News, Views, and Reviews
There have been two new developments since I wrote two different blogs speculating about Sony’s big February 20th announcement. First: Sony started releasing videos, showcasing their past accomplishments. They released one video a day, starting with the first PlayStation, another video for the PS2, then the PS3, and finally a video covering their handheld systems, the PSP and PSVita. In my opinion, these videos shared a ‘nostalgia’ theme, not just for the hardware, but for specific games and game franchises. They even mentioned popular ad campaigns. This slightly altered some of my speculation theories. Second: The Wall Street Journal (of all sources) ran an article that leaked some BIG information. The info leak is SO big, I wouldn’t be surprised if the WSJ got some angry phone calls from Sony. This article really altered my theories. I wouldn’t say these developments changed my mind, they’ve just streamlined some of my ideas.
The WSJ article confirms that Sony is releasing a new console. They don’t call it the “PlayStation 4” so that bares some explanation. In Japanese culture, the number “4” is considered unlucky. This has something to do with the word being too similar to another word, death. So, I won’t be surprised if the next PlayStation console is NOT named “PlayStation 4” but is simply named “the PlayStation”. Sony’s PS brand is so strong at this point, that everyone would know what that referred to. Apple took a similar approach with their third (and now fourth) iteration of the iPad. Instead of calling it “iPad 3” they just called it “the new iPad” and eventually, people just leave off “the new” prefix and just call it “iPad” as intentioned. The theory that Sony’s new console is going to be simply named “PlayStation” also fits with the theme of those four videos that Sony released. Each video may have focused on the individual devices named “PlayStation” over the years, but again, I feel they were more focused on reminding us of all the games and all the fun we’ve had in the past 18 years combined.
Update: Sony has released a fifth video today, this time summing up those 18 years of Sony games. This really supports my theory!
In one of my blogs, I brought up the cloud-game-streaming service, Gaikai, that Sony purchased last year. The WSJ article mentions this, too. A lot. I already feel some validation from this article. Here is the revealing quote: “The new technology, to be unveiled Wednesday along with the new console, will allow users to play games delivered over the Internet, these people said. The streaming service, they added, is designed to use current PlayStation 3 titles on the new console; the new device is also expected to play new games stored on optical discs.”
With these two developments, the Sony videos and the WSJ article, I make these revisions to my theories:
ONE: Sony will unveil their streaming service. They may or may not keep the GaiKai name. I suspect they will not keep it. They are emphasizing the PlayStation brand too much in these videos and teaser videos about the big event. So let’s call it “PlayStation Stream” for now. This streaming service will give players access to any previously released game (that is available due to ownership and licensing rights changing over the years) AND any yet-to-be released game for the PS3 and BEYOND. This could, in theory, be available as soon as tomorrow via Firmware Update for the PS3. Possibly even the PSVita. Remember, streaming games online makes the internet connection the only concern, and the hardware the games are delivered to is irrelevant. Well, except when dealing with their handhelds. The PSP doesn’t have two analog sticks like the new PSVita does, so playing previous generations of PS games would be problematic. That makes me think this streaming service will only be available for the PS3 and PSVita. Unless…
TWO: Sony SHARES this service with Google. Again, hardware is mostly irrelevant, so the PS library COULD be delivered to any device with an internet connection. That could include tablets and smartphones, literally any that use Google’s OS, Android. Some control schemes might be hard to translate, but there are solutions, like wireless controllers and smart phone cradles, already available. IF this were true, this would be a major shift for Sony. They could spread out their install base without the expense of manufacturing hardware. According to Sony, 70 million PS3s have been sold. At the most, then, any PS title can hope to sell is about 70 million copies. But there are something like 400 million Android devices out there. That’s a LOT more people to potentially buy PS games.
THREE: The PlayStation Stream service will also be a window to other titles. GaiKai previously included the rights to play a lot of games, owned by a lot of different publishers, and I don’t think that will change. Games that previously required a high-end PC to play, like the graphic-intensive MMO Tera, will now be available to PS gamers. There is a large library of games on the Android platform, that will also become available to PS gamers if Sony does choose to share this service with Google. Combining the PS game library, spanning 18 years, with games available on GaiKai and Android, would make THE biggest game library imaginable.
FOUR: Sony will reveal the console itself, simply named PlayStation. This will be a next-gen system, and as rumored, will share similarities to the next Xbox. Chief of these similarities, is a LOT more RAM for multi-tasking. Gamers will be able to play games, and while those games are being played, the console will record up to 15 minutes of game play. These videos can be shared instantly online. Players will also be able to chat and possibly video chat while playing any game, even if they aren’t playing the same game. If the pictures of the prototype controller are accurate, they will also have Move functions – which means the new console will have to ship with the Eye Toy camera. The built-in microphone on the Eye Toy and the built-in speaker on the controller will provide voice chat, but there is also a jack at the bottom of the controller for those that prefer to plug in a headset (still sold separately). The Move support and touch-pad on the controller will give players options, as that huge library of games should have several control choices available. I imagine some people might play a game like Angry Birds, and choose to swipe their finger on the touch-pad because that’s more familiar to them than an analog stick.
FIVE: For the first time in video game history, a new console generation will give consumers a choice they’ve never had before: keep the previous console. With the PlayStation Stream available, the hardware is irrelevant. Next-gen games could be delivered to the PS3. The extra features like video chat or “brag clip” video sharing won’t be available to PS3 owners, but the games will. If you want those new features, you’ll have to buy the new PlayStation. But selling hardware doesn’t have to be Sony’s focus anymore. They just need to make their library of games big, and get that library into as many homes as possible. If anything, the new console will mostly help those homes that can’t get a decent internet connection just yet. Google (and the FCC) want everyone to have a 1GB connection in the next two years. But some might now want to wait that long. So that will be the choice: IF you have the internet speed, upgrade via software, and still get next-gen games, plus the GaiKai games, plus the Android games. If you DON’T have the speed, and you really want next-gen PS games, buy the new console. For those that choose to wait, Sony still sells them new games, so they win anyway.
If anything, these choices are the best possible scenario I can imagine. A lot of people get access to a HUGE library of games, and people have several choices how to access -and play- those games. Sony makes money, Google makes money, the game publishers and indie developers make money, everyone is happy. We’ll see how many of my predictions come true tomorrow!