Is Sony’s Playstation brand up for rough times?

Sony has been dominating the console and handheld industry over the last years by supplying the masses with a game portfolio to satisfy even the most picky gamer out there. In the last decade we did see Sega having had a small flare with their Dreamcast. Though the hardware was properly made, Sega failed to attract enough developers to assure a constant lineup of good game titles. Looking at Nintendo, Sony’s biggest competitor in the console and handheld market, we can say the fight to be the dominating vendor has been most interesting. The Nintendo vs Playstation battle keeps the gaming crowd entertained with a constant stream of fresh and original game titles. Unfortunate for Nintendo, over the last 4years Sony has been dominating the charts in Japan. Xbox and the 360 are present as well, but never aced the sales figures the native Japanese game manufacturers reach. As of recent years, the mobile gaming industry has been rising in popularity, and Apple was one of the first to hit that sweetspot with their iPhone. To be assured Apple could keep their dominating position, they started irrigating their iPad and iPod Touch series with IOS .

It has been an interesting time to see Sony grow into one of the largest console manufacturers to date. Nintendo, once dominant, failed twice to keep the beacon on fire. Though the Wii console sold like hotcakes, and their 3DS handheld was probably a very highly anticipated item to possess, untill…you know. Personally I feel the Wii could have made it bigger but failed due to technical limitations which were one of the reasons gamers were super happy with their purchase and found themselves in the situation where 3 months later it bored the hell out of them and the fancy box ended up in the closet. And then I’m not going too deep into the 3DS’s flaws, such as nausea after long time exposure of the eyes to the 3D mode; health issues for minors; a game lineup consisting of no adult games (unless you’re into Hello kitty, Pokemon, Mario or stroke-my-pony type of games).

All credit go out to both Sony Playstation and Microsoft Xbox to bring exciting game titles and new hardware expansions such as microphones for SingStar games, motion cameras, motion controllers, steering wheels and various other 3rd party gadgets. Microsoft did have the best launch price and accessories are generally a bit cheaper in the Xbox camp, compared to Sony who just loves to tease with exuberant price tags on anything it newly releases, inhibiting an even higher and explosive sales number. But hey, that’s “our Sony” and we all learned to deal with it.. ..or haven’t we?

As you all might recall, right after Sony decided to cut off the functionality of otherOS (running Linux on your gaming hardware) after they suspected a certain community fiddling with the way Sony protects games from being copied/cloned/breached. Shutting down otherOS stirred up an angry crowd of users who felt they shelled out big money for a console that was now handicapped and not worth its initial retail price. Didn’t take long before the first hackers found a way to bypass the security protocols of the Playstation 3 and got the otherOS working again. The discovery of this breach led to a follow up development of jailbreak dongles allowing illegitimate copies to be played from the device’s harddrive (or external).

Events like this caused Sony to feel the urge to produce a cheaper console, the “Slim”, which ran natively without otherOS and came at a budget price point to lure many gamers who found the intial “Fat” model a bit too pricey. To date, the Slim model is actually not giving Sony any profit in return, though this was not enough to satisfy everybody, so worse came to worse when hacker groups brought the Sony website and Playstation Network down. This caused a ruckus in the gaming community as many user’s private payment details were exposed to these culprits.

At present date Sony patched their network to avoid further hacking attacks. By selling a console without any profit margin and giving away many free games to make the PS3 gamers to not lose faith, one could say Sony is concerned about its audience. Yet scene coders and hackers decided differently and continued to figure out new exploits and ways to run cloned games, leaving the game manufacturers where Sony relies most on, with a bad aftertaste when their monthly sales results come in.

Up till now Playstation 3 has been one of the most secure gaming consoles ever built. Where, in the handheld segment, it didn’t take the scene groups a long time to find a way to play copies. The PSP has been a very good seller, in Japan it topped the PS3 charts in it’s first years of presence. So Sony is relying on the new Vita handheld (to be launced in December in Japan) to be another massive sales hit. But will this success last long? It depends. Game handhelds (and consoles) rely on a good game linup at launch, which the PS Vita has. The issue is: for how long will it stay this way? Lately exploits have been flooding around the internet, claiming to extract and decrypt the device’s firmware. Since the device has not yet been released for sale, it could mean the current launch games to be cracked and run from the device’s native storage (or memory card). Having access to decrypted firmware usually means that unofficial game loaders are bound to emerge in a matter of weeks after the Vita’s launch.

This might not affect you or me at current time. But for Sony this means horror. When manufacturers stop prioritizing development for the Vita handheld due to the fact that their game will be floating around the internet in a matter of hours after release, is a horrendous feeling. Developers rely on these consoles and handhelds to sustain a healthy income for future games to be produced. And a fully breached device means Sony is (again) putting their neck on the line to assure development studios it will be patched a.s.a.p. . Too many ungrateful individuals out their expect instant gratification and be served by skilled hackers (most of the time experienced programmers who have been in the game for over 10 years) for cracked game loading applications.

I do not blame the hackers who show off their tricks, as these people usually buy a large proportion of their games. Because they, of all people, know what it takes to manufacturer a game from scratch and unlike most of the kids in the scene groups, they know that people are relying in these hard economical times to provide their families with food on the table. To give you a good example: go spend 50 bucks in a disco or pub, now go and buy 2-3 platinum titles for that same amount… and remember, Sony will not make a Playstation IV when their marketing team decides the juice isn’t worth the squeeze anymore.

NOTE from the Linux Game News:
Maybe what really needs to be done here is to host the Playstation system from a Linux Desktop. Why not develop software/application that’s condusive to Linux and bring gaming to new heights, legitimately?
With the use of repositories, frequently security updates, and filesystem encryption upon installation it would making gaming what it truly should be.

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