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