Friday, March 23, 2007

Sony Playstation 3 - The Huge Missed Opportunity

Today I did a survey with my son of the electronics/games/hifi shops in the Amsterdam region on the big day when Sony Playstation 3 was finally launched in Europe. It sounds to me like its been one logistics mess from start to finish.

My example was ordered through FreeRecord Shop online, which promised to deliver the hardware, plus one free game and a DVD of Casino Royale to my door today. Except that the deal didn't explain that to qualify for the free game, you had to order a game first, then they would add Black Hawk Down free.

Around 1215 a clearly annoyed delivery guy at the door. Here's your Playstation 3. "You must be busy today, I said". "Its a bloody nightmare" came the reply "total chaos due to bad planning". Opened the box and unpacked. 4 minutes to do that. 10 minutes to set it up. Then the surprise. No software, no content, no nothing on the Playstation 3....every folder is virgin territory. What a missed marketing opportunity. No pre-loaded trailers, no demo games, no samples of photos to show off (and test) your HD connection. And no promised game.

So we call to Free Record Shop On-Line. No, the deal was you had to order a game, then we'd match it with a free one. So you were delivering empty Playstation 3's to people who didn't realize there wasn't even a trial software in the box? Yes.

Where's Casino Royale? Oh, you have to go to the Sony site and put in the serial number of the Playstation 3 and then they will send you the DVD in the post. Is it a HD quality DVD? No. Can I show my order and pick up the DVD from my local Free Record Shop then - they are on sale everywhere today? No, on-line and the retail outlets are separate companies. OK. No James Bond tonight.

I have a HD screen. I'm eager to compare the quality with off-air HD from the BBC, et al. So I need a HD cable don't I? Is there one in the box? No. I have a HDMI-HDMI cable from the satellite tuner, so we use that and plug it in. Looks great, but we have no content, not even a test video.

So begins an expedition along the stores in the Amsterdam area to see what has actually been delivered to stores on D-Day for the Playstation 3. Remember, March 23rd is also the birth of Blu-Ray technology for many - this unit is more than a games console, it is a complete media centre to rival the Windows Media Center as well as the X-BOX.

At this point in the diary, it is time to expose the ludicrous scam that's going on with HDMI connector cables. HDMI is the high definition replacement of the old SCART cable. It is one multi-function cable that you connect between device (like a HD camera or a PlayStation 3) and the HD screen. Its all in one, video and audio go through the same, tiny cable. These cables cost more than some DVD players....the cheapest is 60 Euro, the most expensive is 150 Euros. We're told in the shop there is a quality difference.

Friends, don't buy a HDMI cable, buy a component cable with standard RCA plugs on the end. The component cable give spectacular results because the cable is thicker to start with, the signals are not squeezed together through a thin metal connector. Sony Playstation has a special (of course) plug on the back of it. So is there a Playstation 3 to component cable for sale, as advertised? has seen them on launch day. I'm told in MediaMarkt Almere that they have "no idea when they will turn up".

None of the Free Record Shop or Bart Smit retailers have any Blu Ray Discs. Media Markt does though, at around 20 Euro a time. A small rack has a limited range of rather old titles. There is nothing from 2007. I buy two to test it out the system. In passing I notice that there are Toshiba HD-DVD titles IN THE SAME RACK priced at 33 Euros each. HD-DVD is the rival HD format which is TOTALLY INCOMPATIBLE with Blu-Ray. I am surprised at the prices. For comparison, most standard DVD's sell at 15-17 Euro for new titles, 12 for less recent releases. I just know the average consumer is totally confused.

So how should they have done it?

Sony is trying to launch a new era of high definition video, both in games and video. Why not use the opportunity to make an "Early adopters Bundle" with one free game, one Blu-Ray Movie like the new James Bond, and a free HDMI or HD Component cable in the box with the Playstation 3? Those who had shelled out more than 600 Euros for the privilege of being first would now be spreading the marketing virus to all their friends, showing both the marvels of the games but also of the video, etc. And there would have been pre-loaded content to get you on your way, whetting the appetite for more.

Instead, they have a powerful shell of a machine and lots of promises of excitement to come. Sony just launched a Rolls Royce with 3 wheels and made a historic marketing blunder combining daft bundling concepts and amateurish logistics. Watch heads roll later in the year.....tick tick...
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