Koreans and StarCraft

I sometimes can’t help but notice how StarCraft has become a part of South Korean culture as ignorance has for America in recent years. Many national StarCraft tournaments play on mainstream Korean television networks and major corporations actually sponsor players, who sometimes are able to secure lucrative endorsement deals. Most of all, many of these players become traders in the Korean stock market once they retire since financial institutions need their skills at making quick bid and ask orders on the stock exchanges.

Note that the intensity of the commentators over a simple quick game of StarCraft and the cheering fans. The game is supposedly popular to the point where average Korean schoolgirls knows that bunkers need to be build and staffed with marines to defend from a Zerg rush. Not surprisingly, the term “ZERG RUSH KEKEKEKE” was popularised by Korean players playing against English-speakers on Battle.net.

Then you have Korean comedians developing skits around imitating StarCraft sounds…

I really don’t know why StarCraft has taken hold in South Korea. For one, this game doesn’t have anything remotely Korean in it and it was originally designed for western gamers in mind. Apparently, the popularity of StarCraft in Korea has also been credited with the growth of the Internet economy in South Korea and some books have been designed to teach Koreans English based on StarCraft terms.

Starcnomics is an academic look at the positive effects StarCraft has had on the Korean economy. A translation of the jacket summary reads:”StarCraft Syndrome”: It’s more than an obsession with and devotion to the most popular game in Korea. It’s the effect the game has had in generating new trends and socioeconomic changes. Economically, the syndrome created a new type of Korean industry or business that grew out of the needs of the times.

This book outlines the way in which the “StarCraft Syndrome” has led to a new business success strategy, a new business paradigm that combines the strengths of the digital age, cultural industry, new business models, and current social and cultural phenomena. At the same time, the book offers an unusual case study of gaming as a business model.

Then, StarCraft 2 was announced and this is an idea of its impact on Korea

With real news headlines saying the following:

South Korean fans rejoice as a game’s sequel is announced

South Korean gamers get a sneak peek at ‘StarCraft II’

Korean Navy to Launch Online Game Team

From what I have read StarCraft is popular in Korea because of the following reasons when it first came out in 1999

There are 3 factors contributing to the popularity of StarCraft in Korea:
1. StarCraft was a US game, which was exported to South Korea

2. Japanese consoles were illegal since laws at the time banned imports from Japan

3. Most gamers played in Internet Cafes (PC 방) that encouraged multiplayer at fair prices

StarCraft 2 Is Coming Out (Hooray for Koreans!)

Earlier today at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational at Seoul, StarCraft 2 was officially announced to the citizens of the Republic of Korea, after many years of waiting. It was quite a good week for the Korean Peninsula with the North and South restoring railroad links earlier in the week and with the announcement of StarCraft 2 today. This was a godsend to many South Koreans who lamented at the loss of StarCraft: Ghost, which was announced in 2002.

Now, the StarCraft that Koreans had played with, Zerg Rushed, and even built their fame with is no more. There will be new units, new buildings, and even rebalanced units. The funny part is now the in-game dialogue is spoken in Korean for the game’s core userbase. Here’s what we know so far:

New units

Terran

* Reaper: A unit much like the Marines, but carrying dual machine pistols. It has a jump jet allowing it to hop down or up a tier, making it effective for exploiting weak spots in an elevated base.

Protoss

* Colossus: A large quad-legged vehicle that fires strong dual lasers. This unit can also traverse differences in terrain height. In the Artwork/Gameplay trailer on Blizzard’s site, it appears to “steal” what looks like energy from the unit it is attacking.
* Immortal: A unit that replaces the Dragoon. It has strong defense against powerful attacks, but it is vulnerable to weaker attacks that do not activate their shields.[7]
* Mothership: A powerful hovering unit that consumes an extreme amount of resources to produce. It is able to attack multiple units at time, and has three unique abilities, which are the Time Bomb, Planet Cracker, and Black Hole. The Time Bomb ability slows all enemy missile attacks. The Planet Cracker ability is a large laser that fires from the bottom of the Mothership, obliterating anything in its field. The Black Hole ability creates a void that absorbs and destroys enemy aircrafts. Only one Mothership can be active at a time.
* Phase Prism: A dual-purpose unit that is able to transport units or act as a mobile pylon.[7]
* Phoenix: An aircraft that can overcharge guns for multiple projectile blasts. However, after the initial blast the ship is rendered inert for a short period of time, unable to move or attack.
* Stalker: A Dragoon-inspired unit built by the Dark Templars. It is capable of ranged attacks and teleporting quickly over short distances to avoid terrain and chase retreating enemies.[7]
* Warp Ray: An aircraft that attacks with a blue laser, dealing more damage as it focuses on the same target. It is powerful against tough units and buildings, but wastes damage on small units and can be quickly overcome.

