As was expected, Sony finally announced the North American launch plans for the Playstation 2 in a press event just before E3 in May. The uber-console is going to be available in stores on October 26, at a price of $299. This is the same price point that the original Playstation launched at.
Unfortunately, the company did not make mention of what games would actually be available on that date. It’s a logical move because the launch titles in Japan were universally panned for delivering less than promised, but, as in any entertainment industry, the logical move may not always be the smartest.
It’s not smart because the coming console war is the most crowded ever, with more choices in terms of gaming platforms than ever before. Many people are sitting on the fence, waiting to see what the various systems have to offer before plunking down their 300-odd dollars for their next game console.
If Sony waits too long to release a list of definite launch titles, then these customers won’t rush out to purchase Playstation 2s at launch. It’s pretty much guaranteed that Playstation 2 will sell out on launch day, and chances are if you haven’t pre-ordered your system yet, you probably won’t be able to get your hands on one until next January at the earliest. If consumers aren’t excited about the launch titles now, they won’t be pre-ordering systems, which means they won’t be getting PS2s this year, giving Nintendo and Microsoft room to woo them onto their platforms.
Nintendo’s actions are impossible to predict, but there’s no doubt that Microsoft plans to have some sort of announcement ready for October 26, and it would probably come in the form of a list of confirmed developers, and possibly the titles those developers are working on. If Microsoft can come out and say, “hey look! We’ve got everyone they’ve got developing for us, and these developers are gonna be making these games for you to play,” then those people who haven’t ordered their PS2 for whatever reason are going to take notice. After all, why buy a PS2 to play Tomb Raider now when we can play a better version on the Xbox in a few months?
The decision to not announce launch titles is also a particularly poor one because of the event that Sony chose to announce the PS2 launch details — E3. E3 is all about playing games, and if Sony was able to say, “these titles are going to be definitely ready for launch, and, guess what? You can play them here today,” then the hype generated would have been incredible. Game journalists would have jumped at the chance to play launch titles and report their impressions. The free publicity would have been amazing.