As SCEA's new publicity supremo settles down to work today, he faces a very different set of challenges to those of his predecessors.
Image In years gone by Sony met bad news much as one might meet a zombie on an afternoon stroll– with horror, outrage and incredulity. Now the company walks hand in hand with bad news; a constant companion on the long, dark road to PS3's launch.
Today's news of a European delay for PS3 might have seemed like a blessing to some in the U.S. freeing up much needed stock for the launch over here. It might even have seemed like Sony had finally swallowed its pride and agreed that a worldwide launch is a bad idea. These would have been good things.
But the delay is symptomatic of a much bigger problem, indicated by Ken Kutaragi in Tokyo yesterday. Shortages of PS3 are going to be horrendous. We are not talking here, about long lines outside retail outlets, but numbers that barely qualify as mass market. Publishers everywhere are today downgrading their sales forecasts once again in anticipation of a Holiday season in which PS3 is barely a factor.
Sony has burdened its most valuable product with the responsibility of delivering the prize of the next DVD generation into the company's grasp, and it's an irony lost on absolutely no-one, that it is Blu-ray technology that's to blame for yet another delay, and yet more shortages.
Sony is still talking about that 6 million figure by the end of March, but if Next Generation were a publisher of videogames, we wouldn't be betting our future on this milestone, any more than we'd have bet on a successful simultaneous worldwide launch, or 4 million units shipped by Christmas.
We have long argued that PlayStation 3 is going to be a success, albeit not one that repeats the market-share of previous PlayStation iterations. And we stand by that. But Sony's PlayStation operation is starting to take on the adjective 'troubled'; always a tough one to shake off, even for a company with the spinning pedigree of Sony.
Sony knows it needs a big hit in order to place the PlayStation brand back at the front of everyone's affections. Tokyo Game Show is going to be a must-win battle for the company as it attempts to turn around a wretched 12 months.
Shortages at launch are bad news; but we've gotten through them before, most recently with the botched arrival of Xbox 360 (now starting to look like a triumph in planning). The most pressing concern for the industry must be the long-term health of the PlayStation brand, which cannot be demonstrated by vaguely suspicious-sounding promises, but by actually stunning product presentations. It's time for Sony to get back to the business of delivering good news.