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The Future of Console Gaming

part 2/page 9


   Concern over the fact that the new PlayStation 2 uses a front loading mechanism is also being discussed among older console gamers as well. Due to the abuse that people put their consoles through, a front loading approach has proven to be a failure in both its other major incarnations, the Sega-CD and the 3DO Multiplayer. It is of interest to note that both systems were reissued within a couple years of launch as top-loading models. Most other companies released top-loading models from the start such as the Atari Jaguar, Amiga CD32, and NEC's PC-Engine/TG-16 various CD incarnations.

   Will this front loading tray become a potential problem for the PS 2? Only time will tell, but unless Sony has come up with a remarkable new approach to CD tray design, signs indicate that it will have problems. The other issue with a front-loading tray specific to this system will be the potential need to have the machine stand on its side. Most computer users I know can't stand a sideways mounted CD-ROM drive, and one has to wonder what makes Sony think gamers will stand for it. Especially after the restraining tabs needed to hold a CD in place when the drawer is open break off from the hard use a console receives. Again, more questions, but signs indicate that this will likely not sit well with users.

   Aside from these hardware based concerns, the PlayStation is well regarded as a great success for Sony. Part of that success can be attributed to very aggressive marketing, but it also didn't hurt to have some of the top software companies locked into the platform as well (they learned well from Nintendo). Of all the right moves that Sony did to get their system off to a good start three really stand out the most, 1) acquiring Psygnosis who not only created the original PlayStation development kit, but gave the system some of it's "killer aps", 2) locking down Namco for conversions of their top arcade titles, and then 3) maintaining a steady stream of new software releases, with a large selection at launch. Later on, their gaining of Square as a developer was another boost to system sales. It also didn't hurt that Sega shot themselves in the foot with the Saturn launch and was never able to make the platform catch up.

   But while Sony has been at the lead of the push to get video gaming into the mainstream, one thing that they did which in some ways has restricted the diversity of games in the market stands to mind as well. This being their refusal to publish 2-D games during the first several years of the PlayStation's life in the U.S.. In fact, not only did they refuse to allow 2-D games to be published, their efforts went so far as to make many gamers equate any 2-D game with "outdated".

   So where is Sony going now with the PlayStation 2? Well, I will provide you with three statements that point to where Sony is headed. The first comes from Dr. Teruaki Aoki, president and COO, Sony Electronics Inc. who said at a speech in April 1999:

"People often ask me, 'Which product will come out the winner in the race to digital convergence, the TV or the PC?'

I believe this is the wrong question.

The personal computer and the television will not become one... although each will have features previously inherent only to the other.

In the next millennium, the way we interact at home and on-the-go will be integrated through hardware and software, in the products themselves, and in the services we provide.

In fact, we are moving beyond either a PC-centric or a TV-centric to a more network-centric future."(12)

   ...and in the comments of Nobuyuki Idei, President and CEO of Sony Corporation who in November 1999 stated:

"The Internet and broadband networks are both a threat and opportunity for us all. However, we at Sony believe this is a big opportunity for us.

Sony has three gateways, or doors to the Network World. 1.VAIO PC TVs/STB 3. the PlayStation2. In addition to networked electronic products, Sony has contents:

- Motion pictures
- TV programs
- Music
- Games

These contents will increase in value in the broadband world.

Sony is reinventing its business model for the networked society."(13)

   ...a third statement which I have not quoted here is actually quite long and is best read in the context of the entire piece. It is a speech at the January 2000, Winter CES by Fujio Nishida, president of the Consumer Products Marketing Group at Sony Electronics (14). While the speech is about their direction with consumer products on the whole, I think a lot of the company's potential direction with the PlayStation can be read from his statements.

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