Somebody Else’s System

Sony made two huge announcements today — a new controller and an official launch scheme. Too bad neither one was their idea.

THE PRICE

The two-tier pricing system, pioneered in the console world by the Xbox 360, is a dubious plan at best. Does Sony really need to lure deep-pocketed gamers to a $600 system with the promise of some extra hard drive space? Are those extra 40 gigs really worth the cost of two launch games?

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We’re guessing no — at least not until a few years down the road, when you’ll probably be able to buy an add-on for less than the $100 tag of the higher-end system.

The top-tier PS3 costs $600 — and in Europe, it’s gonna be more like $760. So now Sony’s not just releasing the most expensive console ever, it’s releasing the two most expensive consoles ever. There’s probably some element of economic reverse-psychology here, intended to make the expensive PS3 even more coveted than the normal one. But it comes at the expense of simplicity, and we’d much rather have a bunch of gamers with 20-gig systems and two extra games than a swarm of confused moms wandering around Best Buy.

Update: The lower-tier PS3 lacks a few more options that we didn’t pick up on during the press conference. No WiFi, no HDMI video output, and no memory stick slots! The PlayStation 3, as it is meant to be, really does cost $600. (Full specs on the last page of this press release.)

Consumers already have plenty of consoles to choose from this Christmas. Confusing the issue with two PlayStation 3s is one trick that Sony should have left up Microsoft’s sleeve.

THE CONTROLLER

We never thought it’d come to this. The boomerang controller got a lot of bad press, we know. And the Nintendo Wii’s real-space controller is awesome, there’s no question. So rather than create something new or innovative, Sony tacked on a last-minute addition to the Dual Shock 2 — it’s now equipped with a Wii-like (or, perhaps more accurately, a Nintendo DS-like) gyroscope. So when you “steer” by moving your controller through space, your spaceship turns appropriately. And when you steal ideas from your more innovative competitors, you look like the corporate behemoth with hardly a breath of wind left in its creative sails.

Sony couldn’t have given Nintendo a greater compliment today, and the guys on stage couldn’t have sounded more disingenuous when they were playing it off as their own idea. We’re excited about this new technology too, Phil. That’s why we call it the Revolution.

Update: By the way, the addition of the motion sensor means the controller will no longer rumble.

Sony shouldn’t be feeling this much heat — after all, they’re still riding the hugely dominant PS2 into the next generation. But apparently they’re scared. That’s why they’ve slapped together Microsoft’s price structure and Nintendo’s controller. Maybe if they rip off everything the other guys have, and throw in some Blu-ray, it’ll be worth $599.

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