Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) has hit back at criticism that its PlayStation 3 (PS3) console is suffering from sliding sales and revealed it is harbouring treats for gamers up its corporate sleeve to conqure the all-important Christmas market.
Nintendo’s Wii console is currently riding the crest of a wave in terms of market share, leaving both Sony and Microsoft in its wake. But Jonathan Fargher, SCEE representative, said it was wrong to pit the Wii and PS3 against each other.
“The one thing we have always done with the PlayStation is stick to our business strategy,” he said. “We keep an eye on the competition, but it is unfair to put the Nintendo Wii and PS3 in the same category. The Wii is a sub-£200 console and does one thing pretty well. Compare that with a £400 piece of hardware that plays next-generation games, allows users to access photo files and has built-in Blu-Ray technology.
“Many people have said PS3 is not doing well, but in nine weeks we have sold more than one million machines in Europe, which is faster than the sell-through rate of the PS2. The PS1 and PS2 sold 115 million machines worldwide, so we are confident of the PS3’s performance in time,” he added.
“However, the problem has been a boom and bust scenario with the software, particularly in the summer months when many firms tend not to release big-name games.”
Fargher said Sony is looking to counterbalance the lack of games from third-party developers by making other titles available on its online PlayStation Store.
“It will be towards the end of the year when the big titles start to show what the PS3 can really do and hopefully make people feel more comfortable about the decision they made to invest in our hardware.”
Titles due to hit the shelves in the Christmas run-up include the latest instalment of favourites such as Grand Theft Auto, Metal Gear Solid, and Drakes: Uncharted Fortune, which is from the same creators as Crash Bandicoot, and Jak and Daxter, he added.
“If you look at the hardware, you do get a lot for your money: as well as playing Blu-Ray, the PS3 also upscales DVDs to High Definition (HD) format, and if a gamer is lucky enough to own a PlayStation Portable (PSP, pictured, below-left) they can access their PS3 remotely using the PSP and a Wi-Fi connection,” said Fargher.
At the PS3 launch backward-compatibility issues had blighted the console, but Fargher told CRN the problems had been ironed out.
“The backwards-compatibility issues have pretty much gone away,” he said. “There are now up to 2,500 playable titles including all the major ones that gamers want to play.”
Fargher said Sony has also released the PS3 Firmware update – v1.8 – which upscales both PS1 and PS2 games to HD and can be downloaded onto the PS3.
“People don’t want to throw their games library away and want to make sure that the investment they have made, in terms of software, is catered for. Firmware v1.8 allows this,” he said.
Add this to the console’s ability to support games outside the PAL format, which means gamers can buy titles from the US and Japan, and the PS3 gives value for money, he said.
On the hand-held side, Sony is certainly not neglecting its PSP console. Fargher hinted there could be a redesign of the console on the cards, and admitted there had been a lack of AAA titles available for the format.
“There are many high-profile titles in the pipeline and the PSP will continue to grow. We are working with a number of content partners for the PSP, so watch this space,” he said.
Hamish Thompson, a representative for the Dixons Stores Group, said the gaming market was very buoyant.
“We are confident about Sony. Launching the PS3 at the time of year that it did got it off to an impressive start and we are certain that the interest and demand will build as we get closer to the peak season of November, December and January.
“It is an interesting market as there is a lot of competition. All the [different vendor] products are appealing to a broader demographic and they all have another dimension to them, such as Blu-Ray and online connectivity. It certainly creates an exciting buzz, which is great news for retailers.”
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