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PlayStation 4: why Sony has a place in the next generation

Wednesday, 13th February 2013 13:20 GMT By Patrick Garratt

Sony is expected to announce PlayStation 4 in New York next Wednesday. Patrick Garratt explains why Sony has earned its place in living room gaming’s future.

Of the five companies generally forming the next generation games industry over the rest of this decade, Sony is very much “in the house”.

It’s widely expected that Sony will announce PlayStation 4 at an event in New York next Wednesday. I wrote this Huffington Post article yesterday about PS4′s place in the immediate future of video games, and some of the struggles it will face. I wanted to extend on the subject here, because despite the changes happening in gaming right now, I firmly believe the PlayStation brand will have a place in the living room for at least one more cycle.

It’s important to realise that companies must be able to provide a suite of both services and hardware across multiple screens and locations if they’re to flourish in the next generation. PlayStation 4 – and therefore iPhone, Xbox 720 and Steambox – is part of a gaming ecosystem, and is not a complete offering in itself. The nature of gaming hardware in the coming generation is markedly different to that of PS3, Wii and Xbox 360.

PS4 is an enabling piece of kit which will help Sony to exist in the modern games industry as a major player, but it’s only a single element in a list of necessary components. Companies that aren’t able to tick all the required boxes will almost certainly be downgraded to a lower industry tier in the coming years, most likely one in which they cease to produce hardware. The ability to provide both large-scale online services and hardware will be the defining factor of success in the near-future of video games. The games industry is about to be dominated by the following companies: Apple, Google, Valve, Microsoft and Sony.

Each of these corporations makes its own hardware; has a very robust online service which is appropriate to its audience; and is directly faced at either core or light game consumers. Notice the “or”. None of them have yet captured both.

(You’ll note that Nintendo isn’t on the list. In the coming years, Nintendo’s IPs will move into the services of others as the company has no method of delivering them itself through its own screen-agnostic system. Nintendo does not have an Xbox Live. The current critical nature of hardware will diminish as we move forward in games, but the ability to offer solid multiplayer services and deliver a massive range of content through a variety of connected screens will be crucial to core-facing game companies. Nintendo has a meagre store, and its multiplayer system is a shadow of Live, PSN and Steam. A Nintendo IP distribution exclusive with one of the five main game service providers will probably be the biggest shock of the next five years (we’re already seeing Nintendo products on iOS, for example). As Nintendo’s hardware (alongside all other hardware) becomes less relevant, the company will be forced to move its content back in front of its audience. That audience will be commanded by the aforementioned five companies.)

Uphill struggle?

Back to the PS4 reveal next week. Of the five companies generally forming the next generation games industry over the rest of this decade, Sony is very much “in the house”. The PlayStation ecosystem’s mobile component is, to say the least, a little awkward at the moment, but all the boxes are ticked. Sony makes its own hardware in PS3, PS4 and Vita; has a very strong content delivery and multiplayer system in PSN, a service which can, in theory, spider any OS; and is absolutely engaged with the core living room gamer.

PlayStation’s biggest difficulty in the coming years is likely to be in mobile. Sony’s phone play was with Sony Ericsson, and the less said about that the better. Currently, Sony’s mobile component for games is Vita and PSP, and unless Vita has an incredible change of fortunes in the next few years that isn’t going to cut it against the ubiquity of iOS and Android. Vita doesn’t have to compete with iOS, but it does have to make sense alongside it. PlayStation’s strong mobile offering was supposed to be Vita, and the machine’s theory isn’t working in practice (yet). PlayStation Certified and PlayStation Mobile are steps in the right direction, but neither has made a splash.

Sony has also been far too slow in realising just how important “computers” are to digital distribution in console games, and therefore to surviving in the living room games space full stop. But at least you can now use the PlayStation Store through a browser. I bought a game through it this morning, and lo, it did work. PlayStation does have mobile and desktop components. It will need to significantly bolster them as we move on, but they are real things.

And therefore, as regards the question which is bound to be asked incessantly next week, that of whether or not PlayStation 4 is “relevant,” the answer is yes.

