For R2 000 you can kiss your life ... or your spouse, goodbye
It is a far, far cry from fuzzy blobs chirping in the monotone of yesteryear's TV games
THOUGH niftily bypassed by wives who actually enjoy conversing with their husbands and by parents who are struggling to get their geeks - sorry, kids - to read more good old-fashioned books, one of the most hotly coveted gifts this Christmas was the Sony Playstation.
Sue Brews, group marketing manager of Ster-Kinekor Home Entertainment, distributor of the Playstation, chuckles that one promotional slogan is "Kiss your life goodbye". But a waggish fan of the new product has suggested changing it to "Kiss your wife goodbye".
Though obviously it competes with the PC's CD-Rom - still the No 1 format for games - the Sony Playstation is specifically designed to bring arcade-style gaming into the home. And I can certainly attest - having attempted to play a beat-'em-up game, Battle Arena Toshinden - that it is a far, far cry from fuzzy blobs chirping in the electronic monotone of yesteryear's TV games.
CD-based, the Playstation is a sleek console that plugs into your TV set and provides easy-to-load, easy-to-save, real-time action 3-D games of startling detail and clarity.
Control is via an ergonomically designed controller you hold in both hands while relaxing on your sofa. Of course, the bigger your television set the better. Launched in South Africa late November - too late for Christmas, perhaps, but then there is always Father's Day - the Playstation is Sony's most significant new product since the advent of Walkman.
Developed at a cost of $500-million and launched in Japan in December 1994 and in the US in September 1995, the Playstation has generated sales of more than 10-million units.
This makes the Sony Playstation the market leader in the next generation, 32-bit games console market.
It has stolen a march on Sega's Saturn, which was launched a little earlier than the Playstation and is distributed in South Africa by Ster-Kinekor rival, CNA-owned Nu-Metro. But Saturn may soon be challenged by the Nintendo 64.
Nintendo 64 (for 64-bit) may have received a boost from Time magazine when it was named its "1996 Machine of the Year", a category covering the entire consumer electronics industry, but its delayed entry into the worldwide market - it was launched in the US only in September last year - has cost it dearly.
Peter Lacey, marketing director of the local subsidiary of US electronic games developer, manufacturer and distributor Electronic Arts (labels include Origin, Bullfrog, Jane's and EA Sports), comments: "The problem is that with the success of Sony's Playstation games format over Sega's Saturn, not to say the late entry of the Nintendo 64, software developers worldwide have been concentrating on products firstly for Playstation, secondly for Saturn and thirdly for Nintendo 64."
Brews says that about 150 titles (R200 to R600 apiece) are already available worldwide to Playstation owners.
Of the more than 30 released in South Africa to coincide with the launch of the console, her favourite is Crash Bandicoot, with its exotic forest landscape.
Playstation has the edge over Sega's Saturn, which has sold about 3,5-million units worldwide, in that it is better as a straight games console.
"Though the Saturn has other features - add-on Internet capability and it can play laser disc movies - the Sony Playstation has a much better picture quality and frame rate.
"I'd recommend it to those who don't have PCs and who are games fanatics," says Lacey.
Besides, the Nintendo 64 - which Time judged had "done to video-gaming what the 707 did to air travel" - is not yet officially represented in South Africa.
If, as Brews puts it, "your youth was misspent in gaming arcades", you have never been cured of the gaming habit and you have not managed to rustle up the several thousand rand it now costs to install a PC capable of taking CD-Rom, the R1 900-odd it costs to acquire a Sony Playstation might not seem too steep. (A Sega Saturn console is cheaper at about R1 700.) Especially if you want to kiss your wife goodbye - or your husband, for that matter.