Positive Cynicism – How not to sell me a PlayStation 3

Aaron Davis

Aaron R. Davis

Last week Sony made a big announcement introducing the PlayStation 3 Slim. It’s 120-gigabyte system that’s 32 percent lighter, 36 percent smaller, and uses 34 percent less power. The tighter configuration will bring down production costs, which allows them to carry a price tag of $299 and still feature the Blu-Ray player. Sony thinks this is a brilliant game changer that allows them to compete in cost with Nintendo and Microsoft, whose consoles are less than $300.

Was the PlayStation 3 really that much more expensive? Hells yeah, it was. I’ve never upgraded my PlayStation 2 because, frankly, I own a flatscreen LCD television that cost less money than PlayStation 3 consoles did when they were first released. A PS3 is like a month’s rent for me. But setting aside the sheer number of stories I read about compatibility issues on various versions of the PS3 platforms, I’ve always thought it might be nice if someone would put out a lower cost model that I could afford to buy.

This is, on the face of the way they present it, a good move on Sony’s part. After all, the Nintendo Wii costs $250, and a Microsoft Xbox 360 will set you back just $200, so the $500 160-gig PS3 never really looked like the better deal, even if it did come with a Blu-Ray. Sony only sold about 121,000 PS3s last month, which is less than half of what Nintendo and Microsoft managed to push in a recession. Sony has sold 23 million PS3s to Nintendo’s 52 million Wiis. So repackaging and cutting the costs did make a lot of sense.

But what was nearly lost amid Sony’s fervent flag-waving for the new PS3 Slim is that the machine will not be compatible with PS1 and PS2 games, the way the first PS3 consoles were. And that just feels like a kick in the face.

See, I’ve got an entire library of PS2 games sitting in my house. Why would I bother to upgrade to a new console that won’t play the games I already have? It’s not like it’s an entirely new platform, like making the leap from Atari 2600 to the NES, or even from the SuperNintendo to the Nintendo 64. This is just the newest generation of a console that already exists and which I basically have a lot of software for.

And now you’re telling me the affordable version of the new generation console is completely incompatible with the games I already have?

I think this is kind of a dick move. I’m not sure what I gain by upgrading to the PS3 if I can’t play my older games on it.

Let’s look at it this way: it’s not like they’ve stopped making games for my PlayStation 2. Not only that, but since the introduction of the PS3, brand new PS2 games are released with cheaper retail prices. My wife and I bought G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and Ghostbusters: The Video Game a couple of weeks ago for just $19.99 apiece. So, you could say that the existence of the PS3 has actually made owning a PS2 much more advantageous. It’s unwittingly created a massive savings on video games.

It’s especially nice because our PS2 is one of the few pieces of electronics hardware that we own that has never once had some kind of problem that needed to be fixed. It’s dependably worked for years. It’s filled in for our DVD player when our DVD player didn’t work. It’s a reliable machine, something which couldn’t be said of our last platform, the Nintendo 64.

So why would I want to upgrade from something that’s treated us so well and for which the video games now come cheaper, in favor of starting all over again?

This has become a constant theme of mine on this column: businesses today are trying too hard to make as much money possible. I don’t mind paying for something that’s worth it. But I do mind being tricked out of my money, especially when the companies aren’t even doing anything to hide it. Am I getting a deal when the PS3 Slim will cost about $200 less than a thicker PS3? Or are they getting a deal by forcing me to buy new games and replace my old ones?

You didn’t think they weren’t going to try and make up the money somehow, did you?

I don’t know, maybe I’m missing something here. Maybe the PlayStation 3 is like looking into the high definition face of God and I just don’t know what I’m talking about. (Although, frankly, I’d like to think that God would let me play my old games on his new video game console because, frankly, this is my fantasy and in my fantasy I can do whatever I want.) Maybe the exact same platform with a higher resolution processor is some kind of revolution in video gaming.

But if they really want these things to fly out the door at Christmastime, they should remember that compatibility with the first PlayStation was the biggest selling point of the PS2. Do right by the customer and put the processor back in that allows it to be compatible with the games that people already have.

Even if it adds a little more to the price, people will pay for something that’s really a deal instead of something just pretending to be.

Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at samuraifrog@yahoo.com.

  1. MC August 25, 2009
  2. Aaron R. Davis August 26, 2009

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