Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Remember Whose Bitch You Are

Nobody should be surprised by this, particularly those of us in Britain. We got screwed with the PSP (nine months after the rest of the world and £25 more expensive to boot) and now, at the first sign of trouble for Sony's increasingly boondogglish PlayStation 3, we're being ejected from the global launch. Nobody here should be surprised, but that doesn't halt the flow of indignance - eight hundred comments on the Eurogamer article, and still rising - at being once again told we're less important than the rest of the world by Sony.

Or at least, that's one way to look at it. In purely business terms it makes a degree of sense: the European market is large and important but not quite as large and important as the other two so if somebody has to be turned away by the bouncers it's always going to be us. Of course, the ditching of Europe is not the whole story - Sony also slashed their numbers for the US and Japan to a mere 400K and 100K respectively, shipments so small they couldn't have simply done what Microsoft did with the 360 and shared scant product among all three regions, pissing everyone off equally. When Microsoft did it, it was a gamble: they quite rightly figured it was better to disappoint lots of early adopters everywhere but still be able to say they launched globally than exclude a territory for the sake of a few more American kids getting their Christmas present.

It paid off, too. Microsoft predicted correctly that a year on we'd remember them for pulling off an unprecedented global launch under very tough conditions, and forgive them for not being able to ship a billion units on day one. They tried, and trying counts. Unfortunately Sony have probably misstepped by not even trying: rightly or wrongly, they have developed a reputation for despising UK gamers and the word 'racism' is frequently muttered. I don't actually believe Sony are racist - pro-Japan perhaps, as befits a Japanese company - but I don't think they really care who pays them, as long as they pay plenty.

Nope, Sony don't hate us because we're European, they hate us because we're merely gamers and because we're merely customers. Sony's insulting and derisive comments about gamers in general and their smug insistence on ramping up Eurozone game and console prices for 'localisation reasons' (guys, if translating American English into British English costs so much you have to increase prices by twenty percent YOUR LOCALISATION PEOPLE ARE TOO EXPENSIVE) have long since put me off buying anything from them if I can avoid it - even leaving games aside for a moment, the music CD rootkit fiasco and their shoddy mobile phones have put paid to their image as a serious company as far as I'm concerned. The purpose of a company that sells something to customers is to serve their customers, not to insult them, vandalise their belongings or tell them that their faulty product is fine because it was designed that way. Any company that puts its own wishes above the customer's - shoehorning expensive Blu-Ray tech into a games console and then telling gamers "it's not a games machine", for instance - is going to fail, and fail badly. A company, no matter how successful, is there to serve the customer and will die without the customer.

A bit like governments, in fact, or at least their leaders: Blair has made himself look like a complete dick over this whole Leaving Date saga, having apparently forgotten the same thing as Sony, that he is there at our behest and that of his party members, not at his own. He will not survive long with his customers turning their back on him, and publically insulting them won't do him any more favours than it did Sony. I am actually rather ambivalent about this as well: the ongoing pantomime boxing match between Blair and Brown has ensured that Brown is the only contender for the succession, and nobody seems to have stopped to wonder if this might in fact be perfectly deliberate - Gordon Brown co-created New Labour and, despite a few stylistic differences, is as close to a Spare Tony as it's possible to find, so nothing is going to change if he gets the job. I can't be the only person to spot this, surely?

Ever get the feeling that you're waiting for the world to stop fucking about and just get on with it? Seems to be one of those weeks. But, to end on a happy note, here's a minor treat for Eurogamer readers: Ellie Gibson on the BBC! Sadly without her hat.

No comments: