is-this-for-the-sony-problem-and-the-solution/#.UMOxNaxqyMo



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They've made so many mistakes this gen and at the end of last gen mostly because of the dominance they had in the last two generations. They thought they could do whatever and end up getting people to buy products (l0l 600 dollars almost as funny as 3DS being sold for $250).

Edit: PSPGo and PS Move were useless but it did sell - not sure if they profited from it. (PSPGo I know they didnt that was just a stupid move).

Anyways, wish them the luck for the future. That cloud gaming deal though swallowed a lot of money, wasnt the competitor sold for less?

All I see is Sony failing at trying to get the casual and only faltering at first with the hardcore if they're are to expensive. The vita will drop in price and end up just like the ps3 and psp carving out it's own massive niche and building it's library of great gaming experiences, however as far as attracting casuals are concerned it's a lost cause. MS and Nintendo are simply better and they should give it up completely, they been show this gen more than any that they don't need the casual anyway so what's the point? all they need to do is focus on their core demographic and make it affordable at launch.

BasilZero said:
They've made so many mistakes this gen and at the end of last gen mostly because of the dominance they had in the last two generations. They thought they could do whatever and end up getting people to buy products (l0l 600 dollars almost as funny as 3DS being sold for $250).

Edit: PSPGo and PS Move were useless but it did sell - not sure if they profited from it. (PSPGo I know they didnt that was just a stupid move).

Anyways, wish them the luck for the future. That cloud gaming deal though swallowed a lot of money, wasnt the competitor sold for less?

The PSPGo couldn't have been selling that well considering how it was discontinued fairly quickly.  As for the Move, I'd imagine they made money off the hardware itself, but the software is another issue.  Sorcery, Move Heroes, and Medieval Moves couldn't have been profitable endeavors.  I think the fact that the Move is not being bundled with the system anymore, and the Move+Camera is being sold for 70 dollars is telling. 

The cloud gaming could be a big thing.  I think they'll use it like PSPlus.  It's a way to monetize their back catalog and create a selling point for their systems.  It'll be a good idea, if it's done right.



I like this article. Sony has a tremendous opportunity to retake lost ground this generation, but their ability to fuck things up are without match.

Microsoft is in danger of making the same mistake Sony made in 2006, that is relying too much on their past success to determine their future. More expensive and a later launch is big no no. If they think that because they are popular now they can sell anything then they better get ready for their share of some humble pie.

Nintendo will fine. They will absolutely not sell Wii number but enough to stay in the game.

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El_Machete said:
I like this article. Sony has a tremendous opportunity to retake lost ground this generation, but their ability to fuck things up are without match.

Microsoft is in danger of making the same mistake Sony made in 2006, that is relying too much on their past success to determine their future. More expensive and a later launch is big no no. If they think that because they are popular now they can sell anything then they better get ready for their share of some humble pie.

Nintendo will fine. They will absolutely not sell Wii number but enough to stay in the game.


If you (or anyone else) like the article, do me a favor and click on the link to the site ^_^



Very good article, I think it's really addressing a key area Sony don't quite realise right now, people say they need better marketing, but marketing doesn't work if your trying to sell the Vita on Teen Mom on MTV or something, they need to identify their target audience, and work from there.

It's a well-written article and a lot of the points are undeniable. Sony has been very scatter-shot with their products, not just in gaming, but over-all. I get the feeling that's coming to an end under the new regime, however--at least, I hope so, and signs are pointing in that direction, with many lines being pared down to only the most profitable models. For years, it seemed like Sony was trying to bull their way into markets without much in the way of strategy.

The Vita is hard for me to put into that category. It's really a fantastic device. It might simply be that a handheld just isn't going to succeed in this new gaming environment without a Pokemon or a Mario.

I'm very hopeful about the PS4. Sony has identified gaming as a central part of their business. More importantly, they don't have a new media format to push. Their next console can release with a very slight loss per unit and they'll be fine. My hope is that they concentrate firmly on traditional gaming, where the Playstation brand is still quite strong. They have several prominent franchises in that area. They should focus on profitability and the core demographic first and foremost. That they're finishing this generation so strongly might bode well for next generation.

The vast improvement PSN has shown is also a cause for optimism, I believe. With PS+ and cloud development, I think they're poised to push gaming as a service instead of simply a product. I honestly think that the PS4 and PSN have a lot of potential going forward.

pokoko said:
It's a well-written article and a lot of the points are undeniable. Sony has been very scatter-shot with their products, not just in gaming, but over-all. I get the feeling that's coming to an end under the new regime, however--at least, I hope so, and signs are pointing in that direction, with many lines being pared down to only the most profitable models. For years, it seemed like Sony was trying to bull their way into markets without much in the way of strategy.

The Vita is hard for me to put into that category. It's really a fantastic device. It might simply be that a handheld just isn't going to succeed in this new gaming environment without a Pokemon or a Mario.

I'm very hopeful about the PS4. Sony has identified gaming as a central part of their business. More importantly, they don't have a new media format to push. Their next console can release with a very slight loss per unit and they'll be fine. My hope is that they concentrate firmly on traditional gaming, where the Playstation brand is still quite strong. They have several prominent franchises in that area. They should focus on profitability and the core demographic first and foremost. That they're finishing this generation so strongly might bode well for next generation.

The vast improvement PSN has shown is also a cause for optimism, I believe. With PS+ and cloud development, I think they're poised to push gaming as a service instead of simply a product. I honestly think that the PS4 and PSN have a lot of potential going forward.


I was a little iffy on whether to include the Vita.  In the case of the Vita, they knew the market they were shooting for, but didn't put enough thought into how to appeal to that market.  I'm actually working on something about the Vita specifically, but I don't think it needs a Mario or a Pokemon.  It needs a really massive marketing overhaul.

Finishing a generation strong doesn't necessarily mean you'll win next generation.  The PS3 is a perfect example of this.  I think the PS4 has a huge opportunity, but I don't think going with a service style netflixish approach is the way to go, at least not yet.  PSNPlus is a great service because it gives a way for Sony to earn money off of an otherwise unsellable back catalog.

With PSN Plus, Sony is giving away games like Crysis and Ratchet and Clank All For One.  It's not like these games were going to be selling very well anyway, so this is a way for Sony to make money off of them, and also help build fanbases for those franchises.  Sony isn't exactly losing anything by "giving away" these games.  Of course, that's not a complaint.  It's a clever idea by Sony, a good value for their consumers, and a good opportunity to raise brand awareness.  It's a win win.  I could imagine Sony doing something like offering a huge selection of PS3 games or even the entire PS2 library for free streaming with the PS4, but I don't see a full on Netflix type service quite yet.



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sony needs to stick to what works. as long as there are sony consoles i will have them

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