Play­ing games

Sony kept its cards close to its chest at the launch of the PlayS­ta­tion 4. Rod Ch­ester re­ports

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TECH -

FOR all its gam­ing knowl­edge, Sony’s lat­est move in the con­sole wars is more of a “present arms” than a killer blow. Sony an­nounced the PlayS­ta­tion 4 in New York last week, but in a two- hour demon­stra­tion failed to of­fer specifics on when gamers will get it or how much it will cost. Many an­a­lysts say Sony is keep­ing its pow­der dry. Mi­crosoft is ex­pected to an­nounce an Xbox up­grade, prob­a­bly at the in­dus­try’s ma­jor event E3 held in Los An­ge­les in June.

But the chal­lenge the con­sole games mak­ers face is pitch­ing their de­vices as “en­ter­tain­ment units” to those be­yond the core gam­ing mar­ket when the ex­plo­sion of smart phones means for many peo­ple a game is some­thing to buy for $ 1 and play wher­ever and when­ever they want.

Re­search from firms IDC and the NDP Group shows sales of con­soles are on the de­cline, although both Mi­crosoft and Sony can ex­pect a healthy boost when they re­lease their first new con­soles in years.

A lot has changed since Sony and Mi­crosoft last went head to head with new con­soles.

The ex­plo­sion of smart­phone and tablet own­er­ship has set a new ex­pec­ta­tion from those out­side tra­di­tional gam­ing cir­cles that games are things that should cost less than a cup of cof­fee.

There are also new threats coming from out­side the Sony- Mi­crosoft- Nin­tendo mar­ket, not the least of which could be game- play­ing el­e­ments with Ap­ple’s long ru­moured iTV and Google’s up­com­ing TV sys­tem.

Although it is easy to crit­i­cise Sony for “launch­ing” a games con­sole with­out show­ing a con­sole, there were many things at the Sony launch last week that ex­cited PlayS­ta­tion fans.

One of those was the demon­stra­tion of games with a new level of graph­ics that makes faces look al­most, but not quite, real.

The made- ready- for- PS4 games un­veiled at the launch in­clude Drive­club, Kil­l­zone: Shadow Fall, Knack, Di­ablo III, The Wit­ness and Watch­Dogs.

Sony also em­pha­sised how the ar­chi­tec­ture of the PS4 was de­signed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with game mak­ers and the con­sole will al­low self- pub­lish­ing in a move Sony hopes will al­low for small ti­tles to ex­plode in pop­u­lar­ity as An­gry Birds or Fruit Ninja have done on smart­phones.

An­drew House, pres­i­dent and group chief ex­ec­u­tive of Sony Com­puter En­ter­tain­ment, al­luded to the chang­ing face of the con­sole war at the New York launch.

“While we once changed the gam­ing land­scape, now we can see how it’s chang­ing us, from mo­bil­ity, to multi- for­mat play to greater com­mu­nity en­gage­ment, as well as plat­forms that are de­signed to en­able ac­cess to en­ter­tain­ment, so­cial me­dia and more,” he said.

Sony is bet­ting in­creased so­cial net­work­ing and link­ing to hand­held de­vices is the key to keep­ing con­soles rel­e­vant.

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