Haven't had much to say about Sony's recent security troubles. Well, it's hard to travel anywhere on the news websites and blogs, without crashing into Floydian walls of opinion about the corporation and its permanently besieged Playstation Network. Even on the subject of this post, namely the "apology package", there are countless deafening choruses of "too little", "too late", "also, I want an Xbox", and related flamewars without end.
Jonathan Fargher, senior PR manager for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE), has crossed a line with me. And I'm sure, with every other gamer with a gramme of technically literacy. If I may quote just two lines of his, from say the BBC's report:
- Clearly there's going to be a minority of people out there who have some of those games.
- We certainly believe [...] the choice of games that we're offering [...] is good value.
The proof doesn't depend on the truth or falsity of the individual statements themselves; given certain platitudes, it's as certain as any proof in logic, more so than any in the rest of mathematics. It is true regardless of whether or not some people already have some or all of these games; whether those people form a minority, or a majority; whether the choice of games is good value or a ripoff; and whether or not Jonathan Fargher believes some, any, all or none of the above. No single given factoid convicts. Rather, Jonathan Fargher's problem is that there's no consistent assignment of truth values to the various parts of his statements, that avoids the incriminating conclusion.
Reductio Ad Absurdum
We proceed by assuming the truth of everything Jonathan Fargher claims in those two statements above. From this we derive a contradiction. Finally we conclude that either Jonathan Fargher believes this contradiction, in which case he is arguably deranged; or alternatively, he doesn't actually believe (one or more of) his own claims. In that case, inescapably, he's a liar.
So, working from the back to the front: the second thing Jonathan Fargher believes is that the choice of games is "good value". How can we express this in less subjective terms? Let's take a look at that choice.
|PS3 Title||Release Date|
|Dead Nation||Dec 2010|
|Little Big Planet||Oct 2008|
|Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty||Aug 2008|
|Wipeout HD/Fury||Dec 2009|
Apart from the PSN exclusive zombie shooter Dead Nation, and the Fury addition to warhorse Wipeout HD, everything here is two or more years old.
|PSP Title||Release Date|
|Killzone Liberation||Nov 2006|
|Little Big Planet PSP||Nov 2009|
|ModNation PSP||May 2010|
|Pursuit Force||Nov 2005|
Wow. I'd forgotten there even was a PSP console in 2005.
Yet regardless of the considerable age and the low current prices (below £10) of many of these titles, and notwithstanding the fact that you get to pick only two games from either list, none of this allows us to deny Jonathan Fargher's claim of "good value". Why? Because here, they're free. Any attempt to compute the value-for-money of a given selection results in a division by zero error.
That can't be right. Are we now agreeing with Jonathan Fargher, and going fargher still, to say that the selection represents infinite value? No. Clearly the concept of value-for-money is inapplicable to truly free offers. A better gauge is the popularity of the selections. The more popular the game, the higher its value as a free offering. But here we begin to see the seeds of the contradiction that we seek. In a given console community, popular games are by definition those most likely to be owned already. And to such an existing owner, a free download of such a game obviously has a very low value indeed.
From Jonathan Fargher's Second Law, we are being offered a "good value" selection of games, in other words, a set containing at least some popular games. By definition, such games are already owned by a majority of a given console community. That contradicts Jonathan Fargher's First Law, that no more than "a minority of people" will already have any of those games.
Quod erat demonstrandum.