An Open Letter to Sony
For the last fifteen years my home console of choice has been of the PlayStation variety, and while I may be a gaming polygamist, I'll always opt for Sony wherever possible. You continue to have my support and I want to see you succeed, but I fear you have all but pissed away two decades worth of goodwill with your haphazard approach to this generation. With each poorly executed new initiative, delayed response to a pressing issue, foolhardy quote from an overconfident executive or lengthy new firmware install, my enthusiasm for the PlayStation brand lessens. I fear that I'm not alone.
I'm sure you’ll have noticed the volume of malicious comments that follow updates on your official blogs, including people threatening legal action because they can't buy Counter Strike just yet. These people are idiots, but their vitriol is indicative of a shift in popular opinion both within and without the industry. Your supporters are gradually starting to give up, constantly lowering expectations and ensuring that there is always a "Whoops, looks like Sony has done it again" article ready in drafts. We have become so accustomed to you cocking it up in public that we completely over-reacted to your recent Gamescom "triumph" (one new Vita game announced, with three small new IPs for PS3); we were so relieved that you didn't just take the stage and soil yourself that we felt compelled to celebrate.
Perhaps I'm over reacting (I'm not), but it feels like most things you do these days are reactionary and lacking the style, vision and panache of your heyday - see the delayed arrival of PS2 games on PS3, PS1 on Vita, motion controls, PS Smash Brothers etc. What happened to the company that was blazing its own trail, the one that everyone else wanted to copy? Between proprietary memory cards, bizarre pricing decisions and the PR disaster when you forgot to tell me that super terrorists had stolen my credit card, the last few years have served as a cautionary tale.
Then there is the Vita. Your handling of your new hardware, a dazzling system that deserves to succeed, has been a comedy of errors that has left even your staunchest of supporters - hello - scratching their heads. You overestimated demand, failed to build upon the existing PSP brand in name or software (who can afford to dump an existing, recognizable brand in these market conditions?) and have struggled to provide the software, or proffered a plan for the future that would legitimize the price of the hardware. You rubbed salt into the wound by making the Vita an afterthought at E3 because you didn't want your press conference to be too long, then this week you made a complete balls-up of the introduction of PSOne classics. Japan received exactly 100 times the number of games as the US, and in Europe you have turned what should have been a one day transition and an excellent bit of PR into a painful process that has dragged out into a third day, where games being sold as compatible with the Vita, through the Vita store, were still not working as advertised.
The most frustrating thing of all is that I know you still have it in you to do something special, to make us remember why we fell in love with PlayStation in the first place. We have had a bumper crop of PSN games this year, you have made a huge success of the PS+ subscription service and your console exclusives of the last two or three years have blown away Microsoft’s finest. You have given us a great deal to celebrate but the triumphs are always marred by missteps.
This open letter wasn't written in anger, just because I still couldn't download Final Fantasy VIII on my Vita. OK, that was partly the reason, but my main motivation is a concern for your future; I don't want to see the industry moving forward without you, something that is easier to picture than ever before. I’m afraid to say that I offer no quick fix, no way of making Sony Computer Entertainment profitable once more. I simply wanted to share the frustrations of one gamer, a gamer who would much rather turn on his PS3 than the countless other consoles collected under his TV.
Lots of love,
PS. If I'm not playing Cho Aniki on my Vita by 10pm tonight then I shall be contacting my solicitor, who happens to specialise in PSOne Classics.
Odds & Ends
1. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zero(es). Hurrah!