Best Buy Website Gaffe: Waiting For The 40 Gig Backlash

Ever since I heard that the 40 gig would come sans PS2 backwards compatibility, I knew that this was inevitable. I knew that someone, somewhere, would screw up the advertising. See Best Buy’s online listing for the new system:

Plays your old PlayStation 2 and PlayStation games, DVDs and CDs, so you can merge all of your entertainment into one machine

You see, I’ve thought a lot about what backwards compatibility means to the consumer lately. I’m firmly in the camp that it should not be considered a necessary component of any given system. I’m not unaware of the issues, though. Maybe you wanted to trade your old system in or you consider the convenience of having only one console in your entertainment center a factor. In most cases, if you really intended to go back and play all of your old games, you probably had a Playstation 2 already. And if you missed out on last gen and really wanted to catch up, what’s been keeping you from picking up one of the many PSTwos sitting on retail shelves? If it’s because you’re curious about the PS3’s ability to upscale previous-gen games, I assure you that it’s not worth fussing over.

So let’s call BC what it really is: a bullet point. A really important bullet point. It’s a feature that consumers have become used to seeing over the years and, whether or not they actually know what it means, they will notice if it’s missing. Sony’s talked a lot about really listening to their fans when figuring out what to put in and take out of their new SKU; they said they knew what was important to them, what they wanted in a next-gen console. As many times as Sony’s changed their message over the past year, I think we all know how hard that explanation is to swallow.

Even Microsoft, a company that has all but given up on further supporting backwards compatibility with Xbox games, at least left it in there. It might be shoddy support, but they can still pin that on their feature list. I mean, this is a point Sony used to attack Microsoft before, but now they don’t consider it important at all?

I think what’s even worse are the mixed messages we’re getting from Jack Tretton. Here are two comments that I think are inherently in conflict with each other. First, from N’Gai Croal’s interview:

When was the decision made to remove backwards compatibility entirely and why?

Well, I think we have long consternated over the issue of bringing tremendous technology to the consumer, something that’s really going to be ahead of its time and carry this industry for the next decade, and the challenge that presented in terms of the retail price point we had to offer. So the goal was trying to reduce the price point of the Playstation 3, but keep all the features that we thought were incredibly relevant to the future going forward. We feel like we’ve been able to accomplish both at $399. We’ve got a price point that I think can finally attract the masses, and we’ve kept all of the features that we think are incredibly relevant to the Playstation 3 in there.

Second, from the Wall Street Journal (subs only, for the full article):

There’s a catch to the lower price: The new $399 PlayStation model will not play games designed for the PlayStation 2, Sony’s popular older game console. Mr. Tretton conceded that removing that capability, along with a few other features, isn’t dramatically reducing Sony’s cost of manufacturing the console but will instead encourage buyers of the entry-level PlayStation 3 to purchase more games designed specifically for the new system.

So in one Tretton is telling us that removing backwards compatibility was necessary to achieve the new price point, while in the other, it’s not actually doing that at all, but has the intended effect of pushing people to buy more PS3 games.

Let me make my stance clear: I don’t think BC is particularly important, either, but if it’s not hurting Sony financially, there is absolutely NO good reason to leave it out!

I’m having a really hard time sorting out this tortured logic and I don’t think that the consumers are going to be any easier on Sony. So now they’ve got a Playstation 3 with a somewhat reasonable mass-market price and they go and gimp it. The issue may or may not be more complex than that, but consumers will not see it that way.

Oh, people might buy it. Especially when you’ve got outlets like Best Buy already mucking up the details. But expect the backlash to come soon after the first 40 gig has crossed the checkout counter. Frankly, I’m not sure what Sony can do to counter-act this, advertise the fact that the new SKU won’t be able to play your old PS2 games? That might be the more responsible choice, but it’d also be like climbing the tower to sound the death knell. There’s no good way to market the lack of a feature, even though Sony’s tried in the past. We all know what happened to rumble, right?

I’ve got more thoughts on this issue, but I think I’ll save those for a rainy day. If I were Sony, I’d sic my dogs on Best Buy right now and get that listing changed, because the only break they’re going to get otherwise is the opportunity to damage control.


~ by Cavin Smith on October 19, 2007.

4 Responses to “Best Buy Website Gaffe: Waiting For The 40 Gig Backlash”

  1. another great article. keep up the good work.

  2. Yeah, I was a little concerned when they took out the backwards compatibility for the $400 model. Definitely makes me want to get the 80GB version so I can play all (most?) of my PS2 games, especially when I have a “Sixaxis” PS2. (Basically, I have to flip it around and offer it sacrifices before it decides to read my game discs properly.)

    I guess it’s good as a “mass-market” model, since not all folks keep their old games, but like you said, if it doesn’t drive down costs, then why leave it out at all?

    Anyway, I’m still waiting for them to pack in the rumble-enabled controller with the system before I go get it. 🙂

  3. Sony’s logic is sometimes astounding.

    I do anticipate a “rumble bundle” sometime around March, though. I don’t think we’ll see a new system or anything, but likely one with the new controller and maybe a game packed in.

  4. […] So in one Tretton is telling us that removing backwards compatibility was necessary to achieve the new price point, while in the other, it’s not actually doing that at all, but has the intended effect of pushing people to buy more PS3 …Read More […]

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