Sony Announces PS3 Delayed in Europe Until March 2007

Not so fast, Europe! The bad news just doesn’t stop for Sony. Exploding laptop batteries. Telling gamers that they’ll pay any price, regardless of how expensive, for the PS3. Kaz Hirai shouting “Riiiiidge Racer!” at E3. And now this.

1up News is reporting that according to the European Herald Tribune, the PS3 will be delayed in Europe until an unspecified date in March of 2007. Sony will instead be focusing it’s efforts on launches in the United States and Japan. Ken Kutaragi (President of Sony Computer Entertainment) indicated that he was “sorry not to be able to answer all the expectations”.

Clearly this is horrible news for Sony and for European gamers. My heart goes out to millions of folks in the U.K. and Germany and Russia who had ‘November 17’ circled on their calendar and were hoping to have a console this holiday season — particularly since the European market has been particularly loyal to Sony, accounting for a large portion of their market share.

I took a trip over to Microsoft Community Manager Major Nelson’s blog (great source of Xbox 360 news, but this guy almost always seems to catch the bad Sony news and has all of his fanboys lavish in it with their posts). Naturally he had the story posted. About a hundred gamers had already posted their poorly thought out comments about how this meant the death of Sony and “long live the 360.” But certain facts can be deduced from the announcement. Most of them bad for Sony. But some, not quite so bad.

Let’s explore them.

First…the bad.

  • Manufacturing Problems? – I would venture to say that the PS3 might be having some sort of manufacturing problems. People immediately took the news reported two weeks ago that production had not begun on the PS3 to mean that Sony is being lazy. What it translated to me is: “We’re having problems with the production ‘run’…we keep getting faulty units… and we don’t want to start the major ‘run’ until we can get them worked out. The most horrifying thought I keep having is that there’s a major problem in the production that they are working night and day to resolve. The worst possible scenario here — the one that will kill customer confidence and drive the final nail into the entire Sony (and I’m talking TVs, Blu-Ray….everything) empire is if they ship two million defective PS3s.
  • European Gamers Feel Shunned? – Anyone who analyzes the reasons behind focusing on the U.S. and Japan should understand that this isn’t anything personal against the European gamers. I’m sure they’d sell to every country on day one if they could. But the fact remains… this will be viewed by European gamers as, “you put us on hold while you tended to the needs of your favorite child.” Looking at their websites, European gamers are just as gung-ho as anyone else. Adding another four months to their wait (that is, at least four months…Sony still hasn’t committed to a date in March ’07) has to be a dagger that makes them wonder whether Sony has their best interest in mind.
  • Development Community Patience Wearing Thin – Developers of PS3 games have already been complaining about the system being ‘harder to develop for that other platforms’, not to mention Sony’s failure to provide them with a heads to the fact that the PS3 controller would have motion detection. Add this new news to the list of reasons that could make them start focusing on other platforms. With PS3s being sold only in the U.S. and Japan for almost a third of the upcoming fiscal year, companies making PS3 games will have to wait a bit longer to start seeing expanded profits. You can’t sell games in Europe if the system isn’t out. All of the recent bad news has to be making developers think about whether Sony is a partner they want to work with in the future.

Now, the “not quite so bad”

  • Is the Xbox 360 a Substitute for PS3 Gamers? – As much as gamers will be upset at the delays of the PS3, I don’t think this automatically means that they’ll be flocking to buy 360s. Or Nintendo Wiis. While the PS3 and Xbox 360 are very close in spec, I don’t think the general public perception is holding to this. The majority of the non-techy, non-geeky gamers perceive the PS3 as the more powerful system. Perhaps that could change in time, and maybe it’s not quite as strong in Europe, but for the mainstream gamer, I don’t necessarily think that the 360 is a substitute for their Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy playing PS3 any more than the 360 is a substitute for the Wii.
  • Opportunity to reward European Gamers? – For Sony, this has to be a public relations nightmare. But it presents and opportunity to reward European gamers for their patience. Give them a slight price cut. Perhaps throw in another PS3 controller? Give them a coupon for a launch game. Pack in a copy of a PS3 Preview Disc of games. Hell, do something. Folks who will have waited until March are true loyalists and should be rewarded for even considering a PS3 amidst all of the negative press and being “put on hold”.
  • Shortages Create Unbelievable Buzz. – As bad as it is for consumers when you aren’t able to fill demand, it creates an unbelievable media buzz. People who don’t even want gaming systems all of a sudden recognize you as the hot, must-have item of the year. And for items like Cabbage Patch Kids, Furbies, Tickle Me Elmos and others, that buzz carries on into the next year. Microsoft benefited from it last year. Sony will this year. It’s going to be much worse for Sony, but hopefully things stay peaceful. (Of course this buzz will be completely countered if any news of ‘PS3 Defects’ start to arise.)

