With its future prospects tied to a gaming system few people can afford, and if you can afford it, even fewer people can find, you’d think Sony would be a little humble these days.
Millions of Sony batteries have been recalled, Sony got in a pile of trouble in its music division for creating digital rights management software that behaved like the worst of viruses, and Sony is more than partly to blame for the current high definition format war that has left customers confused and frustrated — and will set back the universal adoption of high-def by a few years at least.
That’s just a short list of things Sony has done wrong recently, but if the most recent Sony stories in the media are anything to go by one thing is abundantly clear — this is one company that doesn’t learn its lessons.
Let me take you back to 2001. A young movie reviewer named David Manning of Ridgefield Press pens a gushing review of A Knight’s Tale , calling Heath Ledger “this year’s hottest new star”, scorching up the big screen. One NBC reporter smelled a rat (or saw the movie) and did a little investigating. Turns out there was no David Manning, that a couple of executives made the whole thing up to ensure some good quotes to go with the movie. They did the same for Hollow Man, The Patriot, Vertical Limit and The Animal .
Sony ended up paying about $1.5 million for that hoax, at the behest of a federal judge, essentially refunding $5 each to thousands of unhappy viewers.
It was quite embarrassing for Sony, which denied knowledge of the tactic and fired the executives, and continues to deny any wrongdoing.
Did they learn a lesson? Apparently not.
According to an article at Gamespot ( www.gamespot.com ), Sony started a blog fan site called All I Want for Xmas is a PSP — never acknowledging that it was linked in any way to the company, but rather pretending to be written by an actual gamer. A contributor for the truly awesome website Something Awful ( www.somethingawful.com ) came across the site and smelled a rat. For one thing the graphic design was too pretty for a blog, and secondly it used phrases like “PSP Entertainment Pack” to describe the system, something no blogger in his “tweens” would do in a hundred years.
Even more suspicious was a rap posted by a youth named Cousin Pete on YouTube ( www.youtube.com ) praising the PSP’s features like the big screen.
Caught red-handed Sony pulled both the blog site and the videos on YouTube. Once again accepting no blame and making no apologies.
While I don’t blame Sony for trying to sell PSP’s through viral marketing — or Dell for the “Dude, you gotta get a Dell” ads. But Sony should at least have identified their own involvement for the blog and lame rap — not only because it’s soon going to be illegal in the U.S. not to, but because they already look foolish for the David Manning stunt.
For the rest of us it’s a good lesson to always be suspicious of sources, and if something sounds too good to be true it probably is.
As someone who regularly checks online for reviews — still don’t know whether to get an Xbox 360 or PS3 — the last thing I need is to come across a website that helps make up my mind for me only to find that it was planted by one company or the other.
Website of the Week — Vonage ( www.vonage.ca ). Your personal feelings on Vonage’s latest series of ads featuring the V-Phone aside — let’s just say it took me a few minutes to even notice the V-Phone in all the cleavage — it’s pretty neat technology. Like Skype (www.skype.com) and countless other Internet telephony services, Vonage is selling Voice Over IP, or the ability to make phone calls on the Internet. The Vonage advantage is that the USB connector makes it possible to access your unique phone account from any computer, anywhere in the world, and make all the free local and long distance calls you want for one monthly rate — ($20 a month for 500 minutes, $40 a month unlimited, with some restrictions — like no support for Australia, New Zealand, Japan, etc.). The ad doesn’t show the headset, but it’s still a neat concept for people who make a lot of long distance calls in Canada and the U.S.