View Full Version : Why the DS will Win!

December 29th, 2004, 10:12 PM
This is an article, posted in another forum. Its from awhile back, but the points still hold true:

Why the DS Will Win

by: Casey Ayers
Disclaimer: Note that the views expressed in this article are solely the opinions of the author, and in no way reflect the official positions of DSAdvanced or the Advanced Media Network.

Why The DS Will Win

Were a little less than a month out from the launch of the Nintendo Dual-Screen. The launch of the Playstation Portable in the United States remains at least four months away. Im going to make the projection already that the DS will win- not by a few market share points, not even sizably. It will be a crushing defeat, and here I shall do my best to explain why. Some reasons you may have heard before elsewhere, others I like to think are newer or more original to myself in past editorials. All of these, however, are integral points as to why the PSP will lose direly.


Ive got to say, this may be the single most important reason why the PSP will fail where the DS will succeed. I was personally confused after the Nintendo Gamers Summit at which the DSs price was unveiled- I thought it was $179. I thought this price was incredibly low, accounting for the fact that two software titles are included. I was astounded when I found out that I had overpriced the system by another thirty dollars. $149 is a trivial price for the overall package- merely the launch price of the Game Boy Advance. Think about this- you get the ARM7 and one of the screens, essentially the GBA hardware, for $75. You only get another screen and the graphical power of an N64 included for the other $75. Really, if you think about the sheer amount of hardware included, the price is a steal- substitute in whatever other variables for those numbers you like, perhaps $50/$99, and it may seem like an even better deal to you. Why does it seem to me that even at this low price point, Nintendo has found a way to make money on the system right out of the gate, or they plan to lose a trivial amount offset by one or two game sales?

The PSP, however, finds itself in a very tight spot on this issue. I have been told that Sony had a press conference scheduled for the same day as Nintendos Gamers Summit regarding the PSP, and possibly a price point. This conference was allegedly cancelled shortly after the initial batch of data- including price point, the bonus software, and release date of the DS- was announced from Redmond. Like I say, I dont personally have hard proof of this, but it wouldnt surprise me in the least if this were the case. Why would Sony do this? Theyre running away from their impending financial train-wreck, the PSP. This is even more true following the release of their price information. At the price of $185, Sony is frankly out of their da*n minds.

For the purposes of calculation, Ill figure that the PSP costs Sony $320 per unit to manufacture- a conservative estimate. Now, figure in the costs for deployment and then what the wholesale cost is to retailers- well say its fairly high, around $165. So, Sony recoups $165 per console. This is a $155 dollar loss per unit. Think about it this way: if Sony comes even close to their sales projections- say three million units are sold within the first year, Sony will have lost almost half a BILLION dollars. Frankly, this is financial suicide the likes of which have NEVER been seen in the industry. Not even Microsoft went this far- they only lost at most $100 per system near launch, and that number has gone down over time. The most expensive parts in the PSP, the screen and battery, will not go down in price over time as more are produced (for Microsoft, the processor and graphics chip costs, as well as the hard drive cost, went down over time.) In fact, theres evidence that the price of the LCD may even go up, as theres a shortage of the materials needed to make them right now.

All of this leaves Sony in a constant tailspin financially- a loss they cant afford to make up through other product lines. If you take a close look at Sonys financials, theyve been hemorrhaging money on their Trinitron and Wega TV lines for some time now, and recently had to discontinue their Cli line of PDAs due to lack of profitability. The new Walkman is being trounced by the iPod. Their music store is sagging in the face of iTunes, due mainly to very restrictive rights and Sonys asinine insistence on converting all MP3s to their standard format (to be fair, it seems this may change for future iterations). You know whats sustained Sony financially for the past two or three years? The Playstation 2. As that console ages and the market simply gets saturated, Sonys profitable standby is beginning to fade. The PS3 wont hit the market for another two years at least, leaving the PSP to bring in much needed cash. Losing five hundred million dollars by your own projections in the first year worldwide doesnt exactly accomplish this.

