PlayStation 4: Sony Gambling with PS4?

PlayStation 4: Sony Gambling with PS4?

Dreaming of Sony’s PlayStation 4 already? Then consider. When the PlayStation 3 hit the market in 2006, it was the best bit of console hardware available at the time. In other words, it was very impressive and shiny. Its initial price tag was impressive, too: $599 U.S. dollars (a price quotation from Sony CEO Kaz Hirai that will live in infamy). Some price drops have since helped cash-strapped families find room in their entertainment centers for the PS3, but the system was been out-paced by its direct competition, the Xbox 360, and lapped several times by Nintendo’s Wii, a less-direct but no less important competitor. All of which, of course, begs the question: Was the PlayStation 3 simply over-engineered?

Sony seems to think so, and that’s probably why the company has plans to avoid making a “massive investment” in the PlayStation 4. Even though the PS4 is a ways off from receiving anything like a release date, Sony’s Chief Financial Officer, Masaru Kato, has a good idea of where Sony went wrong with the PS3. “It is no longer thinkable to have a huge initial financial investment like that of the PS3,” he said.

The PlayStation 3 is finally paying for itself, but Sony has had to endure a long and difficult lesson: Four and a half years is a long time to wait for an expensive system to turn a profit, especially when you consider that the previous console generation was seriously winding down after four and a half years on the market. This generation has been a little unusual in that the current game systems have had a very long run, but the most powerful technology hasn’t necessarily proven to have the most endurance. The Xbox 360 is still generally favored over the PS3 thanks to a huge user base and the popularity of Xbox Live. The Wii is a fun system bursting with strong entries from Nintendo’s key franchises, and the price is certainly attractive. Microsoft is also getting a little more life out of the Xbox 360 with Kinect titles. Both Microsoft and Nintendo’ systems lack the power and sophistication of the PlayStation 3, and yet both are still showing strong sales numbers, though the Wii’s sales have tapered off a bit. Even the seemingly primitive Nintendo DS sold piles of systems while the PSP languished in countries outside of Japan.

The PS3 taught Sony that people will not get a second job to pay for a game system just because it has the name “PlayStation” stamped on it. Above all else, people want interesting games at a fair price, and providing as much doesn’t necessarily require putting your company in the red for years and years. A system rarely sells on its brand alone, and Sony seems to realize that now. It’s just all part of the industry’s growing pains–though it’s a good job Sony survived those pangs and managed to take home a lesson.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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