The console wars are here to stay it seems. And with the introduction of motion controllers over the past year or so, it has only intensified. As such, many are looking months down the road to see what’s coming around the bend next. For Playstation fans, that means the Playstation 4.
As much as we don’t like it, every 5 or 6 years our favorite console becomes virtually obsolete. Bigger and better things are always being created in the world of video game development and new hardware has to be made available to the masses in order to simply keep up. The PS3 debuted in 2006, and now the PlayStation 4 is set to hit in 2013, ushering in a new age of PlayStation hardware.
But should it? There are many, both developers and users alike, that say the PS3 still has yet to realize its potential. Without going into all the gory details, many laud the PS3’s graphics over the competition and say that it has the ability to do much, much more. Do we really need a new Playstation?
The PS3, despite its many accolades, remains in third place behind the Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii. Therefore, many will say that the representation of the PS3’s abilities by its fans is merely sour grapes from a fan base smaller than the competition’s. While the “us vs. them” exclusivity may be a factor, there is something to what these people are saying. The PS3 is a truly great machine. It hasn’t suffered because of its abilities, but because of other factors.
First, there’s the price tag. Sure, it’s come down over the past few years, but Sony is holding onto that $300 price tag – which is $100 more than the 360 or Wii. So during the Christmas shopping season, many will take one look at the price difference and opt for the cheaper console. Second, there are still millions of PS2s used every day. While this is a testament to another great console built by Sony, it does hurt PS3 sales. I alone know that many of my friends still cling to their PS2s and proudly play them often. They should upgrade with the rest of us, but they are still clinging to those old machines. Unfortunately, the PS3 only has limited backwards compatibility and that’s just another reason why these holdouts persist for now.
From Sony’s perspective, you know it’s all about the bottom line. While it’s great that critics may say you have the best console, it does you no good unless you have the sales to back that up. It’s kind of like those art house movies that win at the Oscars every year. Yeah, it’s great that everyone loves you, but no one saw your movie. Yippee. So therefore, you know that Sony has had a plan for years regarding the PS4, the PS5, and even the PS6. No matter how well the PS3 did there would be a PS4 coming down the pike 5 or 6 years later – that’s how game development works and that’s how business works. In order to stay alive, your business has to always be moving forward with new and exciting products.
It's Coming...But When?
But will there be a demand for the PS4 in 2013? I think the success or failure of the PS4 depends mostly upon timing and impact. Sony’s prior successes largely had to do with how its consoles matched up with the competition. The PS2 debuted before the Xbox and Gamecube, allowing Sony to establish a solid base of customers playing the newest, coolest machine with the best games – and the PS2 could keep up with both the Xbox and Gamecube when they came out. So if past success is any indication of future success, look for the PS4 to hit the market before the Xbox One. Sony missed the mark with the release date of the PS3 (it came out after the 360 and the Move came out after the Wii), so I wouldn’t look for them to make that mistake again.
All in all, I expect Sony to capitalize on the success they had with the PS2 and use that model for the debut of the PS4. If they can get it developed and ready before their competitors know what hit them, they can once again make themselves the hot new thing thanks to features like the Share button, online streaming and the focus on social activity. While it’s easy to be cynical and say Sony can't regain the top spot, I’m excited to see what Sony can do with the new technology that I’m sure is coming across their desks.