Sony Screws Consumers. Consumers Take It Like Champs

The big to-do about Lik-Sang having to close shop due to multiple lawsuits has been going on for long enough to the point where it’s no longer news; opinions have been stated and re-stated enough to the point where lines of demarcation have been firmly drawn; one side is the gamers hysterically stating that Sony is officially the devil, and that they’ll never buy another Sony product, and that their CEO kills and eats Jewish babies. On the other are Sony fanboys, Capitalists, and various psychotics stating that Lik-Sang sucked, f*ck them, Sony’s entitled to their rights, good for them, may they continue in the name of money forever. Both sides are equally hysterical, and naturally… neither side seemed to have been able to look into the near future.

When it happened, I said to people “just wait; this is just the start. They took out Lik-Sang in order to send a message to the other importers”. And sure enough, the head of Lik-Sang on the gate of system importing got the message across to the others. Yesasia quickly pulled PS3 and PSP support to the EU and UK, and on Monday, it was reported that Play-Asia has followed suit.

In other words, the ploy – which, for those of you that haven’t been paying attention, was to sue Lik-Sang from just about every country in the European Union and the United Kingdom, meaning multiple lawsuits for the same things, and stating that the reasoning is to protect consumers due to the voltage differences between Europe and other regions – worked. If it was meant to truly protect their rights and punish everyone that’s violated their rules, then why didn’t they go after the other importers? Easy: because they knew that a large-scale attack on one company would wake everyone else up, and get them to pull their stuff off of their own sites without Sony having to do anything else. Sony wants total control of their product, so that they can control the price, due to that, the price can go up, and they did this in the best way possible; pick on the smaller of the three importers, make them go up in flames, and scare everyone else off. It was a brilliant – if cutthroat – move.

Normally, this would make me disgusted for a day or so, and then I’d go back to my life; in reality, it’s not much different from what Nintendo did when they were on top of the videogame world. For those of you too young or not well enough educated about this facet of gaming history, let me give a brief history lesson, anyone knowledgeable enough about this subject, just skip the next two paragraphs.

The Video Game Crash of 1984 was caused in large part to the lack of control that Atari had over the products that were being released for it’s system; since the primitive lockout technology was all with parts that you could buy at Radio Shack, there was no copyright, and therefore, anyone could make games for the system… and, with home videogames being viewed as a “fad” to be cashed-in on, that they did; most of you have likely heard of games made by companies like Ralston-Purina to advertise their dog-food. With no way to stop games from being made, there was no quality control, and the market got flooded with so many terrible games that no one wanted to buy them; they didn’t have the publications back then that we have now to tell them what was good and what wasn’t (what few there were stooged to game makers to keep their advertising), so they got so sick of buying shitty games that they turned against the market altogther, completely shutting it out as everyone tried to unload their stock. That effectively killed the home market.

Nintendo fixed this – to their advantage – with the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System. They incorporated into their system an authorization chip which had to match to an identical chip in the game itself; naturally, control of said chips was Nintendo’s exclusively. In order to be authorized to be a third party developer for Nintendo, said company had to pay a very high licensing fee, and sign an exclusivity deal stating that said company could develop only for Nintendo, all games had to be tested and maunfactured on Nintendo’s premesis, and companies could only develop five games per year. To go along with this, this allowed Nintendo to control the price of the games, a practise which is technically illegal in the United States. Also, though these practises helped keep the overall quality of games up (though there were some legitimate stinkers; a good portion of games made by Acclaim and LJN are considered on “worst ever” lists), Nintendo would end up abusing them, creating intentional hardware shortages to drive up artificial demand for their games (the most notable of these probably being Zelda II: The Adventure of Link). This hurt everyone involved except Nintendo; players were fighting to get the games that were out there (and in the 80s, eBay was just a glimmer in Pierre Omidyar’s eye), and retail outlets were having their profit margins hurt by lack of stock.

(End history lesson)

The parallel between Nintendo in the 80s and 90s is that Sony, like Nintendo, is doing everything they can to control every aspect of their business. It’s just as shitty, speaking from a business ethics standpoint, as it was back in the day. The biggest technical difference now, however, is that due to increased competition, Sony can never hope to achieve that level of control, nor can any other company, including Nintendo itself. So therefore, Sony – a company larger than Nintendo, therefore with more capital – can go to greater means. Hence, their sinking of an entire business to make a point.

Furthermore, Sony isn’t limited to videogames in a lot of ways, not only with their products, but the way they treat their consumers. THAT is where the big problem is; this isn’t exclusive to the videogame market, nor is it new. Let me give a review for anyone that might or might not know what I’m talking about:

– Reports started surfacing months ago about laptop batteries literally blowing up, primarilly in Dell laptops. Dell uses Sony laptops. Only when more stories were released with similar tales than could be ignored did Sony finally instigate a recall, and only when it showed that just about everything that was going boom was made by Sony. By the way, these are for batteries released between 2004 and July of 2006. Thankfully, the recall has seriously affected Sony’s profits. But I’m wondering how they’re going to make everyone else pay for this.

