In Part 1 I discussed how Sony broke into the video game market by garnering 3rd party support and brought their standard of low quality products with them setting a precedence in the industry.
They would have been unable to set this precedence if it wasn’t for the new market they had created in the industry, almost out of thing air; the casual gamer. While the industry had been trying for years to expand the market, they were making slow and steady steps towards that end but Sony managed to do it almost overnight. The problem here is the quality of the new customers they created.
Gamers were the typical nerdy shut in types, above average intelligence and below average social skills. The industry had been slowly widening their age groups and removing the nerdy stigma by making their games more mature and adult oriented. They were turning people ON to video games by making themselves look like less of a child’s toy while still being true to themselves. It was slow but the new consumers entering the market were quality consumers who respected it. Sony created the casual gamer by deploying a completely different strategy. While they continued with the trend of making games more mature they completely obliterated any prior work towards improving the image of games in popular culture. Rather they re-enforced the nerdy gamer stigma by changing games to make gaming turn On to people.
Basically Sony promoted themselves as offering a non-gaming, entertainment experience. According to Sony’s advertising games were lame which is why they sold games that were more like interactive movies. Advertisements showed hardly any game footage at all and what they did show was not actual gameplay footage. They took it a step forward and starting going after the MTV crowd, basically they were going after the people who were the polar opposites of the current crop of gamer clientele. The new crowd of people didn’t care about performance, they didn’t care about gameplay mechanics, or controller design. The new crowd they targeted was the trendy, non-gamer. A group that cared more about their social status then anything else, susceptible to peer pressure and decided avoided gaming because of it’s stigma. Sony went out of their way to show that not only were they the non-game gaming system but they advertised their console as if they were the next big trend and you were uncool unless you owned one. Many people bought this system simply because Sony made it into a status symbol. People bought the Playstation simply because it’s what their friends had without any other rhyme or reason.
The problem with this is that rather than making the gaming industry better breaking down the stigmas and making it more mature to bring in new consumers Sony went and brought the level of gaming down to the lowest common denominator.
You’ll hear the argument all over the place today, talking about how the gaming industry has forgotten it’s roots and concentrates too much on glitz, and graphics while they ignore gameplay and creativity. It’s quite obvious that it is not a problem with the Game Industry but a problem with Sony. Sega, before they tapped out, had easily the most innovative and creative console of their generation, the games were also some of the most creative and fresh of that generation as well. Graphics were good but they took a decided back seat to gameplay and innovation. Nintendo is also an industry leader in terms of innovation in gaming having been the first real implimentor of every major controller technology we have today.
Sony changed the market by bringing in non gamers. They introduced these new gamers to generic glitzy FMV loaded games, and because of that they set a precedence in the industry for this. Most of the game makers who were around before Sony entered the market are still making new and innovative games. But most have been run out of the industry because we reached a point were Sony WAS pretty much the entire industry. The gaming industry doesn’t have a creativity problem… Sony has a creativity problem. The only people who have the power to change this is the company with the largest market share, and that’s Sony, if they don’t want to change this then it wont change. I suspect they’ll never change. This is the way Sony was before the entered the market, and it’s the way they’ve always known and will probably always be. It’s the kind of thing that makes me feel like an old man yelling GET OFF MY F*$&%ING LAWN!
You can’t invite the devil into your house and expect the party not to go to hell. If you bring in the type of consumer who is more interested in status and image then they are in the games they’re actually buying then that group of people will snowball until it hit maximum capacity, that type of person’s actions and beliefs are contagious. Sony acted as a trend setter and earned themselves a herd of sheep. But sheep don’t make good gamers, all sheep do is scream BAAH, follow the herd and do what the shepherd tells them. Sheep do however make execlent consumers, unfortunetly they are the death of creativity in any industry that would take advantage of them. If the wool covered consumer only cares about owning games because it’s what the rest of the wool covered consumers own then it makes the job of the game makers who cater to that culture very easy. If people keep buying what you’ve made to look popular it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy, if they’re only buying it because that’s what everyone else is buying then you never have to worry about those hard to do things like creativity or innovation. While EA was around before Sony it’s the Playstation that made EA into the giant it is today; EA became the mini-me to Sony’s Dr Evil.
Sony basically played their entry into the market well. They used the bickering and arrogance between Nintendo and Sega against them and stole massive 3rd party support and thus consumer support right out from under them. To that I say kudos, well played The market needed a 3rd party to set in and straighten out Nintendo and Sega.
