Random Thoughts – Randocity!

Should I buy a Sony PS5?

Posted in tips, video game console, video gaming by commorancy on February 18, 2020

ds4-gamingI know that the purchase of a PlayStation 5 is a burning question on every console gamer’s mind. Let’s explore.

PS4 Launch

To help begin to answer this burning ūüĒ• question, we’ll need to take a look back at the PS4’s 2013 launch. When the PS4 was first launched, it was absolutely the most bare bones basic console imaginable. Consider that both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 already had tremendous feature sets included at that point. Taking a jump into the PS4 felt like taking a huge leap backwards in time. When the PS4 launched, there was no Hulu, no Netflix, no apps of any real note, no browser and a barely functional store with literally nothing to see. It was so disheartening to turn on my brand new “day one” PS4 console only and find it such a barren wasteland.

What was in the PS4 store was limited to but a handful of game titles which you likely already owned. While all of this “lite” aspect of the PS4 would only last for a longish period of time, many of the features that eventually became standard on the PS3 never even materialized on the PS4 (i.e. CD ripping). Additionally, some common standards we take for granted today have likewise never made it to the PS4.

Bluetooth

For example, the prevailing Bluetooth headphone profile (AVRCP) has never made it into the PS4. You simply can’t go buy a standard set of Bluetooth stereo headphones (or a speaker) and use them on a PS4 without purchasing additional add-ons. The only Bluetooth headset standard adopted by Sony for the PS4 is the backwards and unrealistic HSP standard… a standard that almost no headphones manufacturers actually support. This fact forces you into buying Sony’s expensive dongle-based wireless headphones rather than using Bluetooth headphones you likely already own.

To this day, Sony has STILL not implemented the widely used AVRCP headphone and speaker profile on the PS4. If you wish to use this standard, you must do it by connecting another costly device to a PS4 output port, such as relying on your TV’s audio system, an external amplifier connected via HDMI, the optical out port or by using dongles attached to the DualShock controller. It all ends up a kludgy hackjob that Sony could have resolved (and avoided) simply by updating their system software to support AVRCP … possibly even a fairly simple change to their operating system.

First Six Months

You may be thinking the six months that I am talking about applies to the PS5. In fact, I’m discussing the PS4’s first six months after launch. For the 12 months after the PS4’s lackluster launch, there remained a drought of not only apps, but name brand video games. In fact, applications were entirely non-existent, save a handful of Sony only apps. Only but a handful of launch titles kept the PS4 afloat for the first 9-12 months after launch. The PS4 remained a fairly barren wasteland other than for those first few launch titles.

After my first six months of owning a PS4, I ended up putting the system down and not using it for at least another 8 months before the next game arrived that I wanted to play. I literally couldn’t use the console because of the lack of applications. As I said, there was no Netflix, no Hulu and no Amazon Prime Video. These apps have since launched on the console, but it took ages before they finally arrived… and by ages, I mean at least 12-15 months. It was an exceedingly long amount of time before these apps fully arrived on the PS4.

Before these apps arrived, the PS4 became an exceedingly expensive paperweight. Literally months passed when I didn’t turn the PS4 on because I had completed playthroughs of all of the launch titles and there was literally nothing else to do with the console. I couldn’t watch TV. I couldn’t listen to music. I couldn’t rip music to the hard drive. I couldn’t even watch Netflix. It was a useless paperweight. This forced me to return to using my PS3 and Xbox 360 because at least Netflix and other apps were available there, along with some of my ripped music.

Looking Forward

Looking 9-10 months from this article’s publication date, Sony expects the PS5 will take the world by storm. In fact, I highly recommend not purchasing the first incarnation of the PS5. Why? Because you’ll end up finding yourself in the same exact boat as I did with the PS4. No apps, nothing to use it for after consuming the launch titles. It will become a heavy and expensive paperweight for those first 12 months. Sure, you can play the launch titles again, but that wears thin!

I’m near certain that Sony will have spent their time readying the hardware, not wooing developers to write apps (or even games) or in making their OS stable. When the PS5 does launch, it will be just as lean and lite as was the PS4. It’s pretty much guaranteed given Sony’s track record with new console introductions.

