Sony's Hard Place and Digital Download NPD Figures

June 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

Sigh, just when Sony were making some smart moves with the PSPgo, I hear this. While they are putting in some nifty new features into the PSPgo, when combined they don’t overrule the fact that the PSP’s battery life is relatively poor. When they announced that this new model wouldn’t have a UMD drive, one of the key positives people imagined would come out would be an increased battery life. So, what are they now saying?

The battery life is equivalent with the current models meaning approximately 3 to 6 hours for gameplays [sic] and approximately 3 to 5 hours for playing back videos.

I’m not saying that this now rules out the PSPgo, but it does put a serious dent in what advantages it can offer over previous versions. And this is just something that bugs me in general: mobile electronics companies which offer products that can’t even last half a day of full use. It’s not like Sony’s the only offender, but it doesn’t mean they should get off with just a slap on the wrist, either.

In other news, everyone’s favourite industry clairvoyant, Michael Pachter, has predicted that Sony will cut the price of the PS3 in October. His guess is that Sony will reduce the price of the console by fifty dollars and repackage it with some first-party games (he mentions to look out for a Killzone 2 bundle). He also talks about how Sony could potentially lose $350 million in profit depending on how much they cut and the resulting sales.

I almost feel sorry for Sony, sometimes. They really couldn’t have released such a high-priced piece of kit at a worse time and now they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. They have to stimulate sales to keep their market share competitive, but, at the same time, they’re really going to have to sacrifice a sizable wedge of their profit margin in the process. Sony’s management decisions have been pretty diabolical at times – almost to the point of being so ridiculous as to be funny – but I don’t particularly want to see the company bow out of the console market. I just want them to do better, be smarter. As a consumer, I’d definitely want to see the price go down, and I did sort of expect this to happen, anyway.

I just hope they can ride out of this poor economic climate in one piece, and maybe they’ll learn a thing or two along the way.

On a final note, Reuters reported some interesting NPD figures regarding the number of XBLA and PSN digital downloads:

NPD estimates 18 percent of Xbox 360 users who have a “Gold” membership to Microsoft’s Xbox Live service regularly download [my emphasis] from Xbox Live Arcade, and 10 percent of PlayStation 3 users regularly buy digitally from Sony’s PlayStation Network.

The article comes with the rather hyperbolic headline of “Digital downloads spell end for videogame stores?” which I found quite amusing, since this obviously isn’t the case (yet). I was still impressed with the numbers, though. Eighteen percent is quite a high number for regular users of the service; it’s almost close to a fifth of Gold members and this doesn’t even count those with Silver membership. I’m not particularly surprised at PSN’s lower figure, as I’ve always had the impression that Microsoft has the stronger online presence in some regards. Sony seems to be going in a different direction – an almost more experimental direction – with PlayStation Home and with some of the notable titles being released on the platform, such as Noby Noby Boy, Flower and Fat Princess. Also, of course Microsoft will want to make online a priority, because the limitations of the DVD format they chose to adopt, and because it gives them greater control; Sony has Blu Ray, and that’s what they’re pushing, so they’re not going to want to compete with themselves by talking up digital distribution.

It’s interesting, but it’s all academic. I expect that digital downloads will increase year-on-year from now, and retailers are already looking over the backs; they know they’re on borrowed time, but they’re not going out of business in the short term. And retailers won’t disappear; they’ll just change their strategy, that’s all.

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