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A very high-resolution image of a 60GB PlayStation 3
Some question the likelihood of PS4 after Sony's shift to more software-focused management

Following the launch of PlayStation 3 and subsequent reshuffling of Sony Computer Entertainment management in November, industry analysts have been busy making assessments and predictions.

Some view the promotion of Ken Kutaragi, which takes him out of the day-to-day operations at SCEI, as a vote of non-confidence. Kazuo Hirai, who is known to have stronger relationships with game makers, takes over the new lead role which some believe to mark a new, software-focused era at Sony.

An analyst said something in a Financial Times report that would shake the world if true. “The appointment of Hirai could be the start of a shift from hardware to software,” said Yuta Sakurai, an analyst at Nomura. “I cannot now imagine a PlayStation4.”

While no one can argue that the PlayStation 3 is a technological marvel, analysts say that Sony bet too heavily on hardware for the latest console generation, and because of that, it has paid dearly for delays in manufacturing and high costs. Sony loses an estimated $240 to $300 on every console sold; and while selling machinery initially at a loss is not uncommon practice for gaming consoles, analysts calculate that it could take Sony five years to recoup the costs of PlayStation 3 hardware because of its enormous R&D costs. The delays and lack of hardware availability also gives competitors Nintendo and Microsoft greater opportunity at grabbing marketshare.

With the above in mind, it’s no wonder that some analysts are pegging Sony to go the way of Sega. Sony, however, was quick on the rebuttal button. Dave Karraker of SCEA had this to say to GameSpot: “Following the launch of the PlayStation 3 just a few weeks ago, and witnessing the huge consumer demand for the product, I think it would be rather short-sighted for anyone to predict there might not be a next generation of PlayStation product.”

Sony’s Phil Harrison said earlier in a Wired article that he would “be amazed if the PlayStation 4 has a physical disc drive,” in response to the Blu-ray Disc issue, hinting that the next-generation console will be a heavily networked device.

Most recently, Sony Europe VP Paul Holman said to Australian-based Smarthouse that a PS4 will be launched by Sony but not until at least 2010. “To say that there will be no PS4 because of a management change is a bit far fetched,” he said.

While comments from a few Sony executives do not officially confirm a PlayStation 4, they certainly deny that there isn’t going to be one. Right now, Sony has too much to deal with on the current generation before looking forward to the next. Holman said that Sony is planning to give PS3 more media centre capacity, while allowing for third party applications and hardware, “such as interactive controllers” like Nintendo’s Wii Remote. Sony recently reaffirmed in an interview that its console was more of a broad entertainment solution, while also admiring Nintendo Wii for its fun and intuitive gaming experience.

Sony also has to deal with several issues surrounding its new machine. For one, those who have HDTV compatible television sets but do not support 720p will be unable to play many new PS3 games in high-definition. This is because the PS3 lacks an internal upscaler, and will automatically downscale high-definition images to 480p, resulting in a dramatic loss of visual quality. Sony said that a fix was in the works, but later backtracked saying that the company has yet to announce any action towards the issue.

Although the PS3 contains the Emotion Engine and Graphics Synthesizer chips that powered the PS2, the new console is having compatibility issues running the previous generation games. Some games are freezing while others are playing without any sound. Sony is currently investigating the matter and is expected to improve compatibility through regular system updates.

For now, talk of a PlayStation 4 seems premature as Sony is likely still completely preoccupied with maintaining the PlayStation 3 population in Japan and North America, and preparing for the European and Australian launches in March 2007. Microsoft said that work on the next Xbox didn’t start until about a year after the launch of Xbox 360, though early development is likely underway, with the possibility that the software giant is designing some of the new silicon in-house.

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they're wrong
By andrewrocks on 12/6/2006 1:27:01 PM , Rating: 0
the analysts are at least

all of us who frequently post here probably have a better idea of what this industry is about than some 30 year old suit.

RE: they're wrong
By cochy on 12/6/2006 1:52:10 PM , Rating: 3
Is there something wrong with 30 year olds? I'm turning 28 in 3 weeks, don't make me feel old.

Maybe this analyst fool might want to realize that having someone in charge who has good relationship with software developers has more to do with building better 3rd party software relationships, since it seems said 3rd parties aren't too enamored with the PS3 at the moment, than something to do with the next generation 5-6 years from now.

RE: they're wrong
By stromgald on 12/6/2006 3:44:47 PM , Rating: 1
I agree the analysts are wrong, but the fact he's a 30 yr old suit doesn't have anything to do with it. Staffing shifts doesn't mean anything. A software guy taking over a hardware job could just be expanding his horizons, not indicating a change in the overall system.

IMO, the PS4 will come out simply because Sony will make money on the PS3. Once they sell enough, they'll break even and start raking in lots of $$. Why would they stop doing what they're doing if it makes money? The fact is they wouldn't. Obviously, Xbox-360 has gained substatial market share so if the trend continues, Sony may opt out of the console business, but as of now, they're still making money in the business so they're not going to stop.

RE: they're wrong
By One43637 on 12/6/2006 6:48:26 PM , Rating: 2

By andrewrocks on 12/6/2006 1:27:01 PM , Rating: 1
the analysts are at least

all of us who frequently post here probably have a better idea of what this industry is about than some 30 year old suit.

age, chosen profession, and what the person wears to work has no bearing on whether or not said person has any knowledge about the gaming industry.

RE: they're wrong
By masher2 on 12/7/2006 9:38:31 AM , Rating: 1
> "age, chosen profession, and what the person wears to work has no bearing on whether or not said person has any knowledge about the gaming industry..."

Very true. To that I'd add that the fact one happens to play video games also has very little bearing on their knowledge of the industry.

RE: they're wrong
By Clienthes on 12/7/2006 2:25:08 PM , Rating: 2
I hope you meant that at only 30 years of age, this analyst couldn't possibly have enough insight and experience to make such a prediction.

Because 30 is pretty young. Most of the people who code and design the games we all love are over 30. I'll bet some of them even wear a suit from time to time.

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