PlayStation 4 will please hardcore gamers - but is that enough?
New console may struggle in a changing market
Nikhil Kumar is The Independent's New York correspondent. He was formerly assistant editor on the foreign desk and has also done a variety of jobs on the city desk, where he wrote about markets, commodities and other business and economics topics.
Thursday 21 February 2013
In an era of super-smart smartphones and tablets that are meant to appeal to everyone, Sony pitched its new PlayStation 4 to serious gamers this week, hoping their enthusiasm will be enough to stem a decline that has left it looking like an also-ran in the fast-moving tech industry.
For around two hours, without actually displaying the new device or announcing a launch date or price, Sony used a much-hyped New York event to show-off the console’s capabilities: beefed-up graphics, a new controller, and a greater emphasis on social media and cloud-computing, which will allow players to download and share new games.
Like the devices currently on the market, the new machine – when it is eventually unveiled – will also function as an entertainment centre and allow users to stream movies. What is different is the power Sony said the PlayStation 4 is packing.
But the message, underscored by a series of presentations from games developers, seemed to be clear: this is for hardcore gamers who want to share clips of where they are in a particular game, or look on, virtually, as an accomplished player battles a crisply-rendered alien. For them, the new PlayStation offers a bundle of goodies, including a way to switch from playing a game on your TV to a mobile device without interruption.
The outstanding question is whether this narrow focus will revive the company’s fortunes. Traditional consoles have been challenged by the proliferation of devices like the iPhone and iPad, which have become a popular destination for so-called “casual” gamers. Think, for example, of Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja and their success in recent years.
Nintendo succeeded in a staking out new ground with its Wii console, which, when it was launched with its innovative motion-sensing features, offered new hope to the industry by appealing to families. It wasn’t just for serious gamers looking to prowl in an alien world but also for the fitness enthusiast and the family gathering, when everyone could take turns at tennis or boxing, waving the controller in mid-air.
The sales showed that the pitch worked. The Wii outstripped both the PlayStation 3 and the Microsoft’s Xbox 360. The latter two are neck and neck, both selling between 75-80 million units, while the Wii stands at around 100 million. For Sony, that’s a big change from the PlayStation 2, which remains the best-selling home console of all time.
But the Japanese company, from the little it told us on Wednesday night, appears to be going in the opposite direction to Nintendo, which in recent months has struggled to push its new Wii U console as more of us switch to mobile devices.
“What was missing from Sony was a discussion of anything that could’ve made it a more broadly appealing device... It needed way more than a falling back on graphics, eye candy and tech demos,” Darrell Etherington wrote on the Techcrunch website.
Industry watchers are now waiting to see what Microsoft pulls out of its hat. The software giant is working on an update to its Xbox 360, which will go head to head with the PlayStation 4. Another critical question is price: the PlayStation 3 struggled after Sony released it with what was widely seen as too high a price tag of up $600 (£390) in the US.
The Playstation 4 will have a new controller, dubbed the DualShock 4, which looks a lot like the current version but comes with a new touchpad and a share button that allows gamers to involve their friends in games. The device will also allow users to build social-network style profiles, which the company’s network will use to make game recommendations.
The newest version of the Nintendo Wii came with a ‘Gamepad’ controller, which is essentially a powerful tablet which doubles up as a controller. It can be used with the console, or on its own, thus allow gamers to play on the move
Microsoft hasn’t yet released the successor to its Xbox 360. Among the anticipated features are a beefed up version of the Xbox Kinect motion sensor, which allows hands-free gaming.
Harry Potter actor suffered 'severe flu-like symptoms' on a flight from London to Orlando
First full-length look is finally here
World cities ranked in terms of safety, food security and 'liveability'
Life & Style blogs
Snapchat removed the Best Friends list feature and 'stalkers' are upset
Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
Eight-year-old girl Camilla Lisant suggests possible cancer treatment to her scientist father over the dinner table
Lack of medically trained staff leaves NHS 111 phone service struggling to cope, insider claims
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
- 2 The awkward moment Sarah Palin raised $25,000 for Hillary Clinton's election campaign
- 3 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 4 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
- 5 Baldness could soon be treated using stem cells, scientists hope
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A skilled .NET developer with e...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are cur...
£35000 - £43000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior IT Support Analyst...