Thoughts on Sony: A Retrospective


I don’t really have a favorite game system these days.  I own quite a few, gained by patiently working and saving money.  If you could ask my younger self, however, he would have said that his favorite system was the PSOne, hands down.  His loyalty to Sony didn’t change in the early days of the PS2.  Of course, he didn’t know then what I know now.

When I was a kid, I owned a little Sony boom-box.  It was the same model as this one, though was a dark grey where this one is a light blue.  It wasn’t really a top-of-the-line model, but it did the job, and did it well.  It played cassette tapes and had clear enough A.M./F.M. radio thanks to a humongous antenna.  The main thing I remember is that it was built like a brick.

Being a youngster, I wasn’t quite co-ordinated, and that aside accidents happen.  That thing had been dropped, knocked around, and more.  What really sticks out is one time it dropped about three, three and a half feet—onto cement.  Try that with any electronic product these days.  I dare you.  Though perhaps needless to say I’ll say it anyway—the thing survived the fall.  Beautifully, too.  I still own it, to this day.  I wouldn’t trust it with a cassette tape, but it it still picks up radio waves just fine.  One speaker is a little warble-y, but that’s forgivable since the thing is only about five to seven years younger than I am.  I know I don’t work quite as well as I used to, after all my bangs and drops.

Set-up complete, let me say that that boom box, even as a youngster, made me a fan of Sony.  You just don’t get a better recommendation for a company than their product to survive two decades, after going through things that would utterly destroy most modern products.  As a gamer, that loyalty led me to the PSOne, then known as the PSX.

What helped was that the list of titles is enormous.  The number of titles for the Dreamcast was impressive, but not quite as large.  Consider, also, that Sony had gotten a good few developers to sign exclusivity contracts (a practice they would continue to a larger degree in the PS2 era), so many titles were only available on the PSX.  Out of all of the systems available at the time, the PlayStation had the titles and it came out at a decent price.

That’s not to say that the PlayStation was the only C.D.-based console out there with decent titles.  As I said over a week ago, the only really important part in gaming consoles is which console has the titles you like, and for me, at that time, it was the PlayStation.  The Genesis had a lot of titles I liked, too, but the PlayStation’s C.D.-based technology meant that developers could make their games larger and more expansive.  The first few years of the system saw many innovations, alternate takes on gaming ideas, and a few simply odd-ball games.

These days, I’m no longer a Sony fan-boy.  Really, I’m not a “fan-boy” for any console maker.  What caused my “fall”, as it were, from Sony was—well, basically the last ten years as a whole.

Recently, there were still lawsuits being filed over the whole Linux debacle.  If you aren’t aware, when the PS3 launched you could install any operating system you wanted.  A lot of people installed, or wanted to install, Linux.  Sony eventually believed this was a bad decision, so took out the ability to switch O.S.es via patch and if you didn’t patch your console, you couldn’t play games on-line.

Earlier in the last decade, there was the rootkit scandal that seemed like it would never end.  When you bought a Sony music C.D. and played it in your computer, a program installed itself and didn’t tell you about it.  It basically monitored everything you did.  Naturally, people threw a fit over this, so Sony came out with a program that would uninstall it—only it didn’t really work.  It also opened a few doors to let users’ computers be attacked by virii.  It got so bad the Department of Homeland Security of all things got involved, saying, in the vernacular, to step the eff off.

Most recently, there was the Sony versus Hotz debacle.  Essentially, a young man by the name of George Hotz figured out how to jailbreak the PS3 so it can run Linux again.  Sony—didn’t like that one, and sued the ever-loving heck out of him.  That’s not all, however—thanks to Sony’s legal beagles working hard at earning their pay, Sony now probably knows everything about you.  If you’ve ever went to Hotz’s site, if you’ve Googled him, watched certain YouTube videos—your information now belongs to Sony.  It got so bad, the infamous e-terrorist group Anonymous got involved.  And they’re still not done.

I could go on, really.  Heck, just Googling the terms “Sony” and “debacle” gives you enough to read for weeks.  I remember, around the time the rootkit fiasco was winding down, digging out my little boom box and wondering what happened to Sony.  In my youth, if you had to contact them because of an issue, they bent over backwards to accommodate you.  Now, they give you the run-around over their credit card.

I’m sure other companies have gone through similar.  I’d be shocked if such weren’t true.  However, as a youngster, I wasn’t a Nintendo or Microsoft fan-boy, so I didn’t really hear about quite as many scandals and such.  Every company has its good times and bad; times when they serve the public trust, times when they seem to be grinding that trust beneath their heel.

I think that’s one of the things that gamers deal with growing up.  As a kid, especially if you have a favorite console company, you think “your” company can do no wrong.  Every game that appears is fantastic, every peripheral is a must-have.  Then, somewhere along the line you realize that they’re a business, like every other business out there.  When you realize that—that no matter what they say in their commercials, they’re a business and as such are concerned solely with the bottom line—you pass a milestone in your gaming life.  One you can’t race back by, no matter how much you might like to.

I can’t say a PS3 (or PS4, for that matter) is really high on my list of must-haves.  Then again, neither is the X-Box 360 or the Wii.  That’s not because I’m still devoted to Sony; rather, money’s the main issue, and I’m genuinely happy with the games that have already come out (that they’re still making games for the PS2—with a Madden N.F.L. game being perhaps the last, interestingly enough—helps).

All of that said—a part of me remembers those days, and sometimes I’ll still look at that old, battered, dented, scuffed boom box that, against all odds, still works.  It’s been put through the wringer, but refuses to give up.  It was a solid product, one made to last and work, by cracky.  I’ll look at it, and for a moment the latest Sony scandal will be forgotten.

We can’t go back, but sometimes it’s nice to remember.

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