A year or two after launch, the PS5 will have all of the apps and alternative uses. But, for the first 12 months, it will likely be a paperweight for at least half of that time. In the PS5’s case, this problem might last even longer.

Don’t expect to be able to use the PS5 as a music device or anything similar for months. Plex, a home media sharing app, probably won’t appear until well after the 12 month mark. Even on the PS4, the Sony Media app took months to finally appear before you could even use DLNA. There was no DLNA support on the PS4 for over 6 months after launch. I’d fully expect the exact same problem with the PS5’s launch.

Considering that Sony is having trouble sourcing components for its PS5s, this situation seems to have driven up the price tag of the PS5. In fact, the first release of a new console is always the most expensive. After Sony can wrap its head around where and how it can trim component costs, how it can merge components and see the same functionality and when it can trim components not needed, it won’t be able to reduce the cost of the PS5.

Worse, the first console release is always the worst of the bunch. Within 6-12 months, Sony always releases an updated hardware version that is better than its initial release version. It’s always worth waiting to buy the second version rather than investing in a “day one” system that will have little use and be the most expensive, least useful version. If you’re a “must have every first edition”, then by all means buy it. However, if you’re buying it as a gamer for the gaming utility of the console, then it’s well worth waiting through this “awkward” phase… which lasts at least 12 months after a console’s launch.

Launch Titles

Sony always readies one major game title that seems to be “must play”, to get people enticed to buy into their new console. The difficulty is that that game is not going anywhere. Day one releases can be fun to play, but more recently they can be a chore to play considering all of the “day one” bugs.

With the PS5’s version 1.0 operating system coupled with version 1.0 versions of the launch games, you’re looking at a major amount of bugs. In fact, you’re looking at far too many bugs. It will take Sony to release the 2.0 version of the operating system before I’d feel comfortable enough to say Sony has even the smallest handle on its bugs. Even the PS4’s OS at version 7 still has bugs. With the PS5’s 1.0 OS version, you are guaranteed to have day one bugs requiring a huge day one patch.

While the operating system bugs may not be too bad at times, you have no idea what the game developers have in store for us. What that means is that these big, bold games may turn into big, bugged games. Games that they may not see bugs resolved until Sony updates their operating system. Even then, 1.01 and 1.02 won’t be great OS versions either. While a 1.5 version might be somewhat better, it’s guaranteed it still won’t be great.

Applications

In addition to all of the bugs, the PS5 isn’t likely to have very many apps at all, if any. Sony’s apps like Crackle and PlayStation’s own subscription services may be present, but apps like Spotify, Pandora, Hulu, Netflix and similar are highly likely to be absent for the first several months. This means that besides gaming and possibly playing Blu-ray movies, there’ll be very little to do with the console. This assumes they plan on releasing Blu-ray and not forcing the console all digital.

Further, apps are a huge part of all computing ecosystems today. Releasing a console without third party apps could be the death of sales for the PS5. In 2013, apps were a thing just coming into their own. Sony’s misstep in 2013 wasn’t that devastating for them. The PS4 still sold respectable numbers.

Releasing a console today without apps on day one may become the death of the console (at least for a while). I’m fairly certain that Sony is more worried about getting the console out to the door than how many third party apps will be available on Day One, just as they did with the PS4.

Buyer Beware

When buying anything, “Buyer Beware” is always the motto that rules. Sony is no exception to this rule. They are just as likely to rope you into a purchase, where you’ll find maybe one or two games that last you a month or two of play. But then what do you do with the PS5 after that? You wait until something else is released. You wait until apps are released. In short, you wait.

If you’re going to be waiting for stuff to appear, you might as well use that money for other purposes and wait without making a purchase. Buy a PS4 and use it. It already has a huge game library. It already has apps. It already has much of what the PS5 won’t have. The PS4 will remain a viable console for at least 1-2 more years even after the PS5’s release.

Wait and See

Sony could resolve all of this if the PS5 also offers a full PS4 compatibility mode. This means that all of the PS4 apps and games can work right out of the gate on the PS5. If Sony adopts this, then it may be worth replacing your PS4 with a PS5. However, I don’t trust that Sony will include such a mode. It cost Sony a huge sum of money to include PS2 and PS1 compatibility modes on the PS3. Eventually, it cost Sony so much they had to remove at least the PS2 mode from the PS3. They didn’t even bother to try to include these modes on the PS4.

