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Sony Celebrates the Second Anniversary of PS3

Koller shows some of the new PS3 features Dec. 2 in Los Angeles.

By Chris Tribbey | Posted: 03 Dec 2008

LOS ANGELES — The saying around Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) offices, according to SCE hardware marketing director John Koller, goes something like this: PlayStation 3 helped Blu-ray Disc win the format war, so it’s only fair that Blu-ray helps the PS3 win the gaming console war.

Marking the two-year anniversary of the PS3, Koller Dec. 2 shared statistics that show the Blu-ray capabilities of the PS3 have Sony’s system eventually dominating Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii. He said the Wii is for the family gamers only, and while the Xbox 360 is matching PS3 in terms of VOD and other non-gaming media options, it’s the PS3’s Blu-ray features that put it over the top.

“Blu-ray has really increased, in terms of purchase intent,” Koller said. “We’re fully bullish in our expectations going forward, and we’re thrilled with where we are. We’ve got a number of great years ahead of us, and Blu-ray has a lot to do with it.”

The PS3’s success as a Blu-ray player cannot be understated: Seven out of eight Blu-ray players in households, Koller said, are PS3s, and according to Sony, 50% of 2008 buyers of the PS3 made their purchase because they have an HDTV.

The PS3 is often hailed as the easiest, upgradeable Blu-ray player. Where some of the first-generation standalone players will never handle BD Live features, so far the PS3 has undergone nine firmware updates, the latest (Dec. 2) adding features for the PS3 Bluetooth, in-game screenshot captures and Flash Player 9 for easier Web browsing.

According to Sony, the Blu-ray and PS3 target audiences are very similar: male, late 20s, white, middle class, and connected to the Internet. Four out of five PS3 owners have an HDTV. Of the PS3 owners, 90% have used it for Blu-ray movies, a third own six or more Blu-ray movies, 70% own at least three, and 51% have used the PS3 as a Web browser. Almost every user who owns a PS3, but not an HDTV, plans on getting an HDTV to enjoy everything in 1080p.

And with the digital delivery options available via the PS3’s online store, Sony enjoys a relationship with every major studio but Universal (a deal is being worked with them, Koller added). That relationship extends to information sharing about the PS3 as a Blu-ray player.

“They know the benefits we present to them,” Koller said, “and they come to us, and reciprocate. They know it’s the best Blu-ray 2.0 player on the market, and still the only one that’s wireless.

“They ask us continuously what our demographics are showing.”

Selling nearly 17 million units as of November this year, Sony is finding success in hard bundles (bundles of their own making where games are included with the system) and soft bundles through retailers (where an HDTV purchase may be paired with a PS3). After a supply shortage in July and August, Sony is prepped for a big Christmas.

“Is gaming recession proof? We’re seeing a tremendous lift this holiday season,” Koller said, saying PS3 sales are up 98% year-over-year. “The PlayStation 3 is a 10-year product. Families can forego a vacation, forego a couple big dinners, and in return they get an evergreen entertainment system.”

Part of the reason the PS3 is seeing great sales compared to last year, Koller said, is because the format war is over. But even if Blu-ray had lost the studios’ format war, it would have remained as the optical gaming choice for Sony and the PS3, Koller said. Blu-ray’s 50GB of storage make for more than five times the graphics and information compared to the discs for the Xbox 360.

“It’s fantastic for developers,” Koller said. “From just the gaming perspective, it’s very important.”

Koller couldn’t speak to what the future holds for the PS3, but SCE’s recent peripheral additions for the console are telling: after much derision for not catering to those using the PS3 for Web browsing, the company has finally released a wireless keyboard, one that plugs right into the console’s controller. Also now available is a Bluetooth headset, one that also works with any Bluetooth enabled cell phone.

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