Zerg

* Nydus Worm: A transport unit that transports small units such as zerglings from underground.
* Baneling: A mutated Zergling filled with explosive and acidic chemicals that can roll across terrain and explode on impact.

Updated units

Protoss

* Zealot: An automatic charge ability that allows a Zealot to quickly close the distance between itself and an enemy unit.

Zerg

* Zergling: An upgrade that mutates the Zergling into the suicidal Baneling.

New racial abilities

Protoss

* Warp prefabricated units within Pylons’ range and deployed Phase Prisms via an upgrade to the Gateway–the Warp Gate.

The official website for StarCraft 2 is http://www.starcraft2.com. Now the downside is there will be more accidents in PC Cafes as players spend hours upon hours in marathon gaming sessions relearning how to play StarCraft 2 just like the original.

Now I wonder if my computer can actually handle the new StarCraft…

Playstation Network from Around the World

On a slow weekend, I learned from UK Playstation magazine of a trick to download PS3 demos and related content from non-American Playstation Stores. It was interesting as I kept reading various blog posts of PSTriple fanboys lamenting about their inability to download content from Europe, Asia and even Japan.

Here’s how to create accounts to access the Japanese, Hong Kong and UK PSN store:

1. Cut a Hole in the Box (Just joking)

First you will need to create an all-new user in your Playstation 3 in the users bar. One that is done you can go sign-up to a new Playstation Network account by choosing your country or region as Hong Kong, Japan or United Kingdom. Make sure you select “Master Account” and then enter in all the relevant information (you don’t need a valid email address) and follow the rest of the instructions.

You don’t need to enter in any billing information if you are just out to download region-exclusive demos or video content, so you can skip that section entirely. After the billing information is skipped or entered, you will be asked to confirm all your false information before your account is created. Once that is over you can chose your avatar and skip the survey section to immediately sign in using your region-specific account.

If you don’t know Japanese, you’re strongly recommended to creating an account for the Asia-Pacific region such as Hong Kong and the PAL markets such as the United Kingdom. This way, you will have a chance to memorise the right buttons and input fields before you try entering information for the Japanese account, which only displays in Japanese. Do not concern yourself with real information such as zip codes, home addresses or trying to type a Japanese or Asian name because the Account Registration process supports alphanumeric characters.

There should not be any compatibility issues with PAL downloads unless you are only connected to a TV using SD cables instead of a component or HDMI cable.

Some region-exclusives from the UK Playstation Store are a demo of Super Rub-a-Dub, a making-of featurette for F1 Championship Edition, while the Hong Kong store has a demo of Hot Shots Golf, free add-on packs for Ridge Racer 7, a trailer for Gundam Musou while the Japanese store has PS3 compatible PS1 downloadable games, and exclusive GT HD videos for Nissan and Ferrari. It’s really sad that one has to even make multiple accounts for specific regions just to download certain freebies from each store because Sony wasn’t smart enough to allow for global downloads. Granted the Japanese store does have content that is exclusive to their local culture, but much of the same content was sent to the Asian stores with no localisation and are doing quite well in those regions.

Some great downloads from this week’s Playstation stores, we Super Rub-a-Dub, which is extremely sensitive to the SIXAXIS controller; Ninja Gaiden Sigma, which gives us a remake of the demo stage from Xbox; Virtua Tennis 3, which only plays for 1 round; a Gundam Musou commercial in Japanese and GT HD videos showcasing Nissan and Ferrari.

With that note, tomorrow is One Day Blog Silence day in honour of those who were horribly murdered in Virginia Tech in America.

Silence can say more than a thousand words.

This day shall unite us all about this unbelievable painful & shocking event and show some respect and love to those who lost their loved ones.

On April 30th 2007, the Blogosphere will hold a One-Day Blog Silence in honor of the victims at Virginia Tech. More then 30 died at the US college massacre.

But it´s not only about them. Many bloggers have responded and asked about all the other victims of our world. All the people who die every day. What about them?

This day can be a symbol of support to all the victims of our world!

All you have to do is spread the word about it and post the graphic on your blog on 30th April 2007. No words and no comments. Just respect, reflect and empathy.