It’s exceedingly doubtful Sony will spend the time, effort or money in building such costly modes on the PS5 unless they’re basing the PS5 directly off of the PS4. If it’s to be a sub-$500 product like it always has been, Sony simply can’t afford to build in such features. I simply won’t expect to see the PS3 compatibility effort placed into the PS5 when it didn’t even make it to the PS4.

However, Sony could include PS4 game disc and store compatibility features allowing play of existing PS4 games, as long as the hardware is similar enough to the PS4… and it probably is. Unfortunately, I simply wouldn’t expect to see the PS5 offer compatibility modes for the PS3, PS2 or PS1. It would be great to see, but I simply don’t expect Sony to spend the money to include it in a sub-$500 product. Even then, the PS4 compatibility mode might not be available day one. It may be a promised feature that actually arrives months after launch… or possibly not at all. Sony has changed their minds about features in the past.

Professional Console

If Sony were to price out a “Pro” version of the PS5 at around $1000 or $1500 (a price point that’s way out of line for a console product, I might add), Sony could include such “advanced” features. The problem is that few gamers will spend that amount of cash for such a product. A greater than $1000 price point is the same as an iPhone 11, an iPad Pro or even many notebook computers. A parent is going to find that price tag difficult when comparing it to much more useful and educational computer devices at or close to that price point. That’s a hard pill to swallow solely for a dedicated gaming console. Sony will have to majorly increase the PS5’s usefulness as a generalized computer device and/or portability to make a $1000 or $1500 price point ever become feasible.

As it is now and based on the how the PS4 looks and works, I expect the PS5 to have a similar form factor and function. In fact, I doubt that the PS5’s case will be smaller. It will likely be the same size or larger than the PS4. Larger doesn’t necessarily make a product better.

The PS5 might have an option for a solid state drive (512mb or 1TB) rather than spinning hard drives. But, that’s not really a selling point. It makes the PS5 boot up faster and the games launch faster, but it won’t make the PS5 any cheaper. In fact, adding a solid state drive is very likely to drive the price tag up by a minimum of $50. Knowing Sony’s pricing premiums, however, expect such features to raise the price by at least $100.

Price Point

The PS5’s price point is likely to be its biggest hurdle in adoption. Since Sony has made some waves at potentially breaking with the “tradition” of a sub-$500 price tag, that means I might expect the PS5 to see a price tag of at least $800-900. Games may even see a “standard edition” price increase to $69.99 per game (a price hike of $10 per game). This will further push the “Deluxe” and “Limited” editions of the games up by $10-20.

If Sony attempts to not only raise the console price to nearing the $1000 price point with games nearing the $75 price point, this could further erode sales of consoles… pushing game developers onto more defacto devices, such as the iPad and Samsung tablets. Tablets are far more entrenched and compatible version to version than consoles have ever been. It wouldn’t surprise me to see big developers jump ship from the PS5 and begin porting their games over to iOS and other tablets… leaving the PS5 without much in the way of game developers, much like what happened with the PS Vita.

Sony is playing a dangerous game by mucking with the console’s traditional price point, particularly considering how lean the PS5 is likely to be on day one. Sony will need to seriously consider all of this (and, of course, Microsoft’s console plays) to get this part right.

My Opinion

Considering the PS4’s excessively lean launch and the length of time with which the console was more-or-less useless, I personally endorse waiting for at least 12-18 months for a purchase of a PS5. Don’t buy it in 2020. Buy it in 2021 or after. Why? Because this will give both Sony and the developers time to launch many more game titles and mature their operating system. You can always go back and try the launch titles, but typically the launch titles are never worth playing once better games are released. In fact, the launch titles are mostly looked on as amateur efforts once those more mature games launch, which almost fully utilize the hardware.

For me, I felt entirely betrayed by Sony in 2013, releasing such a uselessly lean console. Because of being burned by Sony, I fully intend to wait until 2021 to buy into a PS5. That will give Sony well enough time to not only work out bugs, but solidify its app ecosystem, add more peripherals, build a video game library and woo developers on board. It will also give time for Spotify, Pandora, Netflix, Hulu and Amazon to embrace the platform and release solid, functional apps. Until that point is reached, for me the purchase of a PS5 is simply a waiting game.