Shareholders simply wont stand for financial indiscretion of this magnitude. As the analyst reports come out, favoring Nintendo if only for their stranglehold of this Christmas, they will begin to criticize Sonys outlook on sales. To combat this, Sony needs to woo the analysts quickly- todays launch lineup, though numerous, only has two or three big-hitting titles. They need to fix this for the US release; table-top and puzzler games wont suffice. Assuming negative analysis begins to emerge, combined with the prospect of losing money, it will be made to seem theyve lost the war before it began. This is not a winning strategy. Either Sonys accountants know of arithmetic magic far past my level of comprehension, or they think theyve got one he*l of an Investors Relations team. Of course, Ive not even accounted for the money involved in marketing the product- add a couple tens of million of dollars to the overall launch/sustain costs there.

This type of money crunch is clearly unacceptable to all involved. So, Sony is only left with one option- coercing developers. Expect the royalty and manufacturing fees to be astronomical on the PSP. Sony will most likely force PS2 developers to release games for the PSP in order to continue releasing PS2 games- much like Nintendo did to Square-Enix with Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles, except in reversse. At its new $185 price point, Sony will undoubtedly sell a sizable number of PSPs at launch, giving them the chance to poke the developers in the eye. My way or the highway, buddy will be the mantra. And in this decision, I think that you may see developers choose the highway; remember that this kind of strategy is what lost Nintendo its home-console crown. Clearly from the simple business standpoint, Sony is grasping for straws that dont exist, preferring to weave themselves in a web of financial deception than cede the day to Nintendo.

Ive seen the videos of the DS in action, side by side with videos of the PSP. The PSP is admittedly very impressive in its graphical prowess- but thats its downfall. This is crazy, you say- let me clarify: the graphics wont kill the system, but the side effects will. Three major side effects will plague the PSP:

1) Battery Life

First and foremost, the battery life of the PSP is despicable. There, I said it. Its not Sonys fault, understand- there isnt battery technology with the capacity, stamina, voltage output, size, and right price point for the PSP anywhere in the world, and it wont be another ten years until there is. The best hope for Sony are the new supercapacitors being developed by Honeywell- essentially batteries that can fully charge in seconds, rather than hours or at best minutes. Next to that, some sort of photovoltaic solar cells that could be used as the PSPs casing would be preferred. Itd be nice to use fuel cells, but theyre too expensive, big, and have the tendency to explode. Now I know this all sounds funny to you, but Im serious (relatively)- a portable system isnt portable if its battery lasts two hours. I can hear some of you now: Sony claims itll have up to three to six hours of on-time, though!. Sure, maybe if the systems on standby, with the screen off, and no disc in, the wireless disabled, and you dont hit any buttons.

The battery-use of keeping the UMDs spinning, in addition to the high-power, high-range WiFi, added to keeping that really awesome screen going is incredible. If a developer does a bang-up job with dumping disc information into memory and letting the discs spin down, you can probably add an hour or two- but its still not even close to enough.
I dont know how Nintendo managed to keep the battery life so high with the DS, considering the fact that its running two backlit screens- I believe this is truly telling of just how damaging disc-use is to battery life. Even from Nintendo, however, Im slightly skeptical of these numbers- Im almost positive the 8-10 hours predicted refer to using the system without wireless use. However, even here Nintendo has an advantage- their proprietary wireless system for short-range linkups is very similar to Bluetooth, in data speeds, frequency, and low-power consumption. So yes, WiFi will tend to cannibalize your battery life, but youll be using the proprietary wireless far more with the DS, methinks.