The End of the Playstation Era

http://www.forbes.com/2007/04/26/kutaragi-sony-playstation-face-marketes-cx_er_0426autofacescan01_print.htmlGame Over for Father Of The PlayStation
Evelyn M. Rusli, 04.26.07, 4:34 PM ET

Ken Kutaragi, the father of the PlayStation, stepped down as head of Sony Computer Entertainment on Thursday, falling victim to the disappointing sales of the PlayStation 3 and rising tensions between the executive and Sony Corp.’s top brass.

In an upbeat statement, the company announced that Kutaragi would stay on as an honorary chairman and senior technology adviser, while Kazuo Hirai, the current president of the key unit, would take his place as CEO and chairman.

“I am happy to graduate from Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.” said Kutaragi. “It has been an exciting experience to change the world of computer entertainment by marrying cutting-edge technologies with creative minds from all over the world. I’m looking forward to building on this vision in my next endeavors.”

Sony Corp.’s CEO, Howard Stringer, called Kutaragi a “rare combination of a powerful visionary and entrepreneur in one figure.”

But behind the bright harmony of the press release, there was reportedly a protracted tug-of-war between the high-profile executives.

Many believe that Kutaragi is another casualty in Stringer’s campaign to transform Sony into a leaner, more profitable and software-centric company.

The clash between Kutaragi and Stringer, which is said to have simmered since Stringer became CEO in June 2005, was typical of the collision between the old style of business at Sony and the new ethos Stringer is trying to foster.

In one corner stood Kutaragi, a 32-year Sony veteran who epitomized the independent and innovative spirit that was key to the company’s rise. As the father of three generations of the PlayStation console and the handheld version, he also represented the company’s longtime hardware and engineering focus.

In the other corner was Stringer, the new CEO eager to reduce each business line’s independence and bring about integration. Since his arrival, Stringer has “made it clear that software — and inter-unit cooperation — is a priority for his historically siloed and hardware-centric company,” Prudential Equity Group said in a March research note.

The ideological chasm that separated Kutaragi and Stringer may have been immaterial, if it wasn’t for Sony’s major financial setbacks, which likely pressured Stringer to act.

The PS3, with its high overhead costs, production shortage problems and low penetration rate, has stumbled against the attractively priced Nintendo Wii and Microsoft Xbox 360, falling to No. 3 in sales. While Sony sold 1.8 million consoles through the end of 2006, Nintendo sold almost double that: 3.2 million units.

The dissapointing console is expected to drag on Sony’s earnings for the remainder of the year: “it will be difficult for the Games division to achieve break-even status in fiscal 2007, as our analysis indicates that Sony is currently losing close to $300 per PlayStation 3 unit sold,” John McPeake, a Prudential Equity Group analyst, said in a research note last month.

In a harbinger of things to come, Stringer removed Kutaragi from the post of president of Sony Computer Entertainment last November, effectively cutting him off from day-to-day operations. (See: “Sony Shuffles Gaming Team”)

Kutaragi, known for his outspoken and independent management style, (See: “Exec Slams Sony Mangement for Failure to Exploit Content”) may have been perceived as a hurdle in reining in the embattled games division.

The lack of communication between the computer entertainment arm and the rest of Sony made Kutaragi a volatile element. According to an interview with Stringer in the Wall Street Journal, Kutaragi surprised his boss by exceeding production budgets. In one particularly illustrative moment, Kutaragi startled management with an impromptu 20% price cut for the Japanese 20GB PlayStation 3 model. “It wasn’t financially one of my best moments,” Stringer told the paper. “The budget implications were self evident. I agreed because I wanted the launch to be successful.”

Wrangles aside, Prudential analyst John McPeake said Kutaragi’s departure and Hirai’s ascension is a logical and positive step for the beleaguered company. “This management change is expected,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “Kutaragi was almost 60 years old and Kazuo Hirai has a good relationship with the game industry and game publishers.”

At the end of trading Thursday, Sony shares were down 1.9%, or $1.02, to $54.20.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The Playstation Generation is coming to an end as Nintendo uses a modified Gamecube and a touchpad-based handheld to regain their place in the videogame industry. It’s quite ironic since it was Nintendo’s stupidity that provoked Sony into entering the videogame business with an overhauled CD-ROM based console. Now it looks like Ken Kutaragi is being banished from the division he helped build and replaced with Kazuo “Ridge Racer!!!!!!!!” Hirai, which seems to reaffirm that the Peter Principle is in play.

This is living indeed as Sir Howard Stringer may have brought massive damage to Sony with a real-time management change in the face of giant enemy Wiis. It also gives both Microsoft and Nintendo many chances to attack Sony’s weakpoint to cause massive damage to gain even more market share in the console war. As of this writing, Microsoft appears to have dominated much of the market share with their 360 in North America, while sharing some of the market with Nintendo in Europe. However, Nintendo is able to secure their home market in Japan and crushing the once invincible Sony with just a modified Gamecube.