There’s no way to sugar coat this. Sony is in big trouble. And it’s going to take a Herculean effort this holiday season to bring them back. Europe is an important market for gaming. Let’s hope that confidence stays strong in gaming overseas and that regardless of who triumphs, there will still be competition and a plethora of great games to choose from.


8 Responses to “Sony Announces PS3 Delayed in Europe Until March 2007”

  1. 1 Jeff T
    September 7, 2006 at 3:39 am

    Why not say “Is the Xbox 360 and/or Nintendo Wii a Substitute for gamers? Why focus in on the Xbox 360? The Xbox 360 is out and the hard core or mainstream people probably already have one now after being out for almost a year. But Nintendo is new and has the family friendly branding. This Christmas kids will hand their parents lists which could go like this – Get me a PS3 if they don’t have that get the Nintendo Wii. So could the Wii be a substitute? Maybe if PS3’s are not in stock or it’s priced too high for parents, then the answer could be yes.

    I don’t think any of the systems are a substitute for eachother if anything it would be an addition. Each of the systems have their pluses and while someone may not be able to play Metal Gear 10 they could play Gears of War and wave that Wii wand around. Which are 2 different experiences.

  2. 2 Jeff T
    September 7, 2006 at 3:49 am

    Also you can’t really blame a MS employee to gloat over potential bad news for a competitor. Most of the companies that choose to comment about bad news about their competitors make jabs. I’ve seen Sony comment on the MS shortages last year but will I see Sony comment on MS’s positive Xbox Live numbers? No, that’s just how it works.

    Only thing I could liken it to is sports, like when Mets fans take jabs at the struggling Braves who were their toughest competitor for years or Red Sox fans who took jabs at the Yankees when they struggled earlier this year.

    Major Nelson’s site is a fanboy website, and it wouldn’t be good for business if he were to constantly praise positive news about their competitor. Highlighting possible weaknesses in your competitor is standard practice. Now whether it’s moral or not that’s another story.

  3. September 7, 2006 at 5:25 am

    The editorial part of my post was inspired largely the comments (there are about 253 of them now) that gamers had on Major Nelson’s site with regard to how this PS3 European delay news would affect 360 sales. I’m not picking on the 360 – I’m looking at it from an objective business standpoint. I think it’s an interesting point to explore – does this news mean European gamers will consider substitutes? Time will tell whether I’m right or not.

    Re: the Wii as a substitute, Nintendo’s been clear about their strategy and their desire to “open up gaming” with a less powerful yet more mainstream experience. I agree that gamers (especially young gamers) may consider the Wii as a possible substitute. But talking to more of the hardcore internet forum posting gamers, it appears as if they’re considering the Wii as a compliment to another next-generation gaming experience. (i.e. The Wii plus another more powerful next gen system.) After E3, I think most gamers see the Wii experience giving them more of a party/novelty experience (Wii Sports, Wii Tennis, Red Steel, Zelda, Metroid, Mario Galaxy, etc.). For gamers that are going to want a high res FPS or Sports title, or just something justify the existence of their High Def TVs in 720p/1080i/1080p, it’s either the 360 or PS3.

    I disagree a bit on the last point. There are the extreme hardcore gamers that are going to have both systems regardless of price, release date, etc. But the true battle is going to won or lost in the mainstream. I think most hardcore folks agree that the original Xbox was the more powerful system in terms of graphics, but the mainstream voted largely for the PS2 (100 million PS2s vs. 25 million Xboxes). This time around the situation could be reversed for both companies. Regardless of what we think, someone is going to lose this battle in the mainstream.