There’s been a huge amount of discussion in recent years on the future viability of dedicated gaming machines. “Mobile” evangelists have claimed consoles are dead and Gabe Newell has written off the battle for the living room as one between Apple and “PC”. This is just posturing. If you want to play the most advanced console games on your TV in 2014, you’re going to have to buy a new Xbox or PlayStation, and these machines will be part of complete ecosystems which encompass every screen you use and offer giant libraries of services and content. Those are not insignificant factors. You will not be able to play Uncharted 4, or anything remotely like it, on your Apple TV. Google Play is not a substitute for Xbox Live. The “average user” won’t be able to use a complete suite of entertainment services or play any first-party games – other than those created by Valve, natch – through a Steambox. Reversely, you won’t be able to access App Store content through a PS4. All these offerings have their audience niche, and one does not simply negate another. The next round may be more difficult for them, and financial struggles are unlikely to help, but Sony and Microsoft have their place in the next generation.

Whether or not Sony sets fire to the chair before taking its seat at the table is a different matter. But make sure you keep an open mind next week. Because PlayStation is going to be with us for a while yet.

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43 Comments

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  1. OlderGamer

    This should be good.

    #1 1 year ago
  2. OwnedWhenStoned

    @1: popcorn at the ready.

    #2 1 year ago
  3. Erthazus

    Dunno, I feel like Sony Computer entertainment in general is in big crisis right now.
    PsP Go failed, Ps Move failed, Eye Toy was underwhelming, Xperia Play was a failure, PS3 is okay, PS Vita so far is failing.

    My fear is that Sony won’t impress me with PlayStation 4 at all after what PC can achieve these days with the current gen games like Crysis 3.

    Killzone 4 or next Motorstorm won’t wow me for sure. I want something that will be next gen (Fantastic new iP’s, new way to play core games (not some stupid motion controllers or kinect rip off), Great performance and graphics, great multitasking.)

    #3 1 year ago
  4. Deacon

    (I immediately changed my mind about being a part of these comments)

    #4 1 year ago
  5. Nam3M3King

    @3 the vita is doing what the psp did when it first came out, it didn’t pick up the moment till later on on the life cycle.

    And PC games suck on a normal gaming pc unless you upgrade spend more than you willing so the console win its cheaper, graphics ain’t everything

    #5 1 year ago
  6. bitsnark

    See the thing is, in an ideal world, these sorts of incisive articles would become pretty great discussion points in the comment threads between reasoned folk who don’t get all defensive and plebian whenever their favourite format is (or not) taken to task.

    Sadly, the number of well-reasoned and intelligible folks who can engage one another on this level without turning to predictable idioms is dwindling.

    Alas, I expect the usual suspects with their less than subtle fanboy related monikers will start turning up and spoiling the party for all involved by their constant and banal shit-flinging at one another.

    Before I get lost in a spiral of depressionist hate though, back OT; I personally do believe the Playstation has a place in my living room and its down to a simple truth; I personally have had a great amount of enjoyment from their first-party IP over the years and so long as they keep bringing it, I couldn’t give an ass rats what plastic box it comes in.

    I know others hold little or no love for the console’s first party offerings, but for me, it’ll always be a compelling tick in the box to buy anything with the Playstation brand name (so long as said IP is leveraged decently).

    #6 1 year ago
  7. Blerk

    Sony has a far better chance of success with the PS4 than it ever had with the Vita or mobile. It’s a model that still works and they’ve proven that they can make it work for them. I’m sure they can do it again, although I doubt we’ll ever see anything as all-conquering as the PS2 again – the rest of the market’s just far too strong for that now.

    As for Nintendo, I pretty much agree – they’re in a bad place at the minute. I still wonder if one of the bigger players might just buy them outright.

    #7 1 year ago
  8. bitsnark

    @7

    I agree and it’ll be interesting to see how they leverage their cloud gaming capabilities too alongside their traditional business model.

    Also; welcome back! :D

    #8 1 year ago
  9. Blerk

    I still read every day, I just rarely comment now because you’re all nut-jobs. :D

    #9 1 year ago
  10. theevilaires

    I figured that Blerk ;)

    #10 1 year ago
  11. dizzygear

    Sony lost me this gen. The way they treat the PAL zone is just inexcusable for me.

    Unless the PS4 will have some killer exclusives i’ll hold out for the STEAMbox.

    #11 1 year ago
  12. bitsnark

    @9

    Ha! Yeah! Never a truer word said :)

    #12 1 year ago
  13. RandomTiger

    Pat, have you been hording your best gags for the Huffington post?

    #13 1 year ago
  14. Showmeyomoves!

    “A Nintendo IP distribution exclusive with one of the five main game service providers will probably be the biggest shock of the next five years.”