“IT’S RIDGE RACER!~ RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIDGE RACEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEERRRR!”

“Fl0w is the killer-app for the PS3!!!”

“Yo yo yo! It’s da PSTriple!”

It’s quotes like these that give you an idea of the Playstation 3’s sad state.

Despite these problems, I agree with Stringer that Sony needs to do more to flex their corporate synergies and to develop their software division in the face of direct competition from Microsoft. Sony’s lack of software know-how clearly shows in their lack of content in their cross-media bar interface that is on the PS3 and other high-end Sony products, the lack of content in their Playstation Network, and their Playstation Home, which looks like an enhanced Second Life just for PS3 users.

On another note, it seems that any electronic product with the Sony brand has been crapping out as of late. My Japanese penpal informed me that his first generation PS2 had problems due to a “disc-read error” and he heard rumours that Sony products were built with limited lifespans, which would force consumers to buy the next version about 3-5 years after using the original version. It’s funny because that’s how my Sony Discman (1993) died around 1998, my dad’s Sony Home Theatre 5.1 Sound Encoder (2000) died last weekend (2007) and my first PS2 (2002) died in 2005.

From what I have seen so far in Sony’s management and from my Playstation 3, it’s safe to say that I will opt out of the Playstation 4 and get Nintendo’s modified Wii instead for the next system.

Its business as usual…

These past four days have been interesting in America, as White America continues to remain in shock over the killings and coming to terms with the Model Minority stereotype.  For those who are unfamiliar with race relations in America, the “Model Minority” stereotype is a stereotype applied to all ethnic Asians in America who are typically stereotyped as being hard-working, bearing ethnic idiosyncrasies, excellent in the areas of math/science, extremely passive, and willing to adapt to the White power structure more willingly than other ethnic minorities in America.

With that being said, Asians in America have been traditionally stigmatised as being “ethnic”, weak, sexless, a jack-of-all-trades in academics, and most of all subservient.  It is safe to say those perceptions of Asians came crashing down on many Americans when Cho Seung-Hui finally made his move to release all his pent up rage, insanity on a Monday morning.  It didn’t really sink in until NBC and other news outlets in the world decided to air key excepts of his “manifesto” which depicted him as an awkward Asian-American who had a great deal of anger and committed to killing those who wronged him (whoever they may be).

Soon, people started seeing these images started to realise that this man could be the kid that hangs out with their children, the guy they work with, the guy who helps them out or just a random acquaintance that happens to be an Asian male.  Now people will consider Asian males to not only be good in math or science, but also capable of extreme psychotic acts of violence.    So far, a few Asians have related on various forums that their co-workers have started to look at them weird and reluctant to socialise with them while others no longer feel safe when traveling around predominantly White neighbourhoods.

Then there are idiotic acts such as this:

http://www.xanga.com/kenoak

i’m at michigan state at a frat house. just got word that 16 cars outside the international house on campus got vandalized… windshields smashed in. 14 of those cars were owned by koreans. this is almost certainly related to the virginia tech shooting. i’m really upset about this….. really upset. the kids are playing beer pong………

I would advise readers and Americans to refrain from revenge attacks against Asians because they are not like Cho Seung-Hui.  Remember that people are people and Cho’s act was no different from what happened in Columbine other than his ethnicity.  Despite what I just said, I am sure I will be profiled like many of my Asian peers in America save for Hawaii or California (where there is a sizable Asian population).

With that out of the way, it’s back to bashing the crap out of Sony and the Playstation 3.  From what have been circulating in videogame industry rags and enthusiast blogs, it appears that Sony’s European division will be “heavily restructured” meaning it will be downsized and it comes as no surprise that some top managers in Sony Computer Europe decided to call it quits.  The sales for the PS3 in Europe have already started to freefall after record sales in the initial weeks to the point where retailers in the United Kingdom are selling the systems as a loss just to liquidate their inventory.

On the upside, Sony finally released firmware 1.70, which made improvements in backward compatibility with PSone and PS2 games, allowed for emulation of downloaded PSone games, and allowed for rumble in old Playstation peripherals.  However, the downloadable PSone games will not be available in May and its also good to point out that Sony had about 7 firmware updates in the past year compared to Microsoft’s 2 revisions for the 360.  These improvised updates just come to show that Sony’s Playstation division and OS programmers are indeed run by the legally retarded just like Virginia Tech’s security.