2) Development Issues

Developer interest is another big issue where the DS edges out the PSP. The DS, Nintendo claims, stands for Developers System as much as it stands for Dual-Screen. Well, well see if thats the case, but already were seeing promising signs. For one, if you ask developers about the DS, almost all of the quality studios seem genuinely excited to see what they can do with the system. Nintendo has truly provided developers with a funbox of tools- touch screen, two screens, wireless, dual cartridge use, 3D/2D graphics, etc. Not many developers will utilize all of these tools, but almost all of them will utilize at least one. Frankly, theyre all grand gimmicks- but people love gimmicks, and if the gimmicks make the games more fun, Im all for it. After all, the analog stick, rumble pak, and transfer pak were all gimmicks in their day, were they not?

However, Nintendo faces a double-edged sword in that developers will never be able to merely make a port of a PSP game for the DS- any ports would have to be so heavily reworked that theyd basically be new games. Assuming the DS grabs the lions share of the market, this is great news, as it will serve to further choke off the PSP. However, if the PSP somehow makes a sizable impact, this could come back to haunt Nintendo. Of course, Ive not touched on perhaps the most important element- portable developers have used Nintendos development kits for years. I assume that Nintendo has made sure development tools are similar to the GBAs in many ways, and this will make it much easier for developers to adapt to the new system.

Sony has made the argument that the PSP is easy to develop for, as well. From what I can tell, their idea of easy is making PSP development as similar to the PS2 as possible. Dont get me wrong- this definitely has advantages. Developers have been pumping out games for the PS2 for years now. This doesnt mean that its easy, though- the PS2 is the most difficult of the current systems to develop for, especially now that Microsoft has developed XNA. What Sony really means is that development will be easier for those with experience on the PS2. Where does this leave developers? Well, they have two choices- they can take their portable-system developers and waste valuable time training them on PS2 intricacies, or they can take their PS2 teams and shift their focus to PSP. This has multiple repercussions. If they choose to retrain their portable teams, this wastes both time and money. If they shift their PS2 teams to the PSP, either the amount of PS2 titles will decrease, or the systems will forever be caught in a synergetic deadlock of simultaneous releases of the same title. Sony has already said this wont be acceptable, leaving developers in a financial sticky spot.

In addition to this simple case for developer interest is developer cost. Did you know that it costs less for developers to manufacture DS titles than GBA titles now? This is including a recent drop in Nintendos GBA surcharges, too. Nintendos cutting Sonys legs out from under them on this issue- theyre realizing (for once) that they may lose a buck here to pick up five or ten later on. Sonys UMD format could potentially pose a threat in this area, as discs are much cheaper to manufacture. However, Nintendo claims that the new Game Cards are much cheaper to manufacture than traditional cartridges. This remains to be seen. Nintendos best bet is to keep their manufacturing royalties low enough to make the cost difference negligible- and make sure it stays that way, lest risk losing developer confidence, which will be unimaginably important in this race.

3) Feasibility of Gameplay
The feasibility of gameplay on the PSP is Sonys biggest issue. By this, I mean the ability for a gamer to enjoy themselves for as little as fifteen or thirty minutes at a time. So far the games weve seen for the PSP have all been incredibly impressive- Metal Gear Acid and Gran Turismo 4 are great examples. Theres a problem with these, however- theyre console games in the sense that gamers must invest a sizable amount of time each time they play to progress or have much enjoyment. This has probably been the point that Nintendo has most vocally criticized Sony on- they dont seem to understand what type of game portable gamers are looking for. I know that personally, my average game time on my SP for any given session is between 15 and 45 minutes. It may take a good five minutes of that time to fully configure and load up a race on GT4 if your as customize-savvy as me!

For those wondering why Nintendos examples of gameplay have all seemed short and sweet, theyre trying to bring this point home. Games like Wario Ware and Yoshis Touch and Go are certainly not enthralling masterpieces that will keep you involved for hours at a time. These are examples of games at their purest form- just fun little ditties that keep you entertained for short amounts of time. I think Miyamoto and Co. truly believe that portable gamers arent looking to sit down and play for hours at a time- theyre looking for maybe a half hour of entertainment on the bus ride to school or work.

