News, Views, and Reviews
At the beginning of the month, Sony announced a big media event, scheduled for February 20th. They merely teased the promise to reveal “the future of PlayStation” which many have taken to mean they will reveal the PlayStation 4. The first thing people pointed out, though, was that Sony JUST said, less than a week prior, that they were not in a hurry to make any Generation Eight announcements. In fact, they said they wouldn’t mind if Microsoft went first. So, what’s the story?
The popular opinion is that “going first” is not the same as “announcing their product” first. In other words, Sony could still beat MS to the announcement stage, and still stick to the claim that they don’t care if MS releases their product first. That’s a pretty brave thing to do, as one of the key stumbles Sony made with Generation Seven was letting the Xbox 360 come out first, almost an entire year before the PS3. From this attitude, we can fairly safely predict two things: one, that the time between the next Xbox releasing and PS4 releasing will be a LOT shorter, like maybe a month, and two, that Sony is confident that their console will be so amazing, people will choose to not buy the next Xbox and wait for the PS4 instead. Back in 2006, Kaz Hirai, CEO of SECA, made the famous quote “The next generation doesn’t start until we say it does,” referring to that one-year head start the Xbox 360 had over the PS3. It is possible that Sony still has this brave attitude.
Backing up this opinion are some interesting rumors. Chief of those rumors are that the PS4 and the next Xbox will feature nearly identical hardware. One of the other stumbles Sony made with the PS3 was a proprietary hardware set that proved difficult for many developers to use properly, and that suggests they won’t make the same mistake two generations in a row. If this rumor is true, neither Sony nor MS gain much advantage from announcing their new console first. Gone are the days of one company waiting to see what their competition is including in their hardware so they can adapt their system to be a step or two ahead. Both systems are probably too far along in their development (and production) for major revisions at this point.
No, the keys to competition are going to be software and services. As this generation has shown us, both can be added and improved years after the consoles are released. The “big three” companies, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, have more to worry about than each other as “intrusive tech” iOS and Android devices continue to eat up market share once dominated by home consoles and PCs. It’s not just about games anymore, it’s about entertainment. Streaming content, watching movies and TV shows, browsing the internet, having video-chat calls with friends and family members – these are all expectations now, of any electronic device, expectations that consoles weren’t concerned with eight years ago. Microsoft led this generation, and Sony followed, by adapting to these entertainment expectations and adding more and more features and services to their console.
It’s my opinion, then, that the February 20th show is NOT going to be focused on the PlayStation 4. Rather, Sony is going to announce “the future of (the) PlayStation (brand)” and reveal some of the software and services they have been working on. These are some of the rumors that back up my opinion:
First, Sony made a deal with Google. This actually happened about a year ago, and I’m surprised there hasn’t been more attention focused on this partnership. If you own an Android device, you can play some PlayStation games available on Sony’s PSN, and vice versa – Sony tablets and smart phones, which run on Google’s Android platform, allow you to play and use Android’s games and apps. As Google spreads into the living room with their Android devices, Sony follows.
Second, Google bought Motorola, increasing their ability to make said devices. Imagine the possibility of a Google-branded machine that plays…PlayStation games?!
Third, Sony bought the cloud-based game streaming service, GaiKai. Game streaming services like GaiKai and OnLive have yet to really catch on, but the technology is impressive. Unlike consoles or even PCs, cloud-gaming doesn’t require the user to constantly upgrade their hardware to get access to the latest and greatest titles, that responsibility falls on the server side. The only limitation to game streaming is internet connection speeds. Normal performance expects only about a 3MBps connection, but it’s ideal to have 5MBps or higher. Unfortunately, many people just don’t have that sort of internet connection. But what if they did?
Fourth, Google is testing their “Google Fiber” internet connections in Kansas City, with plans to roll out to the rest of the country throughout the year. Google Fiber will deliver super-fast internet speeds to homes, even rural homes, for only $120 a month. That price includes the hardware (made by Motorola) that brings that super-fast connection to several rooms in your house. How fast? Not 5Mbps, not 50Mbps, 1Gbps. One gigabit. That’s one-thousand and twenty-four Mbps.
Fifth, Sony recently sold their New York City headquarters for 1.5 Billion dollars.
Sixth, Sony recently fired their marketing agency and hired…wait for it…the marketing agency that works for Google.
Seventh, it’s too soon for a console announcement. Traditionally, consoles are released at the end of the year, during the holiday season. The summer prior, at shows like E3, is when they are revealed to the public. The Electronic Entertainment Expo, E3, is always in June. Previous generations saw consoles announced in their own special shows shortly before E3, but I mean a week or two before, not four months. IF Sony is announcing the PS4 this year, they could have a special “Sony-Only” show at the end of May to show it off, and then spend the “normal” time at E3 displaying individual games. In my opinion, Sony doesn’t have to jump the gun and show off the PS4 now, in February.
This all leads me to believe one thing: that Sony is using this special show to announce something different. The “future of PlayStation” that will more directly involve Google, GaiKai, Google Fiber, and Android devices. If I’m right, the hardware of the PS4 won’t matter. Letting Microsoft “go first” won’t matter. ANYONE will be able to play PlayStation games, even “next-gen” games, on their PS3, their PSVita, even their Android tablets and smart phones. They don’t even have to make hardware, they can just take advantage of the millions of “smart” TVs that have built in internet connections. Or include a PlayStation controller with every Google Fiber package. How’s that for software and services? Who could compete with that?
As Kaz Hirai would probably say, “The next generation doesn’t start until we say it does”. Even if my predictions don’t come true, you better believe that I’m going to be listening to what Sony Says on the 20th.