New Fan Works
Old Fan Works
It's been a little over six months since the Playstation 3 was released (for those from the future, this was written in May 2007), and I think it's time I ranted about it. Thankfully for my readers, I have some first-hand retail experience with the PS3 and Wii releases. I worked at Circuit City during that time (suck it, Best Buy), and saw how the demand for both consoles peaked and waned.
But before I get into the part about the actual demand for the PS3, allow me to rip on the console itself. I think the first thing to complain about would be the ridiculously high price tag. It costs $600. Thats SIX HUNDRED dollars. What the hell were the Sony execs smoking when they thought this was a reasonable price for a game console? And that's not even the actual cost of production. It's common in the industry to sell a console below cost, but the PS3 was ridiculous. The fact that the PS3 has so much advanced technology in it is the main reason why it's so damned expensive. I guess they just assumed that everyone in the world who plays games would be so amazed by the awesome Cell processor and Blu-Ray technology that they would gladly sell their liver to pay for one. I guess they forget that half of gamers work at McDonalds, live in their mom's basement, or just don't have any money. This is not meant to be an insult to gamers, but to Sony. Come on, six hundred bucks for a game console? And then $50 or more for the games?
And no, I'm not done complaining about the price. The PS3 originally came in two versions: the crippled 20GB version for $500, and the normal 60GB version for $600. But just recently Sony decided to discontinue the 20GB version in the North American market. I'm sure the same will happen elsewhere eventually. And my European friends will be even more screwed by the price. According to the sources I read today, and the current exchange rates, the prices for Europe are even more ridiculous. In the United Kingdom, gamers will pay £399 (US$787), and that's an online price from Amazon.co.uk. And according to other sources, the price for most of the European Union will be €599 (US$806). Now I'm not sure how the price structure works in Europe, like whether the retail price includes taxes or not. Even if the prices do include taxes, that's still rather ridiculous. I would think that in today's global ecomonmy that the cost of distribution wouldn't be vastly different for Europe than it would be in the US.
Now this leads me to the absolutely hilarious debacle of the PS3 release. As is the norm for these console release days, people camped out at all the major retailers to secure their very own PS3. The store I worked at got only six PS3s for the release day. There were people camped outside for two days waiting for the thing. Remember that this was the end of November, and it was well below freezing in Madison, WI where I worked. The manager even told the people waiting that we only had SIX of them, but there were still over a dozen people on release day. I guess they figured the manager was lying to them, even though he posted a sign from corporate headquarters on the door saying that there were only six. So right at opening, six lucky people who froze their asses off for two days finally got their hands on the hallowed PS3. Does anyone want to guess what these people were going to do with the consoles? If you said "Go home and play it! Woo-hoo!" then you're wrong. Those things went straight to eBay. Those people who bought the PS3 on opening day were the lucky ones. They were able to sell their PS3s for several thousand dollars to pin-headed morons on eBay. I almost feel sorry for the idiots who spent $2000 on eBay for a PS3. But then I remember that they're idiots.
Now here comes the fun part. The initial huge demand for the PS3 suddenly tanked not long after it was released. Some bright entrepreneurs thought that holding onto their PS3 until Christmas would make them even more money on eBay. These people were basing their decision on the economic law of supply and demand. However, they also forgot the more important economic law: "The PS3 is an overpriced piece of junk and no one in their right mind would spend a thousand dollars, let alone six hundred to buy one." Yeah, most people forget that economic law. So the asshats that bought PS3 hoping to make big bucks selling it on eBay were out of luck. And they couldn't return the consoles because they were past the return dates. So these idiots are stuck with a $600 game console they don't want. Some desperate people sold their PS3s for less than they paid just so they could get rid of them. I remember when we would occasionally get a shipment of 8 or 9 PS3s in the middle of the day. We would announce over the PA that we have x number of PS3s available now for sale. Do you know what question people asked me when they heard that? "Hey, you got any Wiis?"
Yes, it turns out that the silly little Nintendo Wii, that Sony fanboys mocked because of its funny name and lack of processing power, was the big hit of the season. For some reason, nobody seemed to care that the Wii didn't have 1080p HDMI output, a multi-core processor, and oodles of memory and hard drive space. What did people discover about the Wii that made it so much more popular than the PS3? It was fun to play! Never in my life have I seen a game console so popular with every segment of society. It's generally assumed that the people who buy the most games are young, usually adolescents, with some in the early 20s (I'm excluding those weirdoes who are 50, live in their mom's basement, and think they're Harry Potter). But the Wii blew away every assumption about gamer demogaphics. I've seen so many adults in their fifties who have never played a video game other than pong have an absolute blast with the Wii. Now all those morons who complain that the Wii is for babies can stuff a sock in it.
