Last month, when I got my hands on the PS Vita, the first thing I did was open the box. The second? Flipped over the device to see where it was made.
It wasn’t always that way. Heck, it wasn’t even that way until fairly recently.
Microsoft also makes the Xbox 360 in China.
There’s nothing wrong with making things in China. There is something wrong about making products in an environment that apparently results in suicide threats as a collective bargaining tool.
“Slave labour” is a word tossed around loosely. And factory workers in China are free to work wherever — or are they? If yesterday’s report that 300 Foxconn works were forced to negotiate by threatening group suicide is true, the term slave labour isn’t being used loosely. It’s fitting.
When the PS3 first launched in 2006, the initial consoles were made in Japan, leading to some gamers, in both Japan and the West, to point this out. The console is no longer made domestically.
“In general, the cost of manufacturing is cheaper in China,” Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida told Kotaku in 2010. Some items, however, might be “too complex” to do outside of Japan, said Yoshida at the time. “But if it’s not so complex, it can be made in China at a lower cost.”
The Made in Japan versus Made in China is not necessarily a quality issue. Chinese factories are staffed with talented people and high tech robots. Rather, it’s an issue of whether or not the person who made the console is being treated fairly — or must negotiate by threatening to kill him or herself.
Make no mistake; with the Japanese yen at historic highs, making products in Japan is expensive. But the dollar is relatively cheap, and if, for example, Nissan can make engine parts for Mercedes Benz in Tennessee, then why can’t Sony, Nintendo, or more importantly, Microsoft do the same for game consoles?