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