So let’s answer the question, “Should I buy a PS5?” Yes, but not day one. Buy it only after the console has sufficiently matured.

This advice won’t stop YouTubers from buying and reviewing day one editions. They will do it because that’s what they do. That doesn’t make their console purchase smart, but it does make their purchase into channel fodder to rope you in as a viewer. Don’t be fooled by these YouTubers. Just because they bought it doesn’t mean you should.

I’ve told you what I plan to do. Now it’s time for you to sound off and tell me if you intend to wait or if you will buy a PS5 on day one! Let me know below.

‚Ü©Ôłé

Zazzle: An exercise in stupidity

Posted in best practices, botch, business by commorancy on September 29, 2013

I love the idea that Zazzle represents. ¬†Quick custom printed promotional items. ¬†The theory is that you open a store, upload an image, place it onto an item and order. You can even let other people order it. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where the idea ends.. at least with this company. ¬†Let’s explore.

What is Zazzle?

As I said, it’s basically one big short run promotional item tool. ¬†You upload your images, plop them into a garment, mug, stein, iPad case or whatever and order. The theory is that they’ll ship you the item(s) you ordered. ¬†What is reality is far different. ¬†The reason it’s far different is because this company is completely mismanaged. In fact, it appears there’s no real management driving this listing ship at all. ¬†Certainly on the surface, there appears to be the Beaver family who started up the thing that formerly was Zazzle. Now, it’s just a topsy-turvy disaster of a company that can barely even accomplish their core business offerings.

Content Management

Let’s start with the absolute most mismanaged piece of this company. The content management team. ¬†This team sits around reviewing what’s been uploaded for ‘violations’ and ‘copyright infringement’. Unfortunately, the management team doesn’t ‘get’ copyright infringement at all. ¬†In fact, the law is fairly clear on the point of copyright infringement. It’s not actually infringement until a court of law deems it so. Remember, innocent until proven guilty? To the Zazzle team, however, that a company makes a claim that something is infringing is enough to prove guilt. To prove actual infringement requires a court of law, not Zazzle. Worse, this company is policing alleged infringement on behalf of companies like Electronic Arts. It’s not Zazzle’s responsibility to police any other party’s content. Each party who owns copyrighted material can very well police and ask for removal. Zazzle doesn’t need to intervene here.

However, because companies (especially Silicon Valley companies) are running so scared that they’ll even get the slightest hint of a lawsuit, they have begun acting on behalf of companies like Electronic Arts and taking down imagery that even has the tiniest tinge of violating copyrights. Unfortunately, this company’s team must be bunch of hired monkeys. They simply see the word ‘Crysis’ and they automatically assume infringement and take the work offline. They don’t read, ask questions or bother to even review the actual image itself (which is what is actually in question). No, it’s all run by a bunch of monkeys trained to click delete. See word, click delete.

Forget about disputing any monkey deletes. There’s no reasoning or rational thought behind this team. If you create a ticket to try and dispute, you’ll get a canned response that won’t even tell you why it was deleted. They’ll just point you to the terms and conditions and let you be on your merry way. In short, they don’t want to talk to you, a store owner. Consider for a moment just how stupid that is because store owners are what’s keeping Zazzle in business.

Just The Tip

The Content Management team is merely the tip of this iceberg. I’ve seen so many complaints regarding this company that they are even listed on Ripoff Report 20 times (so far). Worse, no one from the company even reviews Ripoff Report to post rebuttals or head off any of these disputes. As I said, this company is squarely mismanaged.

If you are in business, you would want to take that business seriously. ¬†By ‘seriously’, that means treating all consumer complaints as valid and doing something about. You don’t let complaints stew and fester unless you actually want your company to appear to be a ripoff.

Stores

Part of the way this company works is by allowing registered users to put up their own Zazzle store where they can market and sell custom items from within Zazzle’s inventory. This is, in fact, where Zazzle makes its money. Store owners put up content, Zazzle takes a cut on each item sold. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much where this story ends. Even if you do manage to get your imagery through the Content Management team’s monkey review, that doesn’t mean your item will really ship if you place an order. According to some complainants, the items never arrive.¬†Basically, when you pay, you are taking your chances that the item will actually arrive.

