Monday, September 18, 2006

Like a console with heart disease

Believe it or not, it's almost the holiday shopping season. For me, the most exciting part is surrounding myself with some next-gen console love. But which one?

Yes, I know this is a well-tred conversation so I'm not about to rehash the fanboi arguments on why one system is going to kick another's butt. I've pretty much decided that I'm going to buy a Wii. The question that remains is: should I get a PS3?

I like doing my homework and being thorough is a necessity at this price range. So far, I've pretty much addressed all the game related issues. Of the issues remaining is a particularly sticky one: the high def DVD player. The next-gen console war has found itself smack in the middle of the next-gen DVD player war. There is the Blu-ray side and the HD DVD side and as you may know, Sony is in the Blu-ray camp and so every PS3 comes equipped with a Blu-ray player. If rumors are true, it accounts for at least $150 of the price.

So built into any purchase of a PS3 is a bet that Blu-ray will ultimately prevail. If it turns out to be the losing format, well then, you still got yourself a nice game console. Anyway, I'm not going to go into technology comparison fight. That's not my territory to talk about. No, that's not me.

When trying to figure out which format will win, I look at marketing. Yup, let's critique the heck out of their online marketing campaigns. Here's the sites:

First, let's note the names. Blu-ray's site is "Blu-Ray" whereas HD-DVD's site is "The look and sound of". The latter is obviously tied to a marketing campaign and wins hands down in terms of sexy name. Heck, it's a NILF.

Now let's actually look at the sites. The home page images are below, Blu-ray first.Can you believe the difference? It's like the lunch lady vs. [insert objectified female celebrity here]. Blu-ray is in serious trouble if the technology is in any way related to the marketing efforts. With such big names behind the format, you'd think they could come up with something a little better. That's strike 2.

Now let's look at search. I Googled both names and here are the results:

The good news is that for both formats, the main site shows up on top of the natural search results. The interesting story is in the paid search results. When you Google Blu-ray, the third paid placement is from HD-DVD and there is no Blu-ray paid placement anywhere to be found. That's right, HD-DVD is trying to conquest the Blu-ray keyword. When you Google HD-DVD, the first placement is HD-DVD and there is again no Blu-ray paid placement to be found. It appears that HD-DVD is way ahead of the search game. Strike 3!

So far, I haven't been very impressed with the Blu-ray campaign (if you can call it that). They just don't have anything worth checking out. On the other hand, I'm totally impressed with the HD-DVD campaign so far. They catch me perfectly on search and serve up a pretty slick looking site. (I ran into some banners a while back but wasn't able to find any for this post. If you guys run into some, take a screenie for me.)

Quite frankly, this makes me a bit nervous about my PS3 purchase. Granted, a marketing campaign is only one element in whether or not the Blu-ray format will take hold but if this is indicative of the lobbying group getting their act together, it's bad news. And bad news for Blu-ray means more bad news for PS3.


Karl Castaneda said...

Ken, you're not taking the variable into account.

Sure, you may want to buy a PS3, but will you be able to? With only 400,000 units at launch, chances are you'll be out of luck until February/March 2007 when consoles start rolling in consistently.

As far as next-gen formats, it can really go either way. Sony's got a spacially superior platform, but HD-DVD can bank on the DVD brand, and it's been out longer. And let's not forget that it's cheaper.

Also take into account that Sony's never had a successful proprietary format. Betamax, Minidiscs, UMD... It doesn't bode well for the future, but who knows - things can certainly flip.

Sony's putting so much on this thing that they're taking loans, which is a huge deal. If they're that comitted, well, who knows. Time will tell.

For the record, though, I'm putting my money on HD-DVD. Gut feeling - not much else.

Ken said...

"but will you be able to?"

I refer you to the first two "guildmates" listed on the right under "About the blog". Now I'm not saying it's for sure, but I at least have a better list of contacts to beg, whine, and grovel to than the poor kid in front of Walmart in Ohio. (actually, it's a PS3, so kid's not poor but you know what I mean)

Anonymous said...

No offense, but I'm not sure someone in the game industry such as yourself should be buying a console based on what disc format it uses. I mean, as your company - that's Acclaim for those of you late to the game - is making games, you'd probably make a better impression by talking about gameplay...mentioning that is how you and your company go into each new venture. Sort of make yourself look like a hero, and you can get a system you'll actually enjoy.

Seriously, though, the Wii taken out of the picture, I'd take the 360 any day of the week. A lot, and I mean a lot, of publishers are jumping ship, either going 360 or multiplatform instead of PS3 exclusives, so you likely won't miss out on too many exclusives. Some of the biggest games, in fact, are now available on both, such as GTA, on the day the gane comes out. But the 360 also has a bevy of great games coming out, like Fable 2.

So, am I going to completly knock the PS3? Well, yes and no. Sony has done some sneaky things that will certainly ensure they have a share of the market: an online plan that, dare I say, imitates Microsoft, only it is free, and then there is the controller, which, whether you believe they stole it from Nintendo or not, will certainly ensure a degree of cross-platform titles from the Wii.

Ken said...

You forget, I'm in marketing. We're the vile guys that don't think about gameplay. I spoke to some designers once and barely got out of there alive:

Me - "Yeah, that idea you just pitched... Great! It's very innovative and definitely takes games to a new level. But umm... we're going to table that. Can you just make a clone of GTA? That'd be great. Thanks"

Them - "Urrghh... Must kill... marketing bastards..."

Me - "Yeah, umm, I gotta go now? So I'll check back in two weeks. You could put something together to show the press by that time right? That'd be great. Thanks!"

Them - "Ooaahrrgh! KILL!"

Me - "By the way, I got a few thousand resumes of other designers wanting to break into the industry here. I'm not, like, looking at them or anything because I totally trust you guys. But you know, if you're not working hard on this game, then maybe you can help me sort out which of these guys I should ask in. That'd be great. Thanks!"

Them - "..."

Ok, that wasn't really me. I totally would not have been so polite. =)

Anonymous said...

Drat, you had to put in that last part - for a moment you had me excited, thinking you were about to unveil a free, online GTA-clone...

Still, no matter who you are, though, I would assume you would want fun games.

Unknown said...

You guys forget the 25GB and 50GB disc space. No game will be filling up an entire Blu-Ray. The chances are that they will add HD-trailers (marketing opportunity)and demos and still have leftover room on a single Blu-Ray game disc for the PS3.