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Sony’s “big announcements” at GDC07

posted on March 7th, 2007 by tony

I’m really unimpressed with Phil Harrison’s GDC07 presentation. Not one of the announcements made me re-think my choice to not purchase a PS3.

Playstation Home is basically “Second Life” or “There,” and not in any way new or innovative as the press keeps saying. Why would I want to use a $600 console to make an avatar and hang out in an online version of the Sims? And then pay real money for digital clothes and furniture to show off to people I wouldn’t want to talk to anyway? No thanks. This just seems to be Sony’s lame attempt at cashing in on the Web 2.0 market (the MySpace generation). “Hey kids, you can use this boxed computer and internet connection to talk to other people online. Don’t forget to make your avatar your own by giving us some cash for generic yet ad-supported mechandise. And remember, you can’t do this anywhere else.”

One of the biggest selling points he made was the ability to share your music and movies stored on the console with strangers who visit your house. Does Sony not know about the RIAA and how they feel about stuff like this? When the lawyers get done you’re basically going to be able to show people downloaded clips from the Sony store … more money wasted.

And then there’s the LittleBigWorld game demo. People are calling it a platformer that’s “Super Mario Bros. meets Gary’s Mod (for Half-Life 2) but totally awesome!” It’s an interesting concept of in-game physics and world creation that would be fun for about a few hours and then become boring as hell once you realize there’s no point to the game. At least they’re giving it away for free … but again, not the killer app people are claiming it to be.

I figured after reading the news on Kotaku and Gizmodo the comments would have a bunch of people like me talking about how this isn’t really as cool as people are saying … but no … people are busting a nut over this crap. These are the same people who flame Sony every day on the same comment boards.

Why not just make more games people want? Why not make an online gaming system that doesn’t require you to load your virtual world, walk around to find and talk to avatars, decide which game to play, and then launch the game? XBox Live just hit 6 million users … I don’t see Sony coming anywhere near that with what they’ve shown me.

I don’t hate Sony. I enjoyed my PS2 and thought they did a great job of building a strong, multi-genre game library which drew me to it in the first place. It just doesn’t seem like they care anymore. “Who needs games, we have social networking … it’s what kids crave!” I think the XBox Live service is as robust as the majority of gamers will need. You sign in, you can talk to people, you can send messages, you can compare scores, you can join/host games, you can get purchase media and download demos … all with less than three presses of the A button. Sony dropped the ball with the PS2’s multiplayer functionality and this is just moving in the wrong direction.

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  1. Matt said on March 7, 2007:

    Yeah, I’ll agree. I don’t see much use for all this stuff. The Home thing is way too complex for its own good. It’s not transparent to the user, which is why Wii and Live are so good at what they do. It’s easy and intuitive. With Home, you need a big chunk of time to use this thing. It’s just a glorified menu system that reeks of one-up-manship(?). Even the video said it, "Something no other console is able to bring you" or something like that. It seems Sony wanted to do something different for different’s sake, not to bring something useful to the table. I still haven’t seen LittleBigWorld, so I don’t know about it yet.

  2. jay said on March 7, 2007:

    If this were a more popular and shittier site, someone would have already done that thing where they quote the article, change something slightly then declare they "correct it." For example:

    "I’m really unimpressed with Phil Harrison"
     Corrected it! LOL

    I failed to understand why everyone is so excited by the social aspect of gaming when Golden Jew did an article on multiplayer games a year ago and I’m still confused by it. Sure some people like playing online, but some people also prefer to play alone or only with real life other humans.


    Harrison says the new mode of games (Game 3.0 is his dumb name for it) are "all about social interaction, it’s about content creation." Maybe I’m just resisting change because I’m getting older and set in my ways, but I find it hard to believe that awesome single player games (Zelda, KOTOR, Final Fantasy, and Resident Evil) will ever become a niche genre.

  3. jerry said on March 7, 2007:

    i think maybe you guys are overstating home’s implementation. i don’t think anyone can say for sure unless they work for sony, but there’s no reason to believe that you must do all your online gaming stuff through home. i have a hard time believing sony will be forcing this interface upon everyone when they could just as easily add a few options to the XMB.

    that being said, i look at this like a diversionary thing much like the various channels on the Wii. I would be very surprised if you are ever required to use it.

    as for little big world, you are being way too closeminded. i’m not a huge online gamer at all, but even i can see the incredible fun to be had getting together with a couple people and creating a level, playing it, and checking out other user created levels.

  4. Christian said on March 7, 2007:

    Wait a minute – how is a company like sony, the guys who invented the ATRAC music codec and Blu Ray technology – all about freely sharing content?  Do people not realize they’re falling into a trap planted by one of the most content restrictive companies out there?  Sony – f*ing rootkit peoples!