Even worse, though, is that you spend your time, effort and good faith into placing your items in the Zazzle store. Yet there’s no promotional system or anything you can leverage to try and get people into your store to buy. You’re squarely left to fend for yourself to get people into your store. You would think Zazzle would offer at least some kind of promotional vehicle to feature stores with certain types of items. ¬†But, no. There is no advertising system available. Again, you are left to fend for yourself. ¬†It’s up to you to post on Facebook, Twitter and buy advertising space to get people into your Zazzle store.

Worse, even if you do manage to get people into your store to buy, those people could then have problems just getting their paid items.

No ‘About The Company’ page?

For me, this is a huge problem with any company trying to be respectable in its industry. If you aren’t willing to put up information regarding your management team, where that team is located, investor information, address information, etc.. it certainly looks like you’re not really serious about being in business. If you visit Zazzle’s corporate information page, you will find nothing there about the management team, investor information or anything pertinent to this company.

If anything, this lack of information says they are a ripoff fly-by-night. I know, they’ve been in business for several years now, but who knows how that’s happened as mismanaged as this thing is. However, even former employees have choice things to say on Glassdoor. The primary complaints seem to be high turnover, low pay and lack of upward movement. That doesn’t surprise me. Seems to me this is the McDonald’s of Silicon Valley startups.

Recommendation

If you’re a company thinking of opening a Zazzle store, you should reconsider. ¬†Attaching your company’s name to Zazzle could taint your business reputation in the long term. ¬†This is especially true if you’re trying to grow an existing business. The last thing you need is dealing with complaints from people who’ve tried to purchase from your Zazzle store only to be ripped off.

Instead, if you really do want to buy custom printed items, you will want to get them from somewhere else. There are thousands of reputable promotional item companies who create and sell printed promotional items.  In fact, you can do much better in pricing on those items when you buy them in bulk. Zazzle is really to be used for extremely short runs (1-10 pieces). With short runs, you will pay a high premium price, which is quite evident in the pricing model Zazzle offers.

Instead, I highly recommend you shop around for companies whose sole business it is to sell custom printed promotional items. Promotional item companies don’t offer store fronts to people, don’t deal with content management, don’t do short runs, don’t deal with individual consumer returns, etc. ¬†No, they are solely focused on getting you your promotional items exactly as you want and shipping them directly to you. Yes, you’ll end up paying more up front for the bulk quantity, but if you’re giving the items away at a conference or event, the cost per item is much much lower. ¬†Better, you can pick the exact quality of the item you want. With Zazzle, the quality is what it is. There’s little choice. ¬†If you don’t like the t-shirt brands they are using, tough luck. If you want to buy a specific brand of polo-style shirts to give away, you’ll need to choose another company to produce your item.

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Ticketmaster: Master of nothing, king of fees

Posted in concerts, scam, scams, tickets by commorancy on February 16, 2009

If you’ve ever purchased tickets to a music concert, chances are you’ve had to deal with Ticketmaster. ¬†You know, the ticket printing company that claims to help you obtain tickets to your favorite concert or event. ¬†In reality, this company is nothing but one big scam. ¬†Having sold tickets for Ticketmaster in the 80s, I’m well aware of their practices and how they choose to do business.

Scam or Scalper?

The only reason Ticketmaster exists is for convenience of the artists/promoters, not the concert goer. ¬†If you’ve ever had to stand in line waiting for tickets at a venue, you can at least count the number of people ahead of you and know about what tickets you will receive. ¬†Enter Ticketmaster with their near global presence. ¬†Now, you stand in line at a Ticketmaster outlet and you have no idea how many other people are ahead of you or how many tickets they may purchase. ¬†Combine this with Ticketmaster’s scam of holding back tickets for later release, random selection of tickets and you get the recipe for failure. ¬†Even if you’re the first person in line at an outlet, you may walk away with upper promenade tickets simply because that’s ‘best available’.

Best Available

This notion is Ticketmaster’s way of searching their database and giving you whatever they deem is the ‘best available. ¬†Note, however, that most outlets won’t let you specifically search or ask for tickets in other sections even if it doesn’t show to ‘Best Available’. ¬†Yet, they may be available. ¬†For example, I’ve specifically searched for seats in lower prom sections and found tickets there even when ‘Best Available’ shows to be upper prom. ¬†So, whatever algorithm that Ticketmaster has written is completely flawed and doesn’t work (or is intentionally designed to NOT give you best available).

