D’oh! That just about sums up today’s news that PlayStation 3 won’t go on sale in Europe until March next year, rather than this November as originally planned. The news comes after repeated denials from Sony in recent months that it was struggling to meet its ambitious plans for a near-simultaneous global launch for the console.
Not an enormous shock, then, but a huge disappointment for Sony, for gamers, for developers and publishers, and for the Hollywood studios who were counting on millions of PS3 owners to buy their shiny new Blu-ray movies. So what are the implications of today’s news for all these people? Read on to find out.
The obvious implication is that it’s going to be a bumper Christmas for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and particularly Nintendo’s Wii. All those people saving up their pennies for a PS3 will surely now be tempted to at least grab a Wii when it comes out this year, reasoning that they can easily make up the £150 by March to get a PS3 if they still want one.
Meanwhile, a four month delay might not sound like much, but it might nudge thousands of gamers who’ve held off buying a 360 to see how PS3 shaped up. Another obvious point is the lucrative pre-Christmas market in parents buying new consoles for their kids, who’ll now face a choice between a 360 or a Wii. Admittedly, PS3’s price point and target demographic may mean this is less people than you’d think.
There is an upside. The delay could mean more PS3 units available on launch day, which could reduce the frustration that’s become a standard part of any new console launch. According to DigitalBattle, Europe will get around one million PS3s at launch next March, compared to 400,000 on day one in the US, and 120,000 in Japan.
How will Microsoft respond though? There’s been speculation in the past that Halo 3 for Xbox 360 would come out the day before PS3’s launch, although that receded with the news that the game was actually due out in 2007. What price Microsoft now pulling out all the stops to get the game out in March 2007 to steal Sony’s thunder? Of course, Sony will presumably be plotting its own Triple-A titles that wouldn’t have made the original launch date, but could be ready for March.
As for games publishers, there’ll surely be some green faces in boardrooms around Europe, depending on how much revenue they’d budgeted to come from PS3 pre-Christmas. Take a look at the red numbers on GamesIndustry.biz’s Share Watch page to see what it could mean for share prices. All the big publishers have titles coming out for PS3’s launch.
A side-issue is what the PS3 delay means for Sony’s game download service for the PSP. Pocket Gamer suggests that the PSP download service is intended to launch alongside PS3, so will it also be delayed to March? It can work with a broadband-enabled PC, so you’d hope not.
However, attention is already turning to what the PS3 delay means for Blu-ray. After all, the console was seen as Sony’s secret weapon in the Blu-ray versus HD-DVD war, capable of putting the former technology into millions of homes fairly quickly. Standalone Blu-ray players are on the way from several manufacturers, so it’s not as if this single piece of news means Blu-ray is The New Betamax.
But if Sony is having problems sourcing enough blue laser diodes – the stated reason for the PS3 delay – then what does it mean for the other Blu-ray manufacturers? Of course, the same diodes are used for HD-DVD players, so it’s not an advantage on that front. But does it also mean a delay for Sony’s first standalone Blu-ray player? Questions, questions.
Meanwhile, the likes of Warner, Paramount and Fox have all been announcing their initial Blu-ray titles – click here and here for the ones we heard about at IFA last week. Who’s going to buy them in Europe? You have to wonder whether there are enough Mission Impossible 3 and Kingdom Of Heaven fans in the US and Japan to cope with the overspill.
But ultimately, the biggest problem of the PS3 delay is one of perception. It’s not so long since Nintendo was the company routinely slated by European gamers for seemingly ignoring us. Now everybody loves Nintendo, but Sony is already copping flak from angry gamers who feel short-changed by the fact that PS3 is still coming out in November in the US and Japan.
Just check the comments on our original story:
"Oh brilliant, Sony love screwing Europe we’re already going to have a
ridiculous conversion rate on the console so that we’ll be paying more
than either the Japanese or Americans but now we can’t even have it at
the same time."
It’s early days, and the PS3 isn’t going to be a big fat flop simply because of a four-month delay. Sony diehards will still buy it, and its powerful home entertainment functions are still going to tempt a lot of non-gamers to invest their cash in one. But that doesn’t stop the news from being a big blow to Sony both in financial and credibility terms.