  5. Stefan said on March 7, 2007:

    Yeah, I was going to say…it’s not the RIAA Lawyers who are going to clamp down on open sharing, it’s the Sony/BMG/Sony Pictures media wing which makes up huge share of Sony’s revenue.  Far larger than their video games.  Remember the whole reason why the PS3 has a blu-ray drive?  The people who introduced the world to the XCP rootkit?  The sharing will be done in a very controlled way, which is easy when they own the hardware and software platforms, and don’t allow arbitrary code execution.  That being said, if it were done right I could see their playstation home being very addictive.  True, SecondLife can do everythign it can and more.  But let’s be honest, SecondLife is poorly implemented and can be frustrating as all hell, especially from the perspective of mainstream console users.  The idea of content creation in games has always drawn me in…it’s why I played so many god games and construction kits.  I don’t know at this point if I really trust Sony to do it right, but I do like the underlying premise of these ideas.  Part of the reason Sony is doing poorly is because their console is seen as "more of the same, only more expensive", so announcing a strategy of "We’re just going to keep making more games that we know people will like" is not going to draw people in.  They need to differentiate themselves from Microsoft and become something other than just a more expensive XBox, and while I don’t know if this will work, it’s not a terrible attempt.

  6. pat said on March 7, 2007:

    careful stefan.  sony does derive a lot of their revenue from business segments other than games (electronics division, mostly because of tvs, is by far the largest).  the games division more than holds its own when it comes to income, and was actually the most profitable division for several years earlier this decade (most notably 2002 and 2003 when it made up roughly half of all income).  so in terms of how much energy and investment they put into each segment, yes, games are dwarfed by the other segments, but in terms of where their profits come from, games are very significant.  i can provide links to recent annual reports if you are interested.

  7. Christian said on March 7, 2007:

    The other thing that I find strange is just how much people seem to be slobbering over Home.  Its great to have it as a free add on, and it seems to do a lot, but the nice thing about mii’s and Gamerscores/achivements is that they don’t require much if any work.  Home seems to be like a more realistic Animal Crossing, which is again is great, but its going to require more time and effort to set up.  For those that want to spend that time, fantastic.  If you don’t, you won’t really be using Home much if at all, in which case how is it going to be something that will make you want to run out and buy a PS3 over the competition?  Its just one very nice thing Sony is adding, but the reactions so far are enough to remind me of the Cult of Apple

  8. tony said on March 8, 2007:

    The whole thing just seems so half-assed to me.  Take someone else’s idea, make it shinier on your system and call it innovation.  To "jerry" – I don’t think this will be required at all, but the fact that he’s pushing the ability to meet up with friends in Home to play online games means they want to make this the interface that people use all the time.  The fact that it’s populated with ads might have something to do with that.  My point was that the interface Microsoft pushes is a hell of a lot more streamlined.And for LittleBigWorld, I agree … it does look like it could be fun, but for a short while.  They’re not going to sell consoles with it, however.  If the only two things you show at GDC07 are a rip-off of Second Life and a sandbox game that should have come with the system, you’re not going to move the consoles you’re hoping to.

  9. Stefan said on March 8, 2007:

    Hey Pat, if you do have links, that would be awesome.  Feel free to email them if you’d rather not post them in comments.  And thanks for the correction! 

  10. Matt said on March 8, 2007:

    As a gamer that likes to try new things, this wouldn’t be the craziest thing to have. It does sound interesting, to say the least. I just may get overwhelmed with everything. It’s like, "damn, do i have enough time to even do anything with Home right now?" I can’t imagine I would stay with it for very long after falling behind with it. But, I guess it does rely on the ability to find friends with this thing. The SingStar thing, now that sounds pretty cool. YouTube + video games, I guess. That whole thing has a lot of potential in my mind. There’s no way in Hell these things will sell consoles, but it will make for a more varied experience when people do get PS3’s. Kind of like the Wii’s Channels.

  11. pat said on March 8, 2007:

    i didn’t expect you to take me up on that offer, stefan.  anyway, here is the link to sony global’s 2006 annual report.  the Financial Section is particularly juicy.  page 6 of that .pdf has a table breaking down revenue and income by business segment for 2005 and 2006.  from there you can navigate to their older reports.  allow me to recommend the 2003 report since it has figures (on p67 or thereabouts) for FY 2001-2003.  many of the numbers are in yen, but in percentage terms that doesn’t really matter too much.

  12. Matt said on March 8, 2007:

    Oh, and I actually like the LittleBigWorld game. If they can make it so people won’t run away from you all the time, like Resident Evil Outbreak, this could be a very cool game. Very cute and innovative for a console game I love the music for it in the demo, too. And making levels tickles my fancy, as that’s all i do at work now. Now I may be able to bring my ideas to LBW and send them on the Internets. The only thing I see a problem with is price. I won’t pay $60 for this thing. $30 is my limit. 

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