    I’ve been reading this “prediction” since before the GameCube days. “But this time it’s different!” No, it really, really isn’t. DS, GameCube, Wii, 3DS… Every console was supposed to be their last one. But then Mario happens. Zelda happens. Metroid happens. Pokémon happens. Smash Bros. happens. When will people learn? Probably “in the next five years”, right?

    Sony really needs to hit it out of the park with the PS4, or they may be the ones “going the way of Sega”. And that’d be a sad day for everyone, because less competition means less cause for innovation.

    #14 1 year ago
  15. daytripper

    Like the Playstation, dislike a lot of its fanbase which I feel this site caters to more than fans of other brands/systems

    #15 1 year ago
  16. DrDamn

    “Apple, Google, Valve, Microsoft and Sony. Each of these corporations makes its own hardware”

    What hardware do Google and Valve make? I am the proud owner of a Google Nexus 4, but it’s an LG phone, like the Galaxy Nexus was a Samsung before and like Chrome books are too. Getting an existing manufacturer to make something for you which meets your needs is a bit different to actually designing and manufacturing something yourself isn’t it? What about Valve? (Serious question).

    I’m beginning to think SteamBox is more hot air than reality at the moment and may well be significantly disappointing. I’ll happily be proven wrong, but something is not quite right. I don’t think it will be a major player – at least not in the first iteration.

    Here’s a dark horse for you. Samsung – or possibly a more deeply entrenched deal between Samsung and Valve or Google.

    #16 1 year ago
  17. theevilaires

    “Like the Playstation, dislike a lot of its fanbase which I feel this site caters to more than fans of other brands/systems”

    ???

    #17 1 year ago
  18. Dragon246

    I have to agree with the article, but I really am happy as a consumer since more choices are always good.
    Sony needs to do step up the game and from the rumors, it seems just like that.
    It will be interesting about ninty though. Their current management is hell bent on staying in console biz. So the future of them is really hazy.
    Their fading into irrelevancy in the current state of events is not a matter of if, but when.

    @DrDamn,
    Google acquired Motorola, remember? They are stirring some shit there called X-Phone :D
    I doubt about Samsung though. I don’t think they will become more relevant (or irrelevant) than they are right now. But who knows, maybe their smart tvs may spring up a surprise in the future.
    I also believe steambox is more hot air right now than anything else. I said this earlier, mass production is not child’s play.

    #18 1 year ago
  19. manamana

    The PAL zone is like either nonexistent or premiumpriced or lightyears to late. Doesn’t look like it’s changing in the future.

    #19 1 year ago
  20. OlderGamer

    There is a Valve funded hardware Doc, not sure of the name and am too lazy to link. And ofc they are building the SteamBox.

    #20 1 year ago
  21. Gheritt White

    @7: BLERK!!! Come back!! OMG, where’s PT, somebody call GHz, we can have a good ol’ fashioned reunion!

    Remember the Shatner wars, eh? Those were the days…

    #21 1 year ago
  22. Clupula

    @15 – If you want a site that’s run by a Nintendo fanboy who will actually ban people for speaking positively about Sony, go to Siliconera.

    #22 1 year ago
  23. daytripper

    @22 I fail to see what Nintendo or Nintendo fanboys have to do with this, got no time for any fanboy personally

    #23 1 year ago
  24. foxmulder555

    As the owner of a 360/ps3/wii and PC I havent touched the 360, the 50 quid for xbox live is a JOKE compared to the PS3 offering, Im PS4 all the way primarly as a result of Microsofts change from a gaming platform to a RAM IT DOWN YOUR THROAT meadia/advertising hub. Personally I hope Microsoft gets its ass kicked and makes them go back to basics e.g. Gaming first and formost!!

    Playstation has never lost that ,Nintendo never lost that and the PC is the icing on the cake gaming wise. I’m looking forward to the 20th and the PS4 launch and hopefully watch Microsoft squirm when they realise gamers have had eneough of there annual advertising charge

    #24 1 year ago
  25. ps3fanboy

    sony will kill microsoft this time. the x720 will have more drm crap and other shit like paying to play online.. it dont have a chance…

    #25 1 year ago
  26. DrDamn

    @18
    Ah ok, completely passed me by that. So why are LG still making their Nexus phones and why are they rumoured to be continuing to do so with the Nexus 5?

    @20
    Funding another manufacturer and planning on making aren’t valid for this context. The article was talking about credentials for the companies in terms of having the qualities to be a player in this market. Valve haven’t yet manufactured their own hardware.