Then the hardware sales in Japan also tell a story:

http://kotaku.com/gaming/media-create/simple-2000-the-japanese-hardware-sales-chart-250404.php

Nintendo must have been gutted of DS Lite supply, as this week saw a noticeable drop off in sales from last week’s hardware chart. Is the honeymoon over? Has the nation of Japan turned against its handheld leader? Doubtful. But even Wii sales were down considerably, so maybe that Blue Ocean is experiencing a red shift.

Despite an approximate drop of 50,000 in weekly sales, the DS Lite still sits proudly atop this week’s Media Create sales figures.

  • Nintendo DS Lite – 79,897
  • Wii – 51,365
  • PSP – 39,077
  • PlayStation 2 – 17,787
  • PLAYSTATION 3 – 16,889
  • Xbox 360 – 3,889
  • Game Boy Advance SP – 609
  • Game Boy micro – 588

Did you notice that PS2 sales exceeded PS3 sales? That may be due to Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ and Musou Orochi selling so well. Still, ouch.

So the Playstation 3 is still being crushed by a modified Gamecube and being cannibalised by their own Playstation 2.  It’s interesting to see how the top two sellers in Japan last week were the Nintendo DS and Wii followed by a portable PS2 and the PS2 itself while the PS3 is barely close to the PS2′ sales.  One would think that Gundam Musou would have boosted the PS3’s sales, but it really did little in the long-run.

It has reached the point where some random people can cultivate an Internet following just by creating a running gag pretending to be an uneducated PS3 fanboy:

So despite all of the obscenity-laced rant about Wii games and Devil May Cry no longer being a PS3-exclusive, the video points out that the “PSTriple” doesn’t have any good games worth talking about and parodies the fanboys who go on bashing popular games on the Wii or 360.  This was supposed to be a one-time joke by the Chad Warden fellow, but many of the PSTriple fanboys were actually dumb enough to use this video in defending their $600-plus investment in what can now be considered more of a “cheap” blu-ray player (assuming Sony can win that format war).

Speaking of stupidity, Taiwan Province decided to make a prank call pretending to be attacked by a killer in a university just to test police response time about three days after Monday’s shootings:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6571361.stm

Two MPs who faked a hostage-taking at Taiwan’s top university after the US school shootings have been condemned by the island’s governing party.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) made a public apology after two MPs reported that students had been taken hostage at National Taiwan University.

Armed police rushed to the campus, only to be told that the call was a hoax aimed at testing their response time.

The pair may face disciplinary action, but have defended their action.

Police who rushed to scene found Lee Chen-nan and another legislator, Lin Kuo-ching, on campus with a number of reporters.

The hoax drew sharp criticism from the DPP, which issued an apology, and from Taiwan’s cabinet, which said authorities would investigate whether the MPs broke any laws.

Why is Taiwan Province turning into a goddamn living joke to the point where Zhejiang Province looks more respectable?   Three days after the shooting and during examination week the two legislators from the “Democratic Progressive Party”, the party that wants total war with China, decide to make a crank call just to test police response time.  Both legislators justified their actions because it was supported by students who wanted to avoid the exams, without realising that they could encourage copycat pranks in the long-run.

The world turns and things will be back to business for the most part

The Playstation 3 is a liability to Blu-Ray

According to Sony, their blu-ray DVD players are winning the format war against Toshiba’s HD-DVD format. They assert these claims with sales data that shows blu-ray films outselling their HD-DVD counterparts on a 3 to 1 ratio and with the growing installed Playstation 3 user base.

Some of this data can be unscientifically backed up with amazon.com sales data from http://www.eproductwars.com/dvd/ which shows that HD-DVD initially had the lead on blu-ray prior to the launch of the Playstation 3. However, the blu-ray sales started to pick up after PS3 sales began to stabilise and it increased even more with the release of “Casino Royale” on blu-ray. So far, Universal studios has an exclusive commitment to HD-DVD with Paramount and Warner Bros showing more bias towards the HD-DVD camp despite being nonexclusive studios.

Although many porn studios have selected HD-DVD as their format of choice, this does not mean Toshiba has won the format war. In the past, pornographic studios may have decided the original videotape wars, but the bulk of pornography is now downloaded through high-speed internet services according to analysts. They also added the one reason why Sony was reluctant to allow pornographers, who initially wanted to make porn for blu-ray, to press their films was Sony’s fear of offending Disney (an exclusive studio) which was a corporation reluctant to be associated with anything that would tarnish their image. Despite this setback, a few pornographic studios in Japan and America have managed to get a few films pressed for blu-ray under the condition of Nondisclosure Agreements.

