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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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RE: NeXT, the PS4, and you...
By TomZ on 12/6/2006 2:17:36 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know - I was thinking that my current DSL connection (3Mb down) is just "average" - I see lots of areas around the U.S. and world with much higher, and I also figure that in a few years, only 3Mb down will be considered slow by most everyone. And when you compare it to buying a game on the Internet and waiting for shipping, even a slow Internet connection will get you the game faster.


RE: NeXT, the PS4, and you...
By sscilli on 12/6/2006 11:02:49 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know if it's fair to say 3mb is the average. I know I don't have that, and unless your willing and able to fork out 50+ dollars than you definatly would not be able to download next-gen games faster than a few days. Granted that's not to slow, but it's much slower than going to a store and buying it.


RE: NeXT, the PS4, and you...
By Aesir on 12/7/2006 7:21:28 AM , Rating: 2
That, my friend, is not "average". I have 256Kb/256Kb DSL (oh, the joys of being an early adopter) and 3Mb down is the max available here, and thats only when you live close to the central station. I wish someone would hurry up and buy out Qwest.

I would put the national average at somewhere around 762Kb down.


RE: NeXT, the PS4, and you...
By PrinceGaz on 12/7/2006 9:33:50 AM , Rating: 3
Typical DSL speeds here in the UK are anything from 2Mb for a basic slow service, up to 8Mb or so for less than £20 inc VAT (effectively about US$30-35). I'm sure they're working on higher speeds. Cable is available at speeds from the slowest of 2Mb, up to 10Mb at the moment, though at somewhat higher prices (due to there being no competing cable companies). It's worth noting those prices are for unlimited usage; broadband with a monthly limit is a waste of time.

Seems to me like the broadband providers in the US are ripping you off.


RE: NeXT, the PS4, and you...
By rykerabel on 12/7/2006 12:33:40 PM , Rating: 3
nah, living 50 miles from the nearest telephone switch is the problem here.

Cable TV does not even reach my house, not even analog cable.


By thecoolnessrune on 12/10/2006 12:32:48 AM , Rating: 2
People of other countries seem to complain so much about how the US is behind, and indeed we are... However, show me a country as large as the US that has faster average speeds... Then I'll start saying we have a problem.


"So, I think the same thing of the music industry. They can't say that they're losing money, you know what I'm saying. They just probably don't have the same surplus that they had." -- Wu-Tang Clan founder RZA














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