Monday, September 11, 2006

What do Tigers and Launches have in common?

...both have their paper varieties, of course.

News last week that Kutaragi has trimmed the launch volumes for PS3 even further, to just 500k units worldwide, with 400k of those going to Europe and 100k to Japan. (News came last week that Europe wouldn't make this year).

When I originally made my prediction in the new year that Sony wouldn't ship anywhere in 2006, I took two $50 bets from co-workers. (yes, I'm still holding out hope). Anyhow, at that time, I got into an interesting discussion with one of them, centered around this question: What does it mean to launch?

Back when I worked on graphics cards, the "paper launch" became an issue the press was wrestling with. The leading companies (this is pre-Nvidia, so it was like, S3, Diamond, ATI, and ourselves) would declare they'd launched, send in one of number of pre-production samples to the folks over at PC Mag for the big review (issue 21, IIRC), and no one that wanted to buy one could actually do so.

So the folks at the mags started insisting that they go buy a retail unit, but that led to funny games with allocation and being able to supply some number of units in order to declare a launch, but they weren't yet in full production.

Now, 500k units is not a small number. It might be if you are a game publisher :-), but not in terms of units produced. However, if that number gets trimmed again, how small does it get before it really doesn't count? 200k? 100k? If they only ship 10k, is that a launch?

The $100 I have riding on this aside, I really hope they do launch. I think if I were in Sony's shoes, I'd wait. After all the hubris and hubbub, shipping with a parity product and mediocre launch catalog would be catastrophic. If you are showing up a year later, you better be a whole lot better right out of the gate.

Put differently, whether or not the launch is a paper one, the tiger had better not be.

Guess we'll know better after TGS, where they promise to be showing a number of game titles in playable form.

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