Others would point out that Microsoft supports HD-DVD, which means it is the end of blu-ray. Again, this is not exactly true, as the HD-DVD add-on for the Xbox360 does not appear to be a strong seller with many developers reluctant to port their games to a higher capacity HD-DVD as many developers did for PS2 DVD-ROMs. It is also interesting that Microsoft’s own Public Relations and developers have gone on record saying they would add a blu-ray external drive if they win the format war, and made gaffes that ironically referred to HD-DVD as the “new betamax”.

Despite these apparent setbacks for the HD-DVD camp, Sony could lose this format war because of their Playstation 3. We all know for a fact that the Playstation 3, a system for “hardcore” gamers, is being crushed by the Nintendo Wii and unable to differentiate itself from the 360. It’s sad to say that the Playstation 3 is now the current loser in this generation’s console war and it is being beaten by a slightly modified GameCube console with a motion-sensing and rumble remote despite having such powerful features such as Cell processor that can cure cancer, wi-fi, and HD resolution.

It’s one thing to lose to a relatively inferior piece of hardware but it is a huge problem when Sony could not help their developers harness the full potential of the PS3 to even surpass the Microsoft Xbox360 in terms of graphics and gameplay:

Although the video quality is low, its really very hard to see any major difference between the PS3 and 360 versions. Although some PS3 fanboys would make the claim that their version had more colours, the differences are really not noticeable. This makes consumers wonder why in the world they should pay an extra $100USD for a PS3 version that plays exactly like their 360 counterpart. It is also a large problem for Sony since many of the traditionally loyal developers are willing to cancel their exclusive agreements in favour of generating more revenues by going multi-platform. Phil Harrison of SCEI has acknowledged that the developers move to go multi-platform made sense because they cannot really make much revenue by simply making games for one system, which implies that Sony has not only failed in meeting their developers’ needs but they have a system that will not sell well either.

Then one has to look at it from a developer’s point of view. Why would a developer even try to develop games for PS3 using PS3 development kits that is extremely difficult to program and without any support from Sony unlike Microsoft? The difficulty in programming the PS3 often forces developers to simply port over an existing program/game from the Xbox360 as a way of creating shortcuts to get around the programming issues around the PS3. This also explains why PS3 exclusive games have done very little to differentiate themselves compared to their counterparts on the 360. The fact that there are extra costs pressing games on blu-ray compared to DVD also hurts the developers’ bottom line and these costs are carried over to consumers in the form of PS3’s $60USD games versus the 360’s $50 games.

Another place to see problems in Sony’s troubled Playstation 3 is in their approach to advertising the product. In Japan, Sony has started positioning their PS3 as an entertainment hub in addition to being a gaming system:

This commercial emphasises the non-gaming features of the PS3, which were originally included as value-added benefits for owning a PS3 gaming system. It also doesn’t help that these ads seem to be targeted towards older consumers and non-gamers, which could alienate the Playstation’s core fanbase by associating it as a digital hub instead of its primary design as a console. Moreover, the most interesting part about these ads is Sony’s attempt to attract non-gamers to buy the PS3 similar to how Nintendo is using their unique gameplay on the Wii to attract non-gamers, except Sony has little to show by promoting their extra features as their primary benefits for having a PS3. It’s also interesting how Sony didn’t make any ads that talked about the benefits of using the Playstation 3 to view blu-ray films and it’s ability to surf the Internet.

In Europe and other PAL markets, Sony decided to implement a “This is Living” ad campaign to generate buzz for the PS3. Based on last weekend’s data, it appears that their ad campaign for the PAL markets was a miserable failure since the ads did nothing to talk about the benefits of having a PS3 versus a Nintendo Wii or Xbox360, which have been in the market for nearly a year; and all the “This is Living” ads were loaded with foreign symbolism that confused the casual consumer.

These ads did more to confuse and alienate potential buyers and did very little to generate excitement and sales for Sony. You really have to wonder what the Playstation 3 has to do with a girl taking a shit in the toilet or a Japanese man boiling eggs with his brain. At least the North American ads showed the power of the Playstation 3 by having it quickly solve a Rubik’s cube before destroying it to show its raw processing power.

