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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sony, what's that flushing sound?

Sony is sick, and the heads aren’t done rolling over at SOE. Maybe Sony should change the name of the company to Woe. It seems it would be more in keeping with the way things are going for the Japanese electronics giant. This week, a source with connections deep within SOE told me that preparations are being made for the departure of John Smedley. I know that is breaking a lot of you up. Choke back the tears for a second. Smed has been at SOE for a long time. And you can’t say he hasn’t accomplished something. Clearly we can’t lay all of Sony’s woes at Smed’s feet, but let’s do a little inventory of how things have been going for Sony.

It’s the early 90’s and Sony is all but ubiquitous. They are a market leader in stereo components, VCR, video cameras, and several other consumer electronic devices. Sony’s Walkman and Discman portable tape and CD players are dominant in the market they created. They probably made a bunch of cool shit I can’t even remember.

Late 90’s, and the PlayStation is HOT. It’s the must-have console for the home gamer. Sony owns the licensing for the games, and so has a continuous revenue stream for it’s intellectual properties. Discman is now IT for portable music players. Sony’s Vega televisions are the top rated sets on the mass market. Sony is beginning to have a real presence in media, with motion picture, gaming, and record label properties. Verant Interactive finds a golden vein in continuing subscription revenue with Everquest.

From the very beginning of this decade, the Sony façade starts to crumble. Competing products are challenging Sony’s dominance in almost every one of their traditional markets. Some highlights;

Apple computer not only takes Sony’s lunch money by taking their leadership in a market Sony made, portable media, but stomps a big-ass mud hole in them.

SOE starts to bleed customers from EQ for, of all things, DAoC. This might be the first indication that their subscribers are sick and tired, and they aren’t going to take it any more. Sony seems to believe that the MMO market is a niche that has capped out at around 250-400 k subscribers. OK, then. By the end of 2006, world-wide subscriptions for MMO will probably be at around 10 million. This is including the Chinese subscriptions, which are done on a day-to-day basis, and are much easier to cancel. By my reckoning (as we say in Texas,) Sony has a whopping 4% share of that. That's down from their 50-plus share they held at one time. Hell, Blizzard has 10x the base that Sony ever had in a game.

SOE so royally screws up Star Wars: Galaxies that the ungodly loyal user base there that has stuck with them through think and thin for a couple of years finally tells them where that Wookie can shove that light saber.

Sony publishes CD’s with a root kit on them, and forgets to tell us how to remove them. Because you can’t. And they hope you didn’t need that CD drive for anything else now, did you?

Sony announces that they have delayed their new console until after the first of they year on 2007. Xbox is kicking Sony’s arse. I’m willing to bet that within a couple months after launch, Microsoft will announce that they now have more people subscribed to Xbox live than Sony has sold PS-3’s.

Sony announces that Blu-Ray isn’t quite ready juuuust yet.

Sony stops making the PS-1.

And today, it was announced that the movie industry is going to discontinue publishing movies on the UMD format, which is the only thing that ever sold any PSP’s. That one had to be hard to screw up that bad.

What happened to Sony? It’s my opinion that they just got too damn big, and started to think that they were somebody. They should have remembered that people came to love them for being innovative, smart, and fast to market. That was the old Sony. Today’s Sony is big, fat, and stupid. Except for the stupid part, is just like me. And I won’t be dominating the world any time soon.

Bye Sony, we hardly knew ye.