Released Tickets

Granted, some promotors do hold back sections of seats for their own use. ¬†Some may be reserved for other purposes and some may be reserved for the venue to sell directly. ¬†When these seats aren’t sold, given away or whatever, they are then released to Ticketmaster. ¬†These seats (some front row seats) can appear even just hours before the event! ¬†I have found front row seating for several events the day of the concert simply just poking around looking for tickets in Ticketmaster’s computer. ¬† ¬†Granted, when you find them, you have to be willing to purchase them immediately because any of the other thousands of outlets could also be looking for them too. ¬† For example, I had found front row seats for Neil Diamond (back during his heyday) and front row lower prom for Stevie Nicks (back in her heyday) within one or two days of the event.

Fees and more fees 

Ticketmaster now charges $12-$20 per ticket convenience charge. ¬†Ticketmaster might as well be considered scalpers. In 1979, tickets to concerts COST $15.00. ¬†The cost of Ticketmaster’s convenience charge is now close to or more than the event ticket cost in 1979! ¬†For example, with Britney Spear’s 2009 tour tickets, why would you give Ticketmaster $18.75 for you to go to the web, search for ‘Best Available’ and then issue and print your ¬†own tickets? ¬†It doesn’t cost $18.75 to print two paper tickets and mail them. ¬†The cost for that process is perhaps no more than $2. ¬†$1 total for the ticket paper, ink and envelope and $1 for postage. ¬†Ok, so there might be a small fee incurred in hand carrying the envlope to the post… So maybe $3. ¬†Paying $18.75 for $3 worth of materials is outrageous. ¬†If you choose to print your own tickets from your printer, they STILL charge you! ¬†Yet, you paid for the paper and ink.

Online Ticketmaster

Now that Ticketmaster has moved to the web, their searching process has not changed. ¬†But now, you have no control over what they find for you and you have no idea how many other people are out there doing the same thing. ¬†They also do not give you the ability to actually search for tickets in specific seactions. ¬†You take what they find for you even if they aren’t the best. ¬†Worse, Ticketmaster still charges you the $18.75 convenience fee for you to do the work. ¬†Other than their print and mail process, which is probably automated anyway, this fee is now completely outrageous and unnecessary.

No Ticketmaster concerts for me

Ticketmaster is part of the problem. ¬†For the reasons above (price, fees, bad business practices), I do not trust Ticketmaster. ¬†As a result of that lack of trust combined with outrageous ticket prices by the artists, I do not go to concerts. ¬†When concerts cost no more than $20 to get in, I’m game. ¬†When they get to $80, that’s when it’s no longer worth it. ¬† After combining Ticketmaster’s outrageous and unnecessary fees with the cost of the event and the venue fees, I don’t understand why anyone continues to use Ticketmaster for purchase of tickets. You’re just paying to ensure Ticketmaster’s continued existence. Sure, it’s convenient, but it’s also a complete rip-off. ¬†Insist on buying your tickets directly from the venue directly without the need for Ticketmaster. ¬†If the venue sells you a ticket with a convenience fee, insist on not paying it as there is no such thing when you’re purchasing it directly from the venue.

Unless concert promoters wake-up realize that Ticketmaster is not the answer for selling tickets, they are likely excluding a lot of people, like myself, who would go to more events but simply will not use Ticketmaster, but still want a web based ticket purchase.  Promoters: Ticketmaster is not helping you fill the arena.

Competition is healthy

Visit your artist’s web sites and let them know that you don’t want to pay Ticketmaster’s gouging fees to obtain tickets to their event and encourage them to use other ticket distributors such as BandsInTown. ¬†We desperately need competition in the ticket selling space to force Ticketmaster to rethink their outrageous fees.

Note that buying your tickets from a scalper is not the answer. nor is that competition. ¬†Not only are you now paying Ticketmaster’s fees, you’re paying the scalper’s outrageous upcharge. ¬†Again, scalpers are not competition to Ticketmaster, they are just there to mark up Ticketmaster’s already scalped prices.

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