E3 2007: Sony Takes a Knee

Russ Pitts | 12 Jul 2007 03:07
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There was a dead possum in the gutter.

The short walk from where the shuttle buses dropped us off and Sony's studio in Culver City was about three blocks, and halfway there I saw it. It was a possum. And I was pretty sure it was dead.

I could have poked it just to be sure, but the smell was a fairly definitive statement. This possum wasn't playing; it was dead.

My first reaction was to feel sorry for the poor critter. My second was to think that someone from Sony should have been more careful than to leave such a dangerous metaphor lying around on their big day.

It's been about a week since Sony announced the $100 price drop on the 60 GB PS3, but so far that marginally good news hasn't generated enough momentum to wash the taste of failure out of their mouths - or mine.

As I sipped a bloody mary cocktail provided by Sony, waiting for the event to begin, I thought perhaps on this day we'd find out if Sony was just playing, or they really had gone and died on us.

The outdoor waiting area was like a garden party. Fruit cups, cocktails and umbrellas. Inside it was all Sony. A booming techno track accompanied by a pulsating thread of computer generated smoke on 4 giant projection screens. The chairs were draped in white suede and the fa├žade was painted to look like marble. The light show might have even been better than Microsoft's, but only a trained eye could tell.

For the first time in at least a year it seemed Sony might have finally learned their place in the new generation: dead last. It would take an awful lot of humility to gloss over their abhorrent PR moves over the past several months, and when Sony CEA President and CEO Jack Tretton appeared on the screen, in the form of his digital Home avatar, it was clear humility wasn't on the menu as any more than an appetizer.

"We feel that we're in a very strong position heading into the holidays," said Tretton, "and we're confident we'll continue our industry leading role."

After Tretton exhausted his meager public speaking chops ("I'm more of a Powerpoint guy," he said), Kaz Hirai was introduced, again in Home, where he was tending a virtual barbecue grill on his virtual patio. He offered to take the stage for a moment, but not before suggesting Tretton should stay behind to "keep an eye on the burgers."

Hirai apologized for having less time for speaking engagements, saying his new job meant he was "traveling more [and] spending less time in my office on the PS3, and more time on the PSP." Really, they should look out for those metaphors.

The news for Sony isn't all grim. The PS2 currently sports a 118 Worldwide install base, and the PSP, although the number 2 handheld, has sold 9 million units this year alone. Hirai promised 140 new games for the PSP this fiscal year, and, they introduced a new PSP model with the help of a wookie.

When Chewbacca came on stage to present the Star Wars themed PSP entertainment pack (bundled with a Star Wars PSP and Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron) I started looking for Toto, because I was sure we'd left Kansas at least a lightyear behind. Tretton proclaimed he was humbled that in spite of his years in the industry, this was the first time he'd been on stage with a wookie. I knew exactly how he felt.

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