    #26 1 year ago
  27. Telepathic.Geometry

    Hey Blerk, nice to see ya again…

    I could really see Apple buying up Ninty. That would be a great buy for Apple, and I’d love to see Ninty just go software exclusive. We need some crazy bastards making N64 controllers and Wii remotes and Tablet controllers and whatnot, but, sadly it just doesn’t seem to pay in the modern day market.

    #27 1 year ago
  28. Eregol

    I need to know what time this damn conference starts.
    Thinking about booking a half day off through work to make sure I’m at home watching.

    #28 1 year ago
  29. Eregol

    Just seen it’s 11pm UK time. I might have to arrange to be in late the next day at work.

    #29 1 year ago
  30. DrDamn

    @29
    Ah ta – was wondering the same thing.

    #30 1 year ago
  31. The_Red

    I would love to see a separate article that expands on the Nintendo related predictions in this one. While I’m not too optimistic for the big N, a more thorough discussion would be rather interesting.

    #31 1 year ago
  32. Kabby

    http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showthread.php?t=511056

    Breathe in the hype gifs.

    #32 1 year ago
  33. RoadShow

    I can’t stand anyone saying anything bad about Sony. All Sony ever does is give the best at the best price.

    PS3 is epic, Xbox should not be where it is as xbox 360 sucks in every measurable way. Yes it’s good to have competition but xbox sucks. RROD for 5 years, pay to play, no netflix without gold membership to xbox live, xbox live is $60/year = $300 every 5 years. No blu ray, no browser for 8 years, no wifi for 5 years, best exclusives are on PC (Gears of War 1, Halo, Left4Dead, Battlestations, Alan Wake, All the Fables) and others jumped ship already (Bioshock, Saints Row, Mass Effect).

    Also never forget the scams M$ has done like made Halo 2 for PC Vista only and forced orig. xbox gamers to upgrade by no service, support or games as soon as 360 came out.

    Also xbox 360 has always been as expensive or more than PS3 yet it has never had the quality features PS3 has had (like blu ray/browser, reliability, wifi, controllers (getting to that) true exclusives, free exclusive content).

    I’ve been online gaming for 16 years, it’s always been free. PC, Nintendo and Playstation will remain free (PC is, Wii U released and is free and Playstation confirmed when PS+ came 2 years ago that it will remain free).

    Also Playstation plus is $10 less per year and gives huge titles for free. I’ve only been a member since July and in that 6 months I have received 12 AAA quality free PS3 games, 15 Vita games including Uncharted and a bunch of other small game freebies and huge discounts. Games like Boarderlands, Saints Row 2, Just Cause 2, LBP 2, Virtua Fighter 5, NFL Blitz, NBA Jam, Darksiders, Payday the Heist, Lora Croft Tomb Raider, Street fighter, Warhammer, Bioshock 2 and more.

    Also PS3 has free exclusive content (xbox only gets pay to play DLC 1 month early on very few games, Bethesda and COD only and they still have to pay for it and everyone else will get it in a month).

    PS3 free exclusive content in all the best AAA multi plat games: Red Dead Redemption, Mafia 2, LA Noire, Assassins Creed, Battlefield, Mass Effect 2, Saints Row 3, Fight Night, FEAR, Batman AA & AC, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Far Cry 3 etc.

    PS4 only needs to come out with backwards compatability, keep the free online play, keep the optional PS+ and keep the controller as close to the same as Dual Shock 3 as possible.

    #33 1 year ago
  34. PC_PlayBoy

    MS, Sony & Nintendo systems are completely irrelevant to me. I couldn’t give a shit about any of them or their hardware.

    The PC is the best platform in the world for obvious reasons and that’s where i’ll continue to game.

    Valve & Apple will dominate the gaming sector over the next decade.

    #34 1 year ago
  35. SlayerGT

    @34 I don’t know. Roadshow (@34) made Sony and their hardware/ services sound pretty good…care to rebutle? What “obvious reasons” make PC the “best platform in the world” for you??

    #35 1 year ago
  36. CPC_RedDawn

    Whilst I used to hate Sony and everything they stood for. I have grown to like them with the PS3 as they seem to be the only company that realize that its great first party content that sells a console. Microsoft did well in their first couple of years but now first party has dried up for them and Nintendo are too busy making the same games over and over (which I still love LOL).

    At least Sony has created new IP’s, Little Big Planet, Motorstorm, The Last Of Us, Beyond Two Souls, Heavy Rain, Killzone to a certain degree as the first came out during the end of PS2. Uncharted, they even took chances with Heavenly Sword.