With all this negative attention associated with the PS3, one has to wonder what this will eventually do for the blu-ray format. First, Sony was able to gain a slight foothold in their format war by making blu-ray available on the PS3 at the expense of angering developers with added development costs, and turning off consumers by raising the retail price. Additionally, all the retarded business decisions Sony’s management have made in regards to the PS3 such as officially praising the Wii as a “Wonderful product” to treating all consumers as if they were automatically going to buy the PS3 regardless of price or associated issues only increased the negative perception surrounding it. Blu-ray is currently winning the next generation DVD format war against HD-DVD, but we all have to wonder how much longer will this success last before its association with the PS3 works against Sony and its blu-ray format…

Screwed: Sony does it again for Playstation 3 users

This week marks the beginning of Playstation 3 sales on PAL regions such as Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa for customers who have been waiting ever since it was delayed to March 2007. According to USA Today, sales of Playstation 3 in the PAL markets mirror early sales of the Xbox360 and Playstation 2. However, many customers may not be aware of how royally Sony screwed them as they enthusiastically hook up their PS3s.

Earlier reports confirmed that Sony was shifting from a hardware-based backwards compatibility to software emulation that is used by the Xbox360. Upon closer inspection of the PAL Playstation 3, we can see that the Emotion Engine, the chip that allows for backwards compatibility with PS1/2 games, has been replaced with a cheaper graphics chip. We would think that Sony “gimped” their own console to cut costs to sell it to the competitive PAL markets, but the PAL equivalent prices are still close to the retail prices in both the North American and Asian markets. This means that customers in PAL markets will be paying a little more for a lot less than what their NTSC counterparts are currently using.

The below chart shows the percentage of old games that will work via software emulation:

It’s interesting that Sony would even make hardware revisions to the PS3 so early in the product’s life-cycle as opposed to making changes around 1-2 years after its situated in the market. It is even more interesting that the early versions of the PS3 has problems with hardware-based backwards compatibility that were just solved with a 1.51 firmware upgrade that will now resurface as Sony Computer Entertainment implements a snap decision to switch to software emulation. Although Sony is best known for their know-how in hardware, it is safe to say that software is not their strong point and places them at a relative competitive disadvantage to Microsoft, who built their core competencies around software applications. This is one explanation on why Sony will have much more trouble implementing software emulation for their PS1/2 games.

However, it looks like they won’t even bother will future firmware upgrades to get the essential PS1/2 gaming library to become backwards compatible with the Playstation 3:

http://www.1up.com/do/newsStory?cId=3158104

But, as 1UP pointed out, a number of high-profile games aren’t compatible. Metal Gear Solid 3, for example, will run on software emulation, but Metal Gear Solid 2 won’t. Will that change? Probably not, says Sony. “We are pleased with the number we have been able to make playable for the European launch, but as we have made clear before, our focus going forward will be on innovative new applications and services for PS3 rather than on backwards compatibility,” said Nick Sharples, director of corporate communications at SCEE.

“We will test all forthcoming PS2 titles, but it would be unrealistic to expect significant increases [our emphasis] in the number of playable PS2 titles in future firmware upgrades given the above. Whilst J&D and MGS are not listed as playable, their successors MGS3 and Jak and Daxter 2 are playable,” Sharples continued.

Sharples wouldn’t provide a firm answer on whether games like MGS2 would be emulated in the future, but his answer doesn’t provide much promise. Instead, he suggests looking at the sequels as replacements of sorts. “We will certainly be testing our own future PS2 releases and will offer the facility to our publishing partners,” he said, but once again reiterated the focus going forward was on PS3, not the past.

Translation: “too bad your favourite games won’t work on the PS3; so buy the sequels to make it up because we’re not going to fix the problem”. It’s just great to know that Sony does not care about it’s customers when they made press conference emphasising that they will cater to their “Playstation Generation” through backwards compatibility so they can migrate from their old Playstations when PS3 came out. It’s even more ironic that Sony is abandoning a business model they successfully implemented to both preserve their existing PS1 customer base while at the same time adding a new benefit that motivated old and new customers to purchase the new Playstation. This model worked so well that Microsoft made an effort for backward compatibility on the Xbox360 through software emulation while Nintendo allowed for Gamecube games to run on the Wii.

These developments don’t bode well for existing users of the Playstation 3 either because we will lose the ability to play many of our old PS1/2 games once we install firmware version 1.6. This also means that the Emotion Engine chips dedicated to solid backwards computability will be replaced with inferior software emulation for existing users that choose to update to version 1.6, which only allows for background downloading that doesn’t work if you’re playing games and zooming while browsing the Internet. One day you could be having a blast in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the next day you realise it can barely load after installing version 1.6. This is even worse for those people who actually sold their Playstation 2 systems to pre-order their Playstation 3 only to learn that barely 1/3rd of their old games can work on the PS3. Not only is this an issue for existing customers, but there were actually new PS3 users who bought PS2 games for the first time to play on the PS3. Sony did a fine mess by both alienating their existing customers and depriving themselves of potential dollar opportunities as well.

