Friendly banter between competing corporate executives is nothing new. Sometimes, however, it starts to spiral out of control, and takes on a life of its own. In the days of the Super Nintendo Entertainment system, disagreements (both public and private) between Nintendo and Sony over the licensing of the planned CD-ROM addon for the SNES caused Sony to strike out on their own and create the PlayStation, effectively ending Nintendo’s dominance of the video game arena.
These days, however, the big battle of words is between Sony and Microsoft. This was evidenced by recent statements from Kaz Hirai, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA), in an interview with PlayStation Magazine. With the Xbox 360 recovering from an awkward launch last November—apparently reaching the company’s goal of five million units sold so far—combined with the lukewarm reaction over the PlayStation 3’s announced price, Sony apparently feels that the time has come to launch a few new salvoes in the war of words. Hirai was asked if Sony and Microsoft seemed to be taking similar paths:
“We seem to. Every time we go down a path, we look behind and they’re right there – we just can’t shake these guys. I wish that they would come up with some strategies of their own, but they seem to be going down the path of everything we do. If you look at their strategy in other business areas as well, they tend to do that.”
Of course, such comments conveniently ignore the fact that Sony itself was a latecomer to the video game console business, not to mention the whole issue of Sony developing an Xbox Live competitor for the PS3, but all’s fair in love and marketing wars. The jab at Microsoft’s other businesses seems a bit odd, given the fact that Sony continues to ship large quantities of their VAIO laptops and desktops, all bundled with Microsoft Windows.
The conversation got even stranger when the topic veered to Microsoft’s HD DVD add-on for the Xbox 360. Hirai blasted Microsoft for their strategy on next-gen optical drives:
“And the other thing is, you take a look at, for example, the fact that we incorporate the Blu-ray drive from day one. You’re not going to be asking me, ‘So, talk to me about this Blu-ray add-on that you have. Does it work for games? Is it just for movies?’ That’s exactly the kind of pitfall you fall into if you launch something that’s too early, too premature…”
This sort of question could well be asked about the built-in Blu-ray drive on the PS3. Was it really necessary for games, given that most games do not currently fill out a dual-layer DVD? Or was it merely a way to put millions of Blu-ray drives in consumer households to boost sales of high-definition movies? Should Sony have made the Blu-ray drive optional? Until the PS3 is released and we can all judge for ourselves, this debate is far from over.