Nolan Bushnell: failure pioneer

Saturday, 2 December 2006

The Red Herring recently interviewed Nolan Bushnell and reported the
Atari founder wasn’t keen on Sony or the PS3. Bushell talked about the PlayStation 3 strategy–

“I think Sony shot themselves in the foot… there is a high probability [they] will fail. The price point is probably unsustainable.”

To dismiss the Red Herring’s counter-point that both PlayStation and PlayStation 2 were surreally successful, being a luxury comodity with sales in excess of 100 million units each, Bushell replied–

“It wasn’t anything brilliant that they did. With the PS and PS2 it was timing.”

First! To the price point.

The fabulous Curmudgeon Gamer shows, with peppy USA Today-like colored bars, that the Sony PlayStation 3 is indeed the third most expensive home gaming platform of the 26 discussed. Pretty expensive.

What Mistah Bushnell fails to consider is that absolute dollars mean fuck all. For example, the PS3 costs 3 times more than a piano—if the piano is from the first Sears and Roebuck catalogs. A decent piano today starts at around $5,000 and moves into the realm of $50,000 quite quickly.

Curmudgeon Gamer: Relative Console Prices

If you compare relative dollars—which is tricky because some stuff is just easier to do now than it used to be but there you go—the PS3 drops from 3rd in 26 to 10th. Quite close to the middle of the pack.

Second! Timing and brilliance.

There is another console that had perfect timing was quite successful, though not at the level of the PS by any means. The Atari 2600. Perfect timing. Total market share. Perhaps nothing brilliant. You’d think following that up the same way Sony did with the PS2 would be a lock. Nothing to it. Already in charge, just put out a new console and rule.

But the Atari 5200 was a commercial failure. I bought one with my first two paychecks, by the way, and loved it. I didn’t get to love it long because–

  1. they stopped making games for it,
  2. the controllers were pieces of crap that broke after pretty casual gaming by today’s measures.

That and because the price point was unsustainable. The Atari 2600 and 5200 were 3rd and 4th in relative cost compared to all the others. Adjusted for inflation they cost $659 and $683.

So I think Nolan Bushnell’s comments about Sony and the PS3 must be taken very seriously. He’s probably the foremost expert in the video game industry on failed, over-priced systems from companies who think that “not doing anything brilliant” is synonymous with running the game. Perhaps all the recent Xbox personnel evacuations have left a seat for him to get back into the mix where he belongs.

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Comments


Liz

Re: Nolan Bushnell: failure pioneer

Ashley 5 6 you're my hero.

By Liz on 2 December 2006 · 22:13
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