    Sure they rip off others with games like Sony All Stars Rumble AKA Smash Bros.

    But I am looking forward to the PS4, and even the 720 as well. If they can do graphically what they do now but do it at actual 1080p, with anti aliasing, and higher res textures @ a minimum of 30fps or even better 60fps. If they can multitask easier, come with better online support. If they do all this I shall be very happy.

    #36 1 year ago
  37. zachintyre

    I think the Nintendo Wii U is the equivalent to the Sega Dreamcast. Its sad but true. It is the console that will move Nintendo to a publisher/developer the same way it happened to Sega. I think IOS and Google Play are jokes though. At least to the core gamers. But both will thrive because there are a lot of casual gamers. Microsoft and Sony still have one last swing and I believe they both know it. I do believe that it is possible Sony and MS come up with something that will keep them in the game come the next generation years from now. PC’s and Steam will definitely stay around for awhile through Valve. Valve is changing gaming, and though I think the Steambox still won’t match up to the abilities of a console or a regular gaming PC, they will still always be in the game. Or at least for some time.

    #37 1 year ago
  38. Erthazus

    Sony’s first party won’t do the trick.

    I want them to do smart third party exclusives games like Metal Gear or Agent or Final Fantasy or other games we don’t know about.

    Their first party games are always miss and hit for me. Some of them are absolutely gorgeous like Uncharted games or Heavy Rain, God Of War series, Journey, Flower, Beyond: Two souls, inFamous 1-2 , The Last Of Us, Motorstorm and some of them are crap like MAG, Killzone, SOCOM (this gen SOCOM sucks), PASBR and other forgettable franchises.

    I hope that they know what to do next or I expect them to fail so hard next time ala THQ or even worse.

    #38 1 year ago
  39. Diingo

    I wish Sony would make a comeback, they used to be the leader of electronics. Decades ago they were the Apple of the world, now they’ve dwindled to a forgotten name. They need to push forward and innovate in order to rival Samsung & Apple. It’s either now or never, they cannot afford to hold back.

    #39 1 year ago
  40. TD_Monstrous69

    Great read Patrick (this, and the Huffington Post article). I do agree with you about Sony’s future. They certainly do have challenges ahead of them, but I do believe they’ll meet them, and I think the unveiling of the PS4 could be a start of reviving their brand a bit, after taking a bit of a hit over the past couple of years. Though one thing I think they need to come right out of the gate with next week, and that’s new IP’s. Sure, bring some familiar faces, but also, bring something new, something exciting, and bring something that as you said, that will redefine console gaming, and I believe that this stable of first party studios are more than capable of creating such experiences. Though only time will tell if my hopes are realized, or if I’m just eating my words.

    #40 1 year ago
  41. ManuOtaku

    I agree with the sony views of things, although it will depend of a lot of factors as well,but i think they will do fine as they did this now ending gen.

    What i dont agree is with nintendo view, i think main consoles, physicals gaming dedicated ones will have a place on the gamers mind, like it always have been, and it comes down to the tech they will always offer, that are different that those on PC and/or services like steam,in the past was gamepad, motion controlls, joystiqs,etc, it always came to how we play our games, and that will be true in the future, this it is at its core, in the future we may have new techs like holographics on boxed machine, something that services companies will be hard pressed to do, and like this example theres a lot of routes physical consoles can go, there will be always room for physical dedicated game consoles, like in the past.

    #41 1 year ago
  42. SlayerGT

    I hope we see some more MMOs from SOE next Gen. To be honest I wasn’t very interested in even playing one. I dabbled in Asherons Call back in the day for like 3 hours on a buddies PC but that’s been it. I downloaded DCUO when it went FTP just to check it out..why not right? I deleted it before even trying it. I had too many games on my plate and none of my friends seemed interested in playing with me. Well, a guy by the name of Gregory Miller has spoken a bit lately that he’s gotten back into it so I thought I’d give it a true shake…I’m efin hooked now. I’m so new to this genre, apparently these games are made to be addictive? The carrots on the sticks seem endless. There’s always new gear to get. “Orbs” to collect..its like Crackdown almost..with less orbs and better navigation. Just as addictive. And the combat seems to only get more and more fun as you level up your skills. This is all common knowledge I guess. I feel silly for being so late to the party but now I’d like more :D

    #42 1 year ago
  43. Mad-elph

    Oh wow. Tons of old faces jumping in here. I am still reading but never posting. Nice to see people like blerk.

    #43 1 year ago