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The Customer Is Always (Allowed to Be) Right

Feature; Dec. 13, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Tyrone M. Cato
Subtypes: Opinion

There’s a point at which a company’s actions come across backward and anti-consumer, even by modern-day corporate standards. But, beneath all the seemingly underhanded, shady business tactics, there have to be reasons. Whether those reasons are good is subjective, yet they will at least be understandable.

Sony

Sony has made changes in various aspects of its business model since the PlayStation 3’s release, including (but not limited to) the removal of backward compatibility in the PS3 (the PS3 can no longer run PS1 or PS2 games), the deactivation of OtherOS (a feature that allowed outside operation systems to be used on the console such as Linux), the lowering of the limit of profile sharing (how many consoles you can have your profile tied to) from five consoles to two, and most recently, the decision to require ($30 to $120) memory cards on the upcoming PlayStation Vita handheld console.

At face value, all of the above seems to hurt the consumer. There are fewer options than before, fewer features, and fewer reasons to purchase a PS3 over a competing console.

A lot of gamers are crying foul over Sony’s decisions, with good reason. Each of these changes has cut a function of the PS3 that may have been a selling point to a consumer out there somewhere. Considering there are more than 3,000 released games for PS1 and 2, there are plenty of people who would like to play those titles all on one console. The PlayStation Classics collection features PS1 and 2 games downloadable through PlayStation Network (PSN). Sony only stands to convince some who already own physical copies of these games to repurchase them on PSN. Are they making enough money from those sales to warrant terminating such a feature?

A few of those terminations have caught attention, a lot of it negative if comments from video gaming discussion forums are anything to go by.

What should be taken into consideration is Sony’s reasoning when it comes to all of these decisions. Sony isn’t considered a charity; its entire goal is to make money.

PlayStation Network

On Sept. 15, 2011, Sony changed its terms of service (ToS) for the PS3. If users decided to download the firmware update issued that day, they had to agree to Sony’s “Class Action Exemption Clause,” which stated users would be given access to PSN so long as they agreed never to file a class action lawsuit against Sony.

At first glance, this may seem ridiculous. The prospect of telling people they must forfeit being able to join in on a class action lawsuit in the instance that Sony messes up in a big way (such as the millions of PSN accounts whose information was compromised back in April) comes across as shady.

But Sony came close to being hit by a class action lawsuit after the 24-day PSN outage following the information breach. If the company were sued by those millions of people all at once rather than through an alternative dispute resolution, it'd be spending a lot of money in court. If the company did lose, most of that money would go to lawyers rather than customers who were wronged (they'd each get less than a dollar apiece). This ToS change cuts down on legal expenses all around.

Again, Sony is a company whose goal is to generate revenue. If it makes a decision, it’s because higher-ups saw a chance to make money from that decision. If Sony implements a feature in one of its products, it could be fun for customers. Ultimately, though, that feature was designed to be fun so as to get more customers, in turn netting Sony more cash. Like any other game corporation, it will charge as much as people will pay.

It’s understandable for some Sony fans to feel betrayed or wronged by some of these decisions, yet Sony doesn’t want to hurt anyone. In fact, it has no direct emotional attachment to its customers, and those customers need to keep that in mind. Rather than take these money-saving, lawsuit-resisting methods personally, the customers should simply not support Sony monetarily when unfavorable decisions are made.

Companies create a product for consumers in order to make a profit. The only language they talk in is “money.” If a customer wants to get a company’s attention, they must learn how best to speak -- through their wallets.

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