Sony’s PS4 reveal–a day later

Writing about an event live on Twitter is one thing, but after spending time actually thinking through the information is another thing. And, nearly a day removed from the Sony PS4 event in NYC, the analysis is broken into three parts:

  1. What Sony actually said
  2. What Sony hinted at
  3. What Sony didn’t say

The first part, What Sony actually said is simple and was pretty widely covered last night, so I’ll skip re-hashing it save one point: it was clear that Sony is trying to establish that the PS4 console will be for the core gamer. This theme played well last night with a good lineup of first-, second-, and third-party games.

The second part? Much more interesting, including:

  • Hinting at some of the capabilities coming from Gaikai. My sense from last night is that this is a pretty big work in progress. Typical console launches mean that launch titles look nice, but the developers haven’t figured out how to fully take advantage of the capabilities of the hardware and software architecture. Games that come in the second holiday after launch are typically much better overall games, with few notable exceptions. This means that the real coming out party for Gaikai integrated features is likely Holiday 2014.
  • Hinting at connected devices to control the PS4. It was hinted at but not discussed likely as to not detract from the core gaming theme. It was a bit strange to see the PlayStation Vita being shown, but at some point, Sony will reveal more about what its version of connected platforms means. There are three likely scenarios: 1) all devices simply connect to a cloud service, 2) Sony branded devices such as an Xperia phone or tablet interact with a PS4 or Sony TV courtesy of a vertical software stack, or 3) Sony opens up the APIs and comes up with a PSN app for iOS and Android devices.
    The third scenario is the most beneficial course assuming Sony wants to change the way it traditionally works, but that would require a significant cultural shift within the organization.
  • Hinting at capabilities of the stereo connect bar. A picture of it was shown last night, but little was discussed. The new Kinect sensor bar and voice commands will likely be a key tenet for the Xbox Durango, and Sony likely wants to avoid any early direct comparisons. Hence, they acknowledged they have a bar, but didn’t provide any color. This is now likely an E3 demo topic.
  • Hinting at enabling free-to-play gaming. Sony has been quietly putting the pieces into place to enable F2P, and the micropayments reference on stage likely means more news on this at E3.

That leaves the third part of the analysis — What Sony didn’t say.

  • No picture of the box, and almost by default, no confirmation of the Blu-Ray drive. The eventual plan of full digital downloads remains just that—a plan, and not reality. The “last mile” issue of Internet penetration with adequate bandwidth remains the choke point to not being able to move strictly to full downloads for games. Hence, a disc-based media solution is still needed, and Blu-Ray is the logical choice. This problem is not unique to the PS4 – the WiiU has an optical disc drive, and so will the Xbox Durango.
    Not talking about the Blu-Ray drive gives critics one less bit of ammo, and it avoids placing doubt in consumers’ minds that the PS4 is not a big enough leap to upgrade since it is still using the same Blu-Ray drive as the PS3.
  • No discussion of other media, services and entertainment such as movies or music. In hindsight, this is understandable given the goal of going after core gamers for the evening. This means likely more on services at E3 in June in Los Angeles.
  • No mention of much casual gaming content. The messaging for the evening was focused on the core gamer, and Sony wanted to re-ignite its core base first and foremost. There will be plenty of media cycle opportunities between now and launch to broaden the audience.
  • No mention of the words “Electronic Arts” or “Madden” or “John Riccitiello”. Huh. So the PS4 launch marked one event – arguably the first platform launch that didn’t initially involve EA. Heck, EA was a launch partner for the doomed Nokia N-Gage and the Tapwave Zodiac – but was not on stage. Technically, EA was one of nearly 80 developers all jammed onto one slide as an icon, but still…what happened?
    Most platform launches check all the required content boxes: First-person shooter? Check. Racing? Check. Role-playing game? Check. Casual? Check. Sports? Nothing. That is usually EA’s bailiwick.
    The only issue I can even think of, and have no data to support it, is a potential brewing conflict between EA’s Origin service and Sony’s PSN, including Gaikai. There is plenty of historical precedent to support this – Microsoft had issues with some of its key partners when it launched Xbox Live, and even Facebook and Zynga have had issues as Zynga has launched its own Zynga.com initiatives.
    Of course, it could be something simpler, and we’ll see EA up on stage with Sony at E3 in June.
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