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The PlayStation Move: Too Little, Too Late

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If Sony's (NYSE: SNE  ) failures in this generation of the gaming console wars amount to a Shakespearean tragedy, I think the best analogy would be King Lear. Sony's tragic flaws, like Lear's, boil down to overconfidence borne of past success, and an unwillingness to listen to critics who told the company something other than what it wanted to hear. While Sony's downfall hasn't been as epic as Lear's, it sure hasn't been a pretty sight.

Nintendo and Microsoft keep chugging along
You don't need to be an expert on the console market to see that the stunning success of Nintendo's Wii, with its revolutionary motion controller, caught Sony completely off-guard. At a time when Sony, flush from the PS2's dominance, was convinced that it could drive the "sweet spot" of the console market to a higher price point thanks to the PS3's cutting-edge hardware and built-in Blu-ray drive, Nintendo had the crazy idea of offering a cheaper, less powerful solution that could appeal to kids and casual gamers through its use of innovative technology. And surprise, surprise, the cheaper stuff proved more popular.

And while the Wii's success has been a devastating blow to Sony, the continued popularity of Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Xbox 360 must really sting. The 360, unlike the Wii, targets the same avid gamers that Sony traditionally viewed as a cash cow, and the PS2 had managed to outsell the original Xbox by more than a 5:1 ratio. Yet the combination of an earlier release date, a lower price tag, and developer frustration over the PS3's difficult programming environment has let the 360 more than hold its own: As of the beginning of this year, it had 39 million total unit shipments, compared with the PS3's 33.5 million (the Wii, for the record, had 67.45 million). Considering the TKO that Blu-ray has scored in the next-generation DVD wars, those numbers are pretty incredible.

Why the Move isn't the answer
Now, when an enormous chunk of this generation's console sales have already been accounted for, Sony is trying to give the PS3 a second wind with the launch of its own motion controller solution, which it calls the PlayStation Move. Sony's hope is that the Move's more advanced controller, along with its ability to make use of a motion-sensing camera (the PlayStation Eye) and the PS3's superior graphics, will turbocharge its market share.

Sorry, but I'm having trouble buying it. As it is, the cheapest PS3 model retails for $100 more than the Wii, and Sony might be charging close to $100 for a Move/Eye bundle when it arrives sometime in "late 2010." Good luck convincing the casual gamers who have flocked to the Wii to spend that much extra money, and good luck convincing big-name developers such as Electronic Arts (Nasdaq: ERTS  ) , Activision Blizzard (Nasdaq: ATVI  ) , and Take-Two Interactive (Nasdaq: TTWO  ) to quickly release a flood of new games that, initially at least, can only be played by a small percentage of the PS3 user base.

What's more, Microsoft's Project Natal, which is due out around the same time, has the potential to run circles around the Move in terms of both price and performance. Instead of requiring individual motion controllers, Natal uses a single, advanced motion sensor accessory that completely tracks the body movements of multiple players, and can also recognize their voices. While Sony desperately tried to counter Nintendo, Microsoft decided to think a step ahead, and the payoff could be huge.

Unlike King Lear, Sony will probably live to see another day in spite of its fateful missteps. Maybe in the next generation of the console wars, the company will find itself on much better footing as a result of having learned from its errors. Just don't expect the Move to produce a reversal of fortune in the current struggle.

Fool contributor Eric Jhonsa has no position in any of the companies mentioned. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Take-Two Interactive Software is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers selection. Activision Blizzard and Electronic Arts are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Motley Fool Options has recommended a synthetic long position on Activision Blizzard. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. The Fool owns shares of Activision Blizzard. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 15, 2010, at 9:48 PM, CarolsTribe wrote:

    I couldn't disagree more with the writer here. Reporters of all shades have been predicting the death knell of Sony's PS3 since it was originally released. That's almost 4 years now and it is amply holding it's own. Yes, there have been some dumb assumptions on Sony's part, but they have continued to progress at their own pace and do things their on way and they have been slowly chipping away at the XBox360 lead the entire time. For 2 years straight they have had the undeniable Game Of The Year honors and with Heavy Rain, God Of War, MAG, GT5, and several other exclusives in the pipeline they will likely take this years hands down GOTY as well. Several "professional" analysts have also predicted that Sony will ultimately win this generation just like they did the last gen simply because both Nintendo and MS will need to update their systems sooner just to keep pace with the PS3.

  • Report this Comment On March 15, 2010, at 10:35 PM, methos777 wrote:

    For a site that I've never heard of you sure got this whole "come to my site" thing down well. But as far as your statement I can see how and why you can write this but I would be careful on how fast you give Natal credit and yet we have no working material of worth but a ball stopping game? I assume that you got caught up in all the fake game actions and prerecorded action videos Microsoft tried to pull over everyone's eyes. If you look at all the demo videos they put out it say in real small lettering that this is not actual gaming or real game play video only what they hope it will be. And being that nobody has any experience programing for such a item I would almost promise that the games and the things you can do won't translate like they are going to do with "move". Also, last I heard it has problems with black people or people of color thanks to how it track light and shadows. And with the line up that Microsoft/ natal has recently release ( a shopping/modeling game, the ball game, etc)they seem all but childish and boring. But E3 will be the clue I guess for us all, but I don't see this Natal making for Christmas just based on past facts. Natal isn't ready now, ps3 move is. So that alone is a major difference and I believe will result to a less refined concept when compared to the "MOVE technology".

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2010, at 6:57 AM, captaintrash wrote:

    I've come to suspect that the Fool has a penchant for writing over-the-top, sensationalist headlines first, and drumming up the stories later.

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2010, at 2:08 PM, Borbality wrote:

    They have different markets, but for all the time and money that goes into making big impressive games for the XBox and PS3, it must drive them nuts when Nintendo can release yet another silly gimmick peripheral or slightly revamped console and every 8 year old and his grandma buys a copy.

    They have different markets and should keep it that way. If I was a hardcore gamer now (like I was when the NES was king), I would scoff at something like the PS3's Move. That's little kids and grandmas stuff! Most likely it won't amount to much of anything. Just trying to get in on some of the gimmick sales.

    I do think the hardcore gamer is going to be harder to reach, with so many more options out there now. And there's nothing stopping us old-schoolers from playing the old games we still love and STILL WORK.

    Moreover, I think it's pitiful how much time and money goes into trying to make the videogame experience more like actually going outside and doing something.

  • Report this Comment On March 16, 2010, at 6:43 PM, Sythierius wrote:

    Sony has had a rough few years in the gaming department. I personally purchased my PS3 as a bluray player. I am now starting to purchase gaming titles for my PS3 as developers are finally starting to get the hang of programming on the more technically advanced system.

    I own about 30 xbox 360 games and 6 PS3 games. But now is not the time to bash sony, as they are finally getting great exclusives (and even the non-exclusive FFXIII outsold the 360 counterpart significantly).

    I think now is when Sony will excel. More people have hdtvs and will want bluray players. And why buy a bluray player when you could get a game system with it for a little more?

    Sony/Nintendo also have much more support from the Japanese market than the 360.

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