Unfortunately Sony brought with them weak and buggy hardware, a strong lack of creativity and innovation and an army of consumers who would follow them blindly in this pursuit. As a result the industry as a whole has been pretty much void of fresh ideas, most of the creative developers ether started to pump out the generic crap that the Sony consumers wanted or they simply went under because they couldn’t afford to be creative in the environment that Sony had created. Hardcore gamers that had been around from before were subject to the crappy Sony hardware if they wanted to keep playing the 3rd party games that were now only available on the Sony consoles.
Personally I’ll continue to support any game developer or hardware maker that I believe is moving the industry in a positive direction, a more creative and innovative direction. I am deeply saddened that Sega is no longer making hardware, though I whole heartedly support Nintendo’s push to concentrate on gameplay over graphics a well as their endeavors in pushing innovation in the controller space. I also support Microsoft’s ventures in pushing the envelope as to what an online gaming service should be, as well as what a console’s OS should be capable of. If not for the innovations of Nintendo and Microsoft I suspect that the PS3 would be little more then a PS2 with a Blu-Ray drive and a Cell processor.
Sony reached their height with the PS2, good timing and continuing with their sheep herding marketing tactics devastated what little identity the rest of the market had left. When Microsoft first entered the market I was heartbroken. From their history with windows I believed they’d be just as bad as Sony, buggy hardware and software, generic garbage games… more of the same but marketing tactics not as effective. I avoided it at first but it piqued my interested when I found that a lot of the games I loved on the Dreamcast found new homes on the Xbox. The decision these companies made to move to the unproven Xbox as opposed to the dominating PS2 encouraged me to give it a closer look. A that time I had only owned a Dreamcast I hated the big controller but the games were pretty good, and they had implemented a lot of little features that made me believe they were actually listening to consumers and trying to deliver what people wanted instead of TELLING consumers what they wanted. I was sold when they released the S-Controller, not just because it was far more comfortable then their previous controller (and far more comfortable then the PS2 controller) but because it expressed to me that they were actively listening to the market and making an effort to deliver the gaming experience that gamers wanted.
This played in stark contrast to how Sony was handling the market. They stood at a podium and instructed the masses as to what the next important game was going to be, what the next important piece of hardware was. They knew exactly where the market was going because they owned it and they manufactured it how they saw fit. This grew in to further and further arrogance. They realized that they could pretty much say anything and get away with it. Sheep are loyal because they’ve got wool over their eyes, they can’t see what’s directly in front of them so they just follow the herd and put faith in their shepherd to take them in the right direction. Sony began abusing their position of power to the point where they were not only leading the masses and removing creativity from the market but flat out abusing their customers. What used to be a confident smile that people would buy their products they’ve become so brazen as to flat out announce that people follow them so blindly they’d sell 5 million units if their console was just a $600 paperweight. What used to be a slightly exaggerated but reasonable tech demo became nothing more then a video file with a flat out lie that people were watching a game. It’s this kind of unnecessary consumer abuse that has turned me from not just someone who dislikes Sony but flat out despises them.
On the bright side I think the market is correcting itself. When you have Microsoft step in, a company that is known for it’s market leadership and generic products, and they start acting like a human being asking gamers what they want to see, adding features that the gamers demand, and making a good effort for innovation on a few fronts; when they step in and you compare it to Sony I think a lot of people woke up. I think a lot of the status oriented peer pressure effected teens that were first turned onto Sony’s marketing appeal had started to mature into adults who would actually start thinking for themselves instead of following the herd. I think this is why there is so much Sony bashing going on recently, so much negative press, and So many people voicing their support for Nintendo and Microsoft. I think a lot of these people have grown up and realized the situation and are calling Sony on their consumer abuse and damage to the gaming industry. Sony, I’m sure, still holds a massive following of sheep, some people never mature, some people just always need to be told what to buy and how to act by a voice of authority, but I think a lot of others are tried of the crap we’ve put up with. I’m happy I’m no longer alone in my hatred for the crap Sony has turned the market into, and I enjoy every bit of negative press the receive in hopes that it will either sober Sony up into a more respectable member of the industry or baring that, run them out completely.
There are lots of other reasons to hate sony: Root kit, Blu-Ray, their legal tactics, poor customer support, exploding batteries, killing off Lik-Sang… but this is why I’ve grown to hate Sony, I hate what they’ve done to my beloved game industry.