– An article written by Mark Russinovic of Sysinternals reported that a music CD released by Sony BMG installed – without consent, and without him knowing until he randomly scanned for it – a rootkit as the DRM on said CD. The rootkit – a technique used in malware – had no uninstaller, integrated itself deep into the operating system’s kernel, loaded in Safe Mode, had access permissions only allowing the Local Admin account to delete it, and wasn’t mentioned in the EULA. Furthremore, should a poorly written piece of shit like this f*ck your system up, there was no support from Sony. This software compromised security and performance on computers, all in the name of copy protection, and protecting their profit margins. Furthermore, after claiming that it wasn’t a problem, they released a fix that was hard to get, and actively installed spyware on your system; one problem solved (poorly, the patch was almost ineffectual), another one created. Responding to all of this, one executive – Thomas Hesse – literally said, and I’m QUOTING, “Most people I think don’t even know what a rootkit is, so why should they care about it?” (NPR). Let me translate that for those of you that are a little slow: we installed something without permission on your computer that could crash Windows (since you can’t install the player on Linux), you can’t get rid of it without our uninstaller, which installs spyware on your system, and you’ll take it because you’re too stupid to know”. Does that make more sense?

– This one actually came out while I was writing this article! According to Joystiq, Sony is one of the companies being investigated for price-fixing on SRAM sales. That means that Sony was part of a coalition that all agreed to artificially raise the price of Static Random Access Memory, which is used in the PS3 to better manage what I’d assume is a fairly large cache (as SRAM doesn’t have to be electrically refreshed, unlike DRAM). This is called collusion, and this is – you guessed it – illegal. Let’s see if Alberto Gonzales goes after Sony as hard as he goes after those dirty terrorists pirates.

– Another executive of Sony said that they specifically left in provisions to allow the price of games on the PS3 to go up to as much as $100. Each. He specifically said that if prices were to go up that high, not to “ding” him. And you people buy this shit?

– Going back to the PS2 now, when they released the hard drive for their system, they absolutely refused to open it up to the #1 reason anyone would buy a PS2 hard drive: saving games. Their reasoning? They wanted people to keep using the memory cards, at $35 a pop. If someone can find a quote proving otherwise, post it, but good luck. And this is personal experience, but I’ve been through THREE PS2 systems; three have broken, including a new “slim”. Guess how many Nintendo and Sega systems have broken on me.

Now, with all this shit happening, all this bad publicity going on – and Sony’s absolute refusal to accept responsibility until even a monkey on acid can see that there’s a problem – you’d think that people would run screaming from Sony products, or at least anything involving a CPU, right?

Wrong. And this is a problem that’s caused by everyone reading this, and even the person writing this article. We buy this shit. And when the PS3 comes out, most of you reading this – the same people that scream and cry about how much Sony sucks, and they’re f*cking Europe, and everything else – will buy a PS3 due to the demand that their lack of systems has created. You will buy the systems, you will buy the games, and with your wallets, you will say, loud and clear, that you are for sale, and you will submit to anything these companies want to do to you. In response to my article about Battlefield: 2142, one of our own writers said that he didn’t care about EA’s spyware, because he was too busy “making punk bitches suck it down”. My point at the time was that he was giving EA carte blanche to make even more obstrusive policies as they saw fit.

Well, that’s what everyone is about to do. There’s one solution to this, and I know it’s hard for all the gamers to hear, but hear me out:

Don’t buy the PS3. Don’t buy the games.

That’s it. It’s as simple as that. Ignore it. This is going to be an incredible generation, with the $250 Wii, and even the $400 360 on the markets with great games coming out for both. Furthermore, even Microsoft doesn’t have Sony’s shitty record lately (which is saying a lot). Tell Sony that you do not approve of them ending the livelihood of an entire company, nor do you approve of anything else they’ve done to f*ck YOU over for the past few years. Tell them that even if they have great games, like White Knight, that the 360 and Wii also have great games to go around. Hit them where it hurts: their profit margin.

Personally, I think that’s a bit much to ask. Gamers haven’t proven themselves smart lately. They buy purchase options that used to be included in the games in the past in the form of microtransactions, they pay more and more for systems, and more and more for games that seemingly do less and less. Gamers talk a big game, but they don’t back it up; they always have to have new, bigger, better. Powerful game systems and the games that come out for them are a drug, and every game company is willing to help facilitate the addiction; Sony just happens to be more aggressive in the sale. After all the complaining by gamers, I’m willing to bet the PS3 still sells for $1,000 on eBay, and games like Gran Turismo sell big, despite coming with absolutely NOTHING available in the game. If you think about it in a roundabout way, gamers – and their support for Sony – have given the company the power to take out Lik-Sang, and therefore castrate Yesasia and Play-Asia. Sony killed Lik-Sang, but gamers provided the knife.

Now, all you PS2 owners, it is not reasonable to start selling your PS2, and claiming cold-turkey; I realise that’s unreasonable, as you have sunk a lot of money into the system; I’m one of you. Plus, if you tried to sell everything, you wouldn’t make back enough money; the games and system are too old, and precious few games are truly worth top dollar nowadays. We can’t do any damage with the “current” generation. But we can do some SERIOUS damage THIS generation.

Nintendo’s practises and arrogance in the 80s and 90s eventually backlashed against them; they alienated a lot of their old developers, who started making more and more games for the rival Genesis, and even ended up pissing off their co-developers of a CD add-on for the Super Famicom/Super Nintendo: two companies by the name of Phillips, the makers of the CD-i, and a company called… Sony. That was what resulted in the release of the original Playstation. Now, Nintendo is comfortably third in a field of three in the console gaming market; in a football league, they’d be relegated.

All I can hope is that we’re collectively smart enough to make Sony feel the same pain this time around. Even if we have to give the advantage to Microsoft.

And if, after all this, you still want to support Sony? Then you’re a fool, and you deserve what you get.