PS3 Sales Slip

Today CNN Money reports that sales of Sony’s PS3 have plummeted 19% from last year’s figures and the console is literally “dying on the shelves.” Meanwhile, Xbox 360’s 2008 sales have improved over 2007 and Nintendo’s Wii continues to be a sellout since its launch.

So why am I not surprised?

Huge Pricetag

When it launched in November 2006, the PS3 cost $500 for a 40G model, and $600 for a 60G model. And that price only included one controller and no games. Who could afford to spend that kind of money on a bare-bones video game console? Certainly not me, and I’m a single adult in the 18-35 demo with a great job who loves video games–their target market. So I can’t even imagine how parents struggled to afford this price-bloated piece of plastic plus a $60 game game or two, trying to give their kid a merry Christmas.

But even though the console’s price has dropped several times and there’s now a wider range of models to choose from, the still-pricey PS3 continues to struggle. If Sony’s console sales hadn’t been disappointing since launch, I might chalk it up to the recession, but that’s not easy to do when nearly every other game company seems to be thriving despite the economy’s current hard knocks.

Console Competition

When it comes to video games, Sony is a relative newcomer to the scene compared to Nintendo who has maintained a huge following since the original NES ignited a love for video games in many of our hearts as kids in the 80s. And over the years, Nintendo has always put out quality systems (I like to pretend VirtualBoy never existed) with great libraries of games that have been fun and innovative. The Wii, despite its silly name, was destined to be just as successful. So why did Sony think it was a good idea to choose a launch date for PS3 so close to the Wii’s? This is where I think they really underestimated the competition.

The PS3 also launched at a time when the Xbox 360 had been out for a year already. But Microsoft had been quietly biding its time improving the 360’s hardware, building up a solid library of games, and winning players over with its Xbox Live experience. If Sony was expecting 360 owners to buy a PS3 as well, they certainly didn’t have much of anything new to offer. I’m willing to bet that most people who already owned 360s went out and bought Wiis instead.

Nothing New to Offer

Sure the PS3 has “amazing graphics”, which has been its main selling point. But is that all that really matters to gamers? Sony’s sales have indicated otherwise. Other than improved graphics and offering a Blu-Ray player at a time when most people didn’t even know what Blue-Ray was, what else did the PS3 offer? Certainly not an impressive library of games or innovative design over its predecessors. Even the PS3’s controller design was more of the same.

Disappointing Game Library

The PS3 launched with a pretty underwhelming selction of games that either nobody heard of, or titles that had already been out a long time on the 360. Compare that to Nintendo Wii, whose launch titles included mega hits like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Sony should have offset the console’s huge pricetag by at least offering more compelling titles, especially at launch. If a console has great games, gamers tend to overlook the price, no matter how ridiculous. After all, what good is a technologically superior video game system if it doesn’t have good games? Like many, instead of buying a PS3, I waited to see if any titles would launch later on that compelled me enough to purchase this system. Two years later, I’m still waiting.

It will be interesting to see what Sony does to try to win over gamers and dig itself out of its hole. CNN suggests deep price discounts–that would certainly help. I guess. My advice to Sony: count your losses and just focus on Playstation 4.