You got it good
You don't know how good you've got it
You got it easy
Each and every day
So goes an old song...
Lamentably, those few sentences portray perfectly how we on the old continent feel about the state of the games industry in Northern America. While we have to endure delay after delay for most things relating to video gaming, the U.S. – despite being a similar-sized market – gets almost everything faster and cheaper then we do here in Euro Land.
Lately however, the trend seemed to be changing. A near-simultaneous worldwide launch for the Xbox 360 and promises for simultaneous worldwide launches for the Nintendo Wii and Sony's PS3 juggernaut seemed to indicate that hardware manufacturers had finally started to recognize the growing importance of the worlds second largest video game market. Finally, it appeared that we would no longer be getting the short end of the stick when it came to new hardware.
An obvious indication of this apparent trend could be seen this summer, as many a European gamer was seen dancing in the streets after visiting the Leipzig Games Convention, cheerful, happy and in full anticipation of a November 17th launch for the PAL version of Sony's PS3. Blissfully unaware of the bombshell Sony Computer Entertainment Europe would soon be dropped on them (and as it turns out, SCEE itself was equally unaware). With marketing and advertising campaigns having already started in Europe, the announcement this morning really came from left field. SCEE, after the Leipzig Games Convention, had not expected this, nor had retail and general consumers expected another delay after Sony Japan's assurances that everything was on track for a big worldwide rollout of the PS3 hardware. Unsurprisingly, everyone was ill-prepared for this delay. Stores, under permission from Sony, had already started official pre-order programs for the PS3, point-of-sale materials had been delivered to stores advertising the November 17th launch date, and SCEE kicked of its "THIS IS LIVING PS3" marketing campaign. After such a large effort by all people involved in selling and even buying the PS3, what went wrong?
The answer to that seems to be one that is out of SCEE's hands and also puts Europe at the bottom of the food chain. When we were in Leipzig, we asked SCEE representatives from the UK, as well as Germany, what would happen if Sony of Japan could not meet its estimates and would be forced to launch with fewer machines then first anticipated.
The reply we got every time we asked was the same: Europe is the largest market for Sony, the machine will not be delayed, and the worst case scenario would be a lower allocation of machines spread out evenly between Japan, the US and off course, Europe. However, the signs of what was to come were already there at Leipzig, such reports that the PS3 still had not gone into mass production and a sudden and severe worldwide shortage of blue laser diodes (needed to read the Blu-Ray discs) contradicted the confirmations we had just received that Sony was on track for a big worldwide rollout of its new anticipated hardware.
Then today, reality caught up to what most of us had chosen to believe.