Man, so about a year ago I wrote an article about how ridiculous the XBox360 marketing effort was. Apparently Sony got jealous of all the derision I was piling on Microsoft, and decided to do everything they could to get me to make fun of them too. At this point, I have to give in and say that yes, Sony, you have shamed yourselves in ways that Microsoft couldn’t possibly have dreamed of. Here are some highlights:
Our sorrowful tale actually begins a couple years ago, when Sony unvelied their brazen entry into the handheld gaming arena, the PSP. There were high hopes for the system; it had a good launch line-up with Lumines and WipeOut, and there were hints that it could play homebrew games off of memory sticks. On the downside, the system had some design flaws. The square button often got caught on the edge of the screen, and the system overall wasn’t very ergonomic, and tended to hurt your hands if you played it too long. Netjak described the experience of playing a game on the PSP perfectly by saying “This is one of the cruelest jokes ever played on fans of a game. It’s like you’ve been given a nice big King Crab dinner, only you’ve been purposely given no implements that can break its shell open. You can try and crack it open with your hands, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get at any of the goodness inside, and you’re going to totally wreck your hands.” In response to these complaints, Sony President Ken Kutaragi said “I believe we made the most beautiful thing in the world. Nobody would criticize a renowned architect’s blueprint that the position of a gate is wrong. It’s the same as that.” Absolutely!! If Frank Lloyd Wright built my house, but forgot to put a front door on it, I wouldn’t complain! I’d say “Look at me, bitches! Frank Lloyd Wright built my house!” and then I’d crawl in through a window.
Sadly, the software library for the PSP hasn’t done much growing in the over-a-year since its release; the majority of PSP owners I know use theirs primarily to play emulated NES and Neo-Geo games. Worth every penny!!
Speaking of delicious crab dinners, our next chapter takes place at E3 2006, which is best summed up by this video montage of highlights. In a moment of pure unintentional hilarity, the internet meme of “giant enemy crab” is born. Also note the SIXAXIS (OMG palindrome!) controller, a last-minute attempt to compete with the Wii controller by gutting all the rumble features from the PS2’s controller and replacing it with lackluster motion sensing.
Sony laid low for a few months after that bout of genius, until September when they revealed their new model for “unlockables” in games; whereas on previous systems bonus content is unlocked by playing through the game repeatedly on different difficulty levels, doing special things in the game, finding hidden endings, completing side-quests, etc., on the beauty and the majesty of the PS3 players will forego all that pesky “gameplay” and unlock things simply by giving Sony more money. How much money? 1up.com calculated that to unlock all of the cars and tracks in the PS3 Grand Turismo game, a player would have to shell out somewhere between $426.50 and $975.
A few months later, while Nintendo was charming the pants off consumers with its loveable, everybody-friendly Wii Would Like To Play ad, Sony was busy terrifying the world with their creepy baby ad. I can only presume that they were harkening back to the bizaare PS2 commercial David Lynch made for them, and… uh, actually, I have no idea what they were trying to do with that one. Their advertising efforts became significantly more ridiculous in December, however, when Sony hired some 20-something advertising execs to pretend that they were 20-something idiots, trying to get one of their grandmothers to buy them a PSP for Xmas, which was immediately met with lots and lots of ridicule. A week later, the FTC cracked down on “viral marketing”, and Sony had to take the site down.
Meanwhile, the PS3 had finally been released, and it’s flagship game, Genji (the “giant crab battle” one) met with mediocre reviews, primarily because of a game-breaking bug where the key to exit a level sort of falls out of the bottom of the code if the player spends too long on the level, permanently trapping the player in that level. Even better, it’s possible and sensible to save the game at a later part of the level after the key has disappeared, at which point the player has to erase his save game and start all the way over from the beginning.
The latest chapter in the story of “the only possible explanation for all of this is that Sony is specifically trying to commit suicide” is Sony’s proud announcement earlier this week that the SIXAXIS controller (the one where they gutted a PS2 Dualshock controller and replaced the rumble with motion sensing) had won an Emmy! The videogame community is general was astonished, and someone did some research and discovered that the SIXAXIS had not, in fact, won an Emmy. The Emmy had been given to two controllers: the Wii controller, and the Dualshock controller — you know, the one that Sony gutted and abandoned to make the SIXAXIS to compete with the Wii controller.
So there ya go, the amazing tale of Sony’s last two years in a nutshell, which is in a totally different league than any of Microsoft’s silly XBox360 marketing. We at Inverted Castle look forward to whatever appalling misadventures those loveable scamps at Sony get themselves into next, and will continue to play all of the great games that are still coming out for the PS2 (with rumble!).
Update: Damn! I knew I was forgetting something! Business 2.0’s “101 Dumbest Moments in Business of 2006” lists Sony’s PSP White billboard as #67.
Update 2: There was something else I forgot to mention, but to their credit Sony fixed it with a patch today (1-24-07). Remember how much hype there was about how some Playstation 1 games actually looked better on the Playstation 2? You’d thus expect Playstation 1 and 2 games to look even better still on the Playstation 3, right? Well, until today, they actually looked significantly worse. But it’s fixed now. Heck of a job, Sony!