  4. September 7, 2006 at 5:25 am

    I agree somewhat with your point. Let me explain my stance:

    I’m extremely tough on the Major for several reasons. As Community Manager, he does an exceptional job of informing us about Xbox 360 developments. He gets insider interviews. He stands in front of the bullet every week whether there’s good news to report or bad news (like Horse Armor or not having a Prey demo.) However, he tends to cheapen the podcast by taking cheap shots at a system that hasn’t even launched yet. As intelligent as he is, what the Major fails to realize is that every time he makes an off handed comment about how Sony’s PR folks are putting their foot in their mouth (and they do this often) it alienates folks who have traditionally supported Sony and are considering a 360.

    I don’t see the situation compared to that of a sports team. Leagues are designed to get you to pick a team and root for them. This business is a little different. The analogy I presented to Major when we exchanged e-mails was that of a divorced couple raising a child. You visit your Dad and you go fishing and he tells you all these great stories about his childhood and his life right now. Then invariably he has to say something like, “Oh yeah, did you know that your mother is a bitch?” You love your Dad. But you love your Mom too. Why should you have to hear that? It makes your Dad look like a punk for even acknowledging her.

    Considering the negative news directed at the PS3 as of late, Microsoft has a huge opportunity to gain additional market share. This will probably happen regardless of the Major Nelson podcast. However, when he thinks he’s being “cool” by dropping these tacky comments, to me he’s pushing away the very folks that he should be embracing. I think folks that were previous Sony supporters should be his target market….folks who bought Sony systems through two generations of gaming (PS1, PS2) and considering the bad news lately are thinking of shifting where they spend their gaming dollars. That kid who saved $800 over the summer to buy a PS3 may now be waiting for a reason to forget the PS3 altogether right now and just spend that cash on a bunch of games or a few new peripherals.

    I disagree that it’s the norm for representatives to make these kinds of comments. We may hear generic faceless comments via press release, but overall I think we have really good examples of classy company representatives. I think a great example of someone who’s in the public eye often and balances being aggressive and optimistic about their system, yet being respectful of the fact that gamers might own competing systems is Peter Moore. He’s infectiously enthusiastic. After hearing him talk about the 360 last year, I wanted to go to the launch at Area 51. He’s aggressive and in the press. When interviewers try to get him to make negative comments about Sony, he always says something classy like, “Well, our competitors are probably going to have their hands full this year, but right now we’re focusing on all the great new titles we have coming out like….”. Same with J Allard (before he went into Zune hiding.) Same with Reggie Fils-Aime. There’s nothing wrong with being forward thinking and patriotic about your system. You should be. But at the same time, I get offended hearing cheap negative comments or conjecture about “rumors you half heard” or speculation based on bias. Nobody tunes in to the podcast for his forecast on other systems. We want to hear about the 360.

    Karma has a funny way of turning a situation around. Occasionally I’ll send a note to Major Nelson (and he’s gotten better as of late. I think he realizes the point myself and other gamers are making). But in my posts I often explore the possibility of the pendulum swinging back to the other side. What happens if (and considering the news of late, this is a BIG “if”) Sony somehow comes out of this smelling like roses? What if Blu-Ray really does win over HD-DVD? Are we going to hear him eat humble pie on he podcast? Doesn’t look like he’ll have to do it now, but it does make me wonder.

    Last point – the negative Sony comments/focus is cheap for another reason: it acknowledges Sony’s presence. Right now if you’re the Major, there are so many great good news stories to discuss on a weekly basis. Dead Rising’s success. The Vision Camera. The Gears of War countdown. Blue Dragon’s progress. And a bunch of other topics that only he has access to. Why even dignify Sony by mentioning them?

  5. 5 Jeff T
    September 7, 2006 at 11:49 am

    I don’t think the ‘divorced couple’ analogy is a good one because in this situation it is possible to own and spend time with all of the systems mentioned. So even if one company/parent says the other is a bitch, the kid could say well maybe she is to you but she’s not a bitch to me and I like the way she tucks me in at night. This is where personal knowledge comes into play, in life you have to have enough knowledge to know you don’t beleive everything you hear and also to understand what the speakers reasons could be for saying things.

    If your problem with Major is that he’s not classy then I can understand your points, he’s not. Maybe he’s underestimating how many Sony Supporters who’s supported the PS1 & PS2 as you say who are on the fence sitting back and waiting for a PS3. I personally don’t beleive there are many video game enthusiasts who bought a PS1 and PS2 and have waited 5 years for the coming of a PS3, if there are then they might be fanboys and won’t jump ship that easily anyway.