Speaking of screw-ups, Sony made the following errors in their Playstation 3:

1. They allowed retailers to sell consoles to people who would simply resell them at the gray market for higher premiums. Soon dumbasses in North America would buy Playstation 3 just to sell them for at least $1000USD flooding the gray market as seen on eBay and depriving real customers the chance to buy the system. Eventually the dumbasses who tried selling the PS3 on eBay or other gray markets would realise they have failed and returned their systems within 30 days while customers who wanted them would lose patience by then and settled on the new Xbox or Wii. This is one of many explanations on why retailers suddenly have PS3s in stock and it’s not just credited to Sony’s improved “supply chain”.

2. They lost the ability to have force feedback on their controllers. Instead of settling with Immersion like Microsoft did to retain the much-enjoyed rumble functions, Sony decided to make a snap decision to remove it from their controllers in place of rumble function. They rebranded their “Dual Shock 3” as the “Sixaxis” since it offers six degrees of freedom and then acted as if they wanted this feature on their system all along when it was far from the truth. Their official PR even wrote bullshit claiming the rumble function would interfere with motion sensing even though that never happened with Nintendo’s Wiimote. Also, the developers who were coding “Warhawk” for the PS3 complained in interviews about how Sony gave them limited time to program motion sensing functions into the game in time for one of their press conferences. If you’re a PS3 user, you may have noticed how light the Sixaxis controllers are and how it feels like there is empty spaces in the areas where the Dual Shock motors would have been. Now it looks like Sony gave into Immersion’s demands and will be reintroducing force feedback into future PS3 controllers and accessories.

3. The Playstation 3 is used as a Trojan horse in 2 format wars. The first format war the Playstation 3 is supposed to help Sony win is the one between their blu-ray versus Toshiba’s HD-DVD. So far, it appears that Sony is winning this format war with more studio exclusives and corporate support, but it is also alienating game developers at the same time. Several developers have complained about blu-ray because it has relatively slower load times than conventional DVD drives and it is expensive to replicate blu-ray discs needed to play on the PS3. The second format war that Sony is using the PS3 to fight is the memory card format war as seen by the availability of memory card slots for compact flash, SD flash and Sony’s Memorystick. It appears that these slots were intended to be used for moving external data and even game saves similar to the Wii, but the availability of three different slots makes it confusing for the user to choose a proper card for the PS3 and it increases the costs of making a PS3. From popular use, we know that SD flash is one of the more popular formats, but it is frustrating that Sony did not bother to get their developers to program their games to save on external memory cards.

4. They keep making snap decisions. After making a piss-poor impression with soundbytes taking about fighting giant enemy crabs in feudal Japan and with SCEA CEO Kazuo Hirai making a pitiful attempt to generate excitement by making horrible “Ridge Racer” impressions, Sony decides to promote Hirai as the COO and President of Sony Computer Entertainment, which demonstrates the Peter Principle in play. Then there were the idiotic decisions to first remove rumble then restore it, add a 20GIG PS3 that no one seems to buy; have a limited Playstation Network that runs on a closed webpage; magically lose exclusives such as Ace Combat 6, Devil May Cry 4, GTA4; and finally screw over half the fanbase by gimping the Playstation 3’s backwards compatibility. One SCEI official once said that “FlOw” was the PS3’s killer app; this really tells you the sad state Sony’s in.

5. Sony’s idiotic move to gimp backwards compatibility, alienating customers old and new…

The USA Today article sums up much of Sony’s troubles:

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/gaming/2007-03-19-ps3-woes_N.htm

 

Sony’s new PlayStation 3 video game has gone from top dog to underdog in record time.

Despite the buildup and hype around its arrival in November, the PS3 has been outsold so far — at a rate of almost 2-to-1 — by the Nintendo Wii.

In February, the Wii was the top-selling console video game system with an estimated 335,000 sold, outpacing the Microsoft Xbox 360 (228,000) and the PS3 (127,000), according to The NPD Group.

 

For Sony, that performance “is simply abysmal,” says Newsweek‘s N’Gai Croal. “The PS3 is sucking wind right now. …. Price is a factor. Some of the negative buzz is a factor. Some of the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is a factor. And the lack of a large number of triple-A software titles is a factor.”

Nintendo’s $250 Wii, released the same week as the PS3 ($500-$600), has sold about 1.9 million so far, compared with 1.1 million PS3s.

As a PS3 owner, lets all hope that Metal Gear Solid 4 will stay exclusive and Sony can finally turn things around by actually listening to their customers and with their Playstation Home service. Otherwise, it looks like many Sony users including myself may switch over to Microsoft or Nintendo when the next console comes out.