Portable gamers look for a few minutes of fun waiting in a long line, in dead time between classes, or for a short while during their lunch break. Sonys newly announced offering that might seem to be aiming for this timeframe are weak indeed. Mahjongg? Board Games? Thats what cell phones are for. On this issue, Sonys got another problem- even if Im dead wrong, and the portable markets absolutely dying or the chance to sit hunched over or stand playing a portable system for hours at a time, they wont be able to do it on the PSP, because the battery will die on them.


Theres a few other points that I think are important to stress:

I cannot emphasize enough the significance I find in Sonys single weak salvo a day or so ago after months of veritable silence. This price point, while a bombshell, is by no means smart business, and I think will hurt Sony much more in the long run that it will help. They can say all day long that the DS isnt a competitor, but they know as well as anyone else that it certainly is- the typical mainstream gamer does not by multiple consoles, and they wont buy multiple portables, either, if only for the fact they simply dont have the pocket room. Sonys recent announcement affirms this point. I believe that Sony is running scared now because theyre slowly realizing some of the points Ive made previously.

Nintendo has changed. Dont believe me? Look back to the marketing campaigns of a year or two ago versus today. I think what finally woke them up is when the Gamecube did not absolutely dominate the market in 2002 when Mario, Metroid, Star Fox, Zelda, and others all hit the market within six months or so. They realized the old formula was no longer working. Wonder why we havent seen another Mario game on the Cube? Miyamoto-san also realizes its time for change. Hes spending as much time as he needs to make sure that this next iteration of our favorite plumber is as revolutionary as Mario 64. Want proof? Look at the new Zelda. If that doesnt signify a paradigm shift in the corporate culture, I dont know what does. How about the new internet marketing ploy for Metroid Prime 2? Though limited, it takes direct pot-shots at Halo 2, a move almost as suicidal as the PSPs price point in the month before Halo 2s release as the most-hyped game of the year! How about the new DS marketing campaign? Touching is good" Is this the same Nintendo behind the infamous Super Mario Sunshine Diaper commercials? I think not. I think Nintendos marketing as a whole has improved by leaps and bounds in the last few months since E3. As Nintendo supporters, we need to hope that they continue to become more sharp and innovative in their marketing- Nintendos going to need all the firepower it can get.

Most importantly, Nintendo is hiding something. Regarding the DS, somethings not quite right yet. I cant put my finger right on it, but theres something integral missing from the puzzle, something that will only be revealed in time. Id bet the farm if I had one that Nintendos hiding an extra ace, which is the only way to explain their almost brash confidence in the face of an insidious foe like Sony. Perhaps Warp Pipes Demasked is the secret being withheld, or maybe not- just know that Nintendos not only taking the DS seriously, theyre betting the entire future of their company on it. I havent seen much outside of broad philosophy thus far that could possibly connect the DS to the future of the Revolution, and yet Nintendo continues to harp this point. I promise you, somethings up. Hopefully well figure out what soon.


Sonys announcement troubled me at first. Ive done my best in this article to wipe out any fanboyistic tendencies and rather rely completely on facts and educated analysis; however, like you, when Sony made their announcement, I felt my heart drop a bit. However, I was over this within the hour. As I realized how incredibly absurd the whole idea of the PSP is, the more confident I feel. As should you. I like to think of this article as a spark-point for debate- a big assertion meant to be argued with. Agree with my platform? Disagree? Let me know, either in the readers comment box below or at the accompanying thread on the forums. In the end, all the analysis in the world doesnt matter- the fans and consumers will decide this fight. Game on.


I know Sarah and Brittany will come up with some smart aleck comments on this =P

December 29th, 2004, 10:21 PM

It was a long article, and I wanted a specific thread for it.

December 29th, 2004, 10:24 PM
Lol, she reported this? Nonsense, there is nothing provoking a flame thread here. The least people can do is analyze the info and point out false things.

December 29th, 2004, 10:25 PM
Very valid points, perhaps you could've posted them in the DS vs. PSP thread instead of making your own PJ.
I'll close this for now.