    I don’t support Major’s outright Sony bashing but I’m trying to see how you want him to act. You said there’s so many news stories to discuss that he should have ignored the Sony news and moved on to discuss only Xbox things? He mentions Sony because as he said, it was the ‘hottest’ topic of the day. So yes he may not be as politically correct as J. Allard, Peter Moore or Reggie Fils-Aime but then again he’s not as big of a corporate suit as those guys are. Major’s words don’t make vibrate throughout video game news sites. Do you honestly think that all those guys have no negative thoughts about their competitors? They do but they are in respectable positions and must be politically and corporately correct to the media.

    Karma always has a way of turning situations around but often people are too blind to see it and associate it.

  6. September 8, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    I know I’m by myself on the Major Nelson thing. (Or at least if feels that way if you read the comments on his post.) In reality, on the blogosphere, who am I to be telling a guy with his kind of following what he should be covering and what he shouldn’t be. His following is huge – especially for a gaming related website. But as a member of the group that he may benefit from endearing himself towards, I strongly encourage him to focus on what we come there to hear – Xbox 360 developments. Not conjecture or ramblings about rumors you might have heard.

    The analogy works for what I’m trying to describe. Divorce here doesn’t imply physical separation. Regardless of whether you spend time with every console you own, you may certainly have different feelings about hearing negative comments from one about the other. Using the PS2 listeners as the example of children who are close and defensive of their mom/dad, (or perhaps those who own a 360 but plan on spending the majority of the gaming dollars towards a PS3 when it releases) this is a critical time. Focus your time towards discussing the positive developments of the Xbox — and there’s so much to discuss. It buys you absolutely nothing to remind people about the negative developments happening at Sony Computer Entertainment. And because he’s a Microsoft employee, it just makes him look like more of a punk.

    I would feel completely the same way if Nintendo had a podcast and started making flippant comments… for instance,

    As the good Major would say, Hey, what do you guys think about Microsoft and those consumables they mentioned at Leipzig? Apparently they’re going to require that you buy things like extra health or power ups in the game that are going to be used up and then you’ll have to buy them again. It sounds like a bit of a disaster to me. Anyhow, I just wanted to know what you guys thought about that

    Nobody wants that either.

    So what do I want? Humility. I guess for him just to take the high road. A good example of what ticks me off is the way that E3 was presented. If you listen to the show before E3, he says something like, “Hey, if you guys are at E3, come on over and let’s talk and since I can’t get around bring me stories of cool stuff, BUT DON’T bring me Sony stuff….you know I work for Microsoft”. The implication of course being that Sony would have a stellar show. And when they looked horrible, that policy quickly changed. Listen to the next show…. “Gosh, did you guys see the trainwreck that was Sony’s press conference? $600? Wow.”

    A good example of what I’m calling ‘humility’? Not sure if anyone heard the show he did with Peter Moore after E3. Now, we all know Peter is an operations/manufacturing guy and finding himself on the stage of E3, has some marketing functions. Listen to that podcast at about 38 minutes in….after spending a bunch of time discussing all things Xbox as he should, Major tries to get him to say something negative about the PS3…. pay close attention to how Peter makes one comment about how the PS3’s focus is Blu-Ray and theirs is games first, and then he moves right along and talks about more positive news about the 360 and upcoming developments. Just a class act. We need more of that.

    Here’s the link to that show: http://www.majornelson.com/archive/2006/06/11/Show-_2300_178-The-one-with-Peter-Moore.aspx

    I can’t imagine how bad it’s going to get when the system does launch. I might now even be able to stand it…….  “Hey, did you guys hear about somebody getting shot while trying to buy a PS3? Someone else got trampled to death. Just wanted to know what you guys thought about that.” Or, “Of course I would never own a PS3, buuuuuut…….I’m hearing reports that there are all kinds of in game bugs. And I also heard that the system overheats.  Anyhow, just wanted to know what you kids thought about that.”  If that is in any way a preview, then I’m going to be sick. There’s a place for that kind of unbiased discussion where there is no conflict of interest. And it’s called 1up Yours – Friday nights on 1up.com.

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