Sony launched the PlayStation 3 hot off the unprecedented success of the PlayStation 2. It had sold over 136 million worldwide, featured DVD compatibility, backward compatibility to the original PlayStation and had processing power (real or imagined) that blew away the competition in the public's eye. That Sony would launch a successful follow-up seemed to be a no-brainer. That this successor would only build on its predecessor seemed only inevitable.
But it wasn't meant to be and in hindsight we should have seen it coming after the many stumbles Sony made with the PS3.
First there was the proclamation from one Sony exec who said that gamers would gladly "get a second job" just to be able to afford the PS3. That was of course followed by the $600 price tag. Sony, in an attempt to turn the PlayStation 3 into the media hub the PlayStation 2 was meant to be, crammed every piece of technology under the sun into the PlayStation 3. It had one HDMI port, one ethernet port and four USB ports—an earlier prototype had even more. And it had an expensive Blu-Ray optical drive—it was lucky that this format beat out the HD-DVD. The Blu-Ray drive has been speculated to account for at least half the total manufacturing costs of the PlayStation 3. Estimates are that Sony was losing $200 per unit even at the $600 price point.
Then there were the delays. The PlayStation 3 launched six months later than scheduled and with an appallingly small allocation of launch units.
Then there was the controller fiasco. Some have argued that it was a last minute answer to Nintendo and its well-received Wii controller, but Sony couldn't wait to show off Sixasix controls and proclaim it was bringing its own "revolution" to gaming. Unfortunately, Sixaxis didn't really work, or at least it didn't work well with many games that supported it. It also lacked forced-feedback technology which is now just called "rumble" and is pretty much an industry standard. It took Sony forever to give up on the boomerang design and essentially go back to the original PlayStation for an answer to its next-generation gamepad.
The last thing, in Sony's defense is not really the company's fault, but was a reality that the market that to adapt to. The world's economy went off a cliff in 2008 and people weren't spending money like they wanted to. Because it meant short-term financial pain, Sony kept its price point at $400 leaving it the most expensive game console and well outside the view of most financially strapped consumers.
Why this brief trip through PlayStation 3 history? Well it's just to illustrate how overdue this move is. Don't get me wrong, it's a smart move on Sony's part and is sure to reap dividends, it's just that it took this company so long to act when the writing was on the wall for all to see.
The hardware situation has settled down and the PlayStation 3 has the right hardware that gamers would want. Blu-Ray is the new standard and the PlayStation 3 is supposed to have one of the best Blu-Ray drives available. And finally Sony has gotten some killer-apps in the form of Grand Theft Auto IV and Metal Gear Solid 4.
What it has lacked until now in its losing battle with the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii is a compelling price point.
That looks like it will finally change this September—or maybe before that. Sony has announced it will drop the price of the PlayStation 3 (80GB model) priced at $399 to $299 immediately. That means you can run out right now and get the current PlayStation 3 for $299. What interesting though is that in a couple of weeks (September 1st), you can go to you local electronics chain and get a sexy new, slim version of the PlayStation 3 for $299 as well. On top of that the slimmer version comes with a 120GB hard drive.
On par with the an Xbox 360 Pro and costing just $50 more than a Nintendo Wii, the PlayStation 3 is finally looking like a great deal for anyone who has been sitting on the fence til now.