And what's the biggest thing I keep hearing from whiny fanboys about why the PS3 is "teh r0x0rz"? It's all about the damn Cell processor. Now I will state right off the bat that the Cell processor is an amazing piece of technology. The multi-core processor is the wave of the future and is already mainstream. Hardware just keeps getting better and faster. But there's one problem with that: software seems to always lag behind. Even though having a dual-core processor is now common, there still isn't much software that can take true advantage of multiple processors. I noticed this when I built my computer several years ago. Since this was before dual-cores were available, I built my PC with dual Xeon processors. So from a consumer standpoint, I have some experience. Here's where the awesome capability of the Cell processor becomes a drawback: how do game programmers take advantage of the Cell's full potential? Now I am not a game programmer, so I've never written a game or even seen the source code. All those extra processing cores must be hell to program for. I don't know if the PS3 operating system handles the mutli-threading, or the game code does it. Or maybe it's both. The main point is that so far, none of the games on the PS3 take full advantage of the Cell processor. In fact, I'm willing to bet that no game in the whole life of the PS3 will take full advantage of its power. By the time programmers are able to use all the cores, the Playstation 4 will be out. I personally think Sony is wasting customers' money on technology that will never be put to full use. If you ask me, the PS3 sounds more like a server or workstation than a game platform. I'm sure sooner or later that some university or lab will buy a hundred PS3s, cluster them together into a supercomputer, and use it to do research or something. That is the only way the PS3s power will be put to its full use. As for the games, don't hold your breath.
And now let's get to the thing about the PS3 that bugs me the most: it's an all-in-one multimedia center. God I hate this crap. As I've said in previous ramblings, it's a damn game console, not a DVD player. Now Sony wants to use the PS3 to launch its new Blu-Ray format. They thought they would be clever by forcing Blu-Ray on PS3 customers. And since a standalone Blu-Ray player costs $800 or more (at the time of writing this), they thought it was a deal. This made the PS3 far more expensive than it needed to be. Do you know why Blu-Ray players are incredibly expensive, and still hard to find for a reasonable price? It's because of the blue laser itself. It was only into the mid 1990s that a blue laser could be built that didn't cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and be the size of a Buick. Since blue lasers are new technology, they're still scarce and expensive. So even though the prices of Blu-Ray players have dropped, they'll still be expensive for quite a while. And as is the problem with any all-in-one electronic device, there are always trade-offs. The PS3 makes a nice Blu-Ray player, but not the best. In order to be an awesome game console, the other features might have to suffer a little to save costs. Otherwise the damn thing would cost $2000. And the whole Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD thing drives me nuts. I bet that in another year or so, the combo player will make the whole fight meaningless and it'll end up like the DVD-R/DVD+R battle.
And then there's the thing about the PS3 supporting full 1080p resolution. I can see that being important for the Blu-Ray movies, but not so much the games. To my knowledge, there aren't even any games yet that output that resolution. And that's not even including the fact that you have to own a 1080p HDTV, which have only been around maybe a year or so, and you have to pay extra for an HDMI cable. If you get suckered into buying one at a retail store, then say goodbye to another hundred dollars. And also, if you get an HDMI cable, and have a problem with your PS3, for the love of God, don't mention that to Sony tech support. Technically, using a third-party accessory voids your warranty. So if you use a Monster Cable HDMI cable or generic brand controller, then Sony can refuse to do any warranty work, even if there was an actual defect. Sometimes it helps to read the fine print.
And just like the original X-box, the thing is the size of a suitcase. The Wii is barely bigger than a few DVD cases stacked up. Now I know that size isn't everything, but damn. You could knock out an elephant with that monstrosity. I will admit that it has a cool curvy look to it, so I'll give Sony one point for that. So far, that gives them a total of 1 point. Not bad for Sony.
In the end, I think Sony went off the deep end with the PS3. There is such a thing as too much power. I know there are always people who want the latest and greatest in everything, but most game consoles are designed for the masses, not people who absolutely need the best of everything. The Playstation 3 is simply too much machine for too much money. As for me, I'll wait a year or two and buy a Wii when it's $100.
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