Thursday, October 26, 2006

Sony and the mystery of the ill-gotten PSPs

It may be argued that my hard-won bitterness and cynicism are unappealing traits. I dare not try to argue the point. I would, however, like to point out that bitterness and cynicism can and do have their uses. The former provides for the piquant taste and digestibility of several varieties of Italian aperitivo liqueurs, and the latter hones one's appreciation for the fishiness of statements pedalled by game industry PR professionals.

You no doubt have already heard the news about Sony bleeding Lik-Sang dry with lawsuits as punishment for the public service they have provided over the years for neglected European, Australian and various other nationalities of gamers.

(Noting my use of the phrase "public service" with concern, you are perhaps tempted to enquire whether I have put too fine a point on it. But then I will draw your attention to the following two facts, cleverly juxtaposed,

  1. PSP launch, Japan:
    December 2004
  2. PSP launch, Australia:
    September 2005

and you will quietly slip back into a state of polite attentiveness.)

One would be hard pressed to meet a non-Japanese gamer who has not purchased games and hardware online from Lik Sang, the Hong Kong export/import business. Certainly, Lik-Sang has been a valuable resource for game industry workers, who have a professional need to quickly acquire and familiarise themselves with consumer game technology. Sony employees are no exception, it would seem:

From a statement from Lik-Sang, quoted by Kotaku:

The list of PSP related Sony Europe orders reads like the who's who of the videogames industry, and includes Ray Maguire (Managing Director, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd), Alan Duncan (UK Marketing Director, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd), Chris Sorrell (Creative Director, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Ltd), Rob Parkin (Development Director, Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Limited), just to name a few.

Sony responds thus:

The purchasing of PSP consoles by SCE employees would be for investigatory purposes.
- Sony quoted by

I'll translate this to mean:
"While we have yet to confirm the motivations of SCEE staff who ordered pre-launch PSP handhelds and games for themselves online, we can assure you that purchasing activity of this nature would have been purely for investigatory purposes. (Naturally, the imported products in question would have have been tagged as evidence and safely secured in SCEE lock boxes until after the European launch date.)
The fact that so many of our employees took it upon themselves to conduct concurrent investigations of this kind, cleverly posing as "customers" of Lik-Sang, is simply testament to a healthy corporate culture that fosters loyalty and initiative. "

It does so remind one of the vicar who was once found having an investigatory lap-dance at a girly bar, doesn't it.

Nevertheless, if I were a Jane Shmoe average member of the public I’d believe Sony without question. I’d reason that it is ludicrous for Lik-Sang to suggest that these SCEE (Sony Europe) execs went to a third party vendor to buy their personal PSPs from Japan ahead of the European ship date. After all, these guys work for Sony. They’d obviously be able to get their PSPs directly and promptly from the Japanese Sony mothership, right?

Call me a Negative Nelly, but I suspect that this would not have been the case at all. I am fairly convinced that the fastest, most efficient way for SCEE people to have gotten their own personal PSPs, “just two days after Japan's official release”, would have indeed been to order them online from Lik-Sang.

Allow me to explain the basis of my suspicions in the following rhetorical fashion:

1) How often have you, as a developer, been given your "free" copy of the game you worked on not only not ahead of the game’s release date, but weeks or even months after it appears in your local games store? How many times has the publisher taken so long to deliver said copies that the development producer has to stem full-scale team revolt by going down the road to EB and buying out all their stock?

2) Have you ever had to deal with SCEE developer support? Have you ever gotten the impression that they have little or no contact with their Japanese counterparts and that what goes on at SCE Japan is a kind of voodoo to them?

3) Have you ever worked for a division of a multi-national game publisher where the term “internal company divisions” is an unfortunate double entendre?

My apologies for any offence caused to my friends who are current and former Sony employees, but do you really believe SCEE are telling the truth about this?

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At 4:04 pm, Anonymous Grover said...

Conspiracies aside, Sony is just big. Too damn big, and one hand simply doesn't talk to the other.

What I find more hilarious is Lik-Sang blaming their demise on Sony when Sony happily incurred all the court costs, did not summons Lik-Sang to cover cost.

Lik-Sang is a retailer that makes money from profiteering by buying cheap in one place and selling higher in another - I know this from experience with importing PSP's to Aus.

Sonys response, is simply that of the head that doesn't know what the hands are doing - and no they haven't gone and tracked down all the people that bought from Lik-Sang - talk about a little melodramatic eh?

...when will the Sony hating stop this year, i wonder..

At 10:16 am, Blogger Kipper said...

yeah, lik-sang don't deserve a too much handwringing - after all they were only canny outfit taking advantage of an unfortunate situation.

However, Sony needs to sort out the market anomoly they've created, not play whack-a-mole with every middle-man that comes along to profit from it.


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