The road to XBOX ONE. Follow the journey

The third coming

The third coming
Upon entering SCE UK’s Marlborough Street headquarters just days away from the platform holder’s biggest and most important console launch ever, it’s natural to expect a scene of frenzied activity. Perhaps even a few furrowed brows and beads of sweat as March 23rd looms ever larger.

But Ray Maguire appears unconcerned with launch day logistics or last minute hiccups. There’s a palpable atmosphere of assured calm in his office – an air that seems just a little remarkable considering the kind of weight that’s on his shoulders.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do and a lot of units to move,” he begins. “We’ve had to wait and during that time they’ve been starving the US and Japan of stock because they’ve been making them for us – and that means we’ve been able to get a really good share of stock for the UK market. I would even say we’ve got a slightly disproportionate amount. At store level there was a slight sense of disbelief and it has taken some time for the message to come down from head office to store level to say we are coming good with our promise.”

And that promise is a pretty bold one: March 23rd is to be the most lucrative day the UK games industry has ever seen. “220,000 units is what I’ve been quoted as saying before and it’s what we’ve based our day one number on,” says Maguire. “We should be pretty close to that.”
Just to put this into context, in total over their launch weekends, Wii sold 105,000 units in the UK and 360 shifted around 70,000.

“Our egos want to make sure that we have the biggest launch in history and do it with the most amount of money ever being taken at retail,” he continues. “And I’m sure we’ll do that – there will be in excess of £100 million going through retailers’ tills over this weekend. That’s a huge amount of money either way you look at it. But that’s just the start.”

And it seems that, just to prove it doesn’t do things by halves, Sony is not only promising to deliver an unprecedented amount of launch stock, it has also got enough PS3s on the way to avoid a post-launch drought.

“What we have to do – and we’re trying to do – is make sure we can get enough stock coming in during the launch window to ensure that we don’t go out of stock at retail. We need to make sure we don’t have the situation where it’s great for one day and you’ve got three weeks without a single bit of stock. I think that’s a travesty. That’s where you’re getting it wrong. What we’ve got to do is make sure stock is still coming through, even on a daily basis, so that when people take their pre-orders home and show their mates, their mates can then go out and buy one.”

So this looks like being a very different kind of console launch. Plentiful stock on day one is practically unheard of – and even more unprecedented is the aim of never selling out at retail. There’s also a bumper software line-up and that controversial £425 price tag – an aspect of the machine which Maguire defends.

“Price clearly has an impact on the rate of adoption, but PS3 is half the price of a standard Blu-Ray player, so you don’t know what factors are going to take over. When we launched PS2 DVD was fairly well established, and having Blu-Ray is a great head start for anyone in a format race. For us it’s not so much of an issue as PS3 games need that 60GBs worth of data – in fact we’re already filling those discs up. That will keep us ahead of the rest as we have the ability to track more data than anything else on the market.”

Ambition seems to be a byword for Sony’s new console launch. And this sense of ambition means that the competition is not something that bothers Maguire: “I’ve got no interest whatsoever with having a race with anyone. I’ve got my business plan and it is for our business in isolation, based on what we want to do. And that’s to create a product that is fantastic for consumers and can deliver on our bottom line.”

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