Game box rivals Microsoft and Sony know that this year's homework assignment is a real killer. If their flagship products are going to make it, the companies cannot just put out a great new Xbox or PlayStation, respectively. They need to fight for user traffic at a time when consoles are weakening under the competitive weight of smartphones and tablets offering plenty of game titles to keep consumers happy.
Thursday's speech by Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) President and Group CEO, Andrew House, at the Tokyo Game Show, however, revealed no signs of the shivers.
He delivered a bold sales target for FY 2013 of 5 million PlayStation 4 consoles by the end of March 2014. That is an ambitious number, considering the state of the console market compared to sales of 3.6 million for the PS3 sold over a similar time frame, with that console selling for $499 compared with the upcoming PS4 price of $399.
High ambitions are not just based on a lower price but also on the PS4's ability to offer a wider variety of entertainment services. House made it clear that this time around Sony is out to do battle not only with Microsoft Xbox but also with marketplace perceptions of the console as game box.
Connector, Not Box
PlayStation 4 is to be positioned as a portal for games and films and music, in other words, as a living room entertainment hub. House said PS4 was living in a "connected world." Translation: If Sony cannot beat the onslaught of smartphone and tablet devices used for games, then, fine, Sony will join them. House told his audience on Thursday that Sony was serious about providing connectivity with the broader Internet and mobile devices.
Every time a user switches on a PS4, he will see something from the broader connected world and personalized for him, such as mixing games with karaoke and party titles. He called on developers to help deliver connected, personalized experiences together with Sony.
Sony also is positioning its PS4 as a component in an ecosystem of connected machines that consumers will be eager to adopt. "We have added new functions and services," he said, including networking with other game players through smartphones and tablets, for an enhanced social experience.
To this end, House on Thursday talked up a new PlayStation App for iOS and Android machines that can connect to the PS4 and allow players to interact with specific games on the console, behaving as a kind of second screen to expand the action from the console.
First at the Gate
As for the U.S. turf, Sony is doing battle to unseat the Xbox. The PS4 will be on the shelves November 15, a week before consumers see the Xbox.
Sony is clearly fighting for quick returns to help revive its consumer electronics business. If some industry watchers are correct, those returns must be quick and sure.
The installed bases of the Xbox One and PS4 are expected to be 20 percent lower than those of the previous generation after five years on the market, according to Futuresource Consulting, a research company that focuses on the entertainment media and consumer electronics as well as other markets.
The company attributes this number to "increased availability of high-quality alternative gaming platforms such as mobile devices, as well as expected propositions from tech powerhouses Apple and Google."
Futuresource commented that "with increased market convergence and non-traditional competition, we could be looking at the last generation of gaming consoles as we know it."
Sony's outlook suggests a confident wink. Gaming consoles, if the Sony PS4 outlook turns out to be correct, will prove that the PS4 is not anything like the last generation of gaming console as we knew it.