When Sony pulls back the curtain on the next-generation PlayStation
videogame console, the world will see how much the Japanese consumer
electronics titan has been paying attention.
Sony could double-down on
hardware to power even more realistic graphics and rich game play than
the impressive specifications of PlayStation 3 consoles nearing the end
of a life cycle started in 2006.
Or, Sony may step toward a vision
outlined by chief executive Kazuo Hirai by introducing an improved
console as part of an ecosystem that weaves the company's film, music,
games and electronics together with the trend toward getting home
"Sony needs a living room experience,"
Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said while discussing
expectations that a PlayStation 4 will be showcased at an event being
hosted by Sony on February 20 in New York City.
"They need more software, not more hardware."
PlayStation 3 launched as an engineering triumph complete with Blu-ray
high-definition disk player capabilities only to see rival Microsoft
score with Xbox 360 consoles for gaming as well as online films, music
"Sony can't build a company on those few people who are
hardcore gamers, so they have to figure out how to bridge to the
all-purpose consumer who likes games, which is most of us," McQuivey
"If they emphasize how this is really a television set-top
box with your favorite channels and Netflix, it will mean Sony has paid
Sony has remained mum, but that hasn't stopped talk of
hardware upgrades such as improved graphics and controllers with
touchpads, and chatter of Sony announcing its own cable-style service to
route film or music content to PlayStation consoles.
Sony needs to adapt to changing lifestyles while not alienating videogame lovers devoted to its hardware.
or free games on smartphones or tablet computers are increasing the
pressure on videogame companies to deliver experiences worth players'
time and money.
New generation consoles are typically priced in the $400 to $500 range, and blockbuster game titles hit the market at $60 each.
is under a lot of pressure," said National Alliance Capital Markets
analyst Mike Hickey. "Gamers are desperate for innovation and better
While Sony is tethered to "legacy" hardware, companies
such as Apple and Google are driving innovation with tablets,
smartphones, and ways to route Internet offerings to television sets,
according to Hickey.
While ramping up content and services for PlayStation, Sony also needs to motivate people to upgrade from the current model.
Sony wants to win it, they need to show some killer games to get people
to go out and spend a lot of money for the core game experience,"
He blamed a dearth of compelling titles as a reason
for disappointing sales of Nintendo's innovative Wii U consoles
introduced late last year.
"The Wii U is a case study you can't
ignore," Hickey said. "Sony at least has to nail it with the games; the
core market can drive the mass market."
Industry tracker NPD Group
reported that just shy of $9 billion was spent in the United States
last year on purchasing or renting video or computer games.
$5.92 billion was spent on game downloads, subscriptions, and play on
mobile games or at social networks, according to NPD.
videogame star Ubisoft reported that sales surged 23 percent overall in
the final quarter of last year with hit installments of its "Assassin's
Creed" and "Far Cry" franchises while online revenue leapt 143 percent.
are gaming more now than they ever have," McQuivey said. "More minutes
on more devices over more types of games from consoles to mobile
"Console gaming is going to face challenge because you
can pull out your tablet and have some pretty amazing gaming experiences
for $1.99 or free with ads," he added.
Forrester predicts that
while US households will turn increasingly to accessing the Internet
through videogame consoles and smart televisions, games on smartphones
and tables will "negatively impact" the console market.
are in every household and the computing power of tablets is going up
every year," Hickey said. "Eventually, the tablet could very well become
Analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities
expected Sony to remain mum about pricing and specific release date
while unveiling the PS4 later this month.
"The new console will clearly be more powerful," Pachter said. "How they will use that power is unclear."