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Playstation 4: Sony for life?

by William Schwartz

playstation-4-announcement-february

With the next-generation of consoles looming, like many other gamers, I have taken to re-examining my console alliances. I made my choices in this generation, but once again, it’s up to Sony and Microsoft to make me choose who to side with when the PlayStation 4 and Xbox 720 arrive.

There was a time when I had no need for another console. I grew up an avid Sony fan boy. One of my fondest gaming memories is playing Tomb Raider on the original PlayStation all of one Christmas day. I was quick to line up for the PlayStation 2, and purchased the console with Metal Gear Solid so my brother and I could play it. However, when the PlayStation 3 was announced, I was upset. I wasn’t ready to go “get a second job”, and like other long time fans, the huge price tag at release shunned me away. But then something happened. The Xbox 360, after announcing they had fixed the infamous RROD, dropped the price on the Xbox 360 to $249 for a stripped down base model.

I was hugely excited! I don’t watch movies or download music to my console, so I wasn’t concerned with the small hard drive. I don’t play with multiple people so I didn’t care about one controller and no headset. I wanted to play Call of Duty online, by myself, and at 249$ I could do that. Since then, I have been on the Xbox bandwagon. Fast forward to 2013 and the looming Sony announcement of the PS4. If Sony’s track record is any indication, We know with most certainty that it is going to be expensive. Reports and rumors are surfacing with a price of 399$ or it being a ‘nerve center for your living room’. Will I get one? Depends.

I like to consider myself a “hardcore gamer”, and I want a system built for it in the next-generation. I was highly disappointed in both the Kinect and the PS move. They were mindlessly aimed at the casual family crowd, but left out the players who have helped build these gaming companies into the giants they now are. Both Sony and Microsoft are continuously milking us dry of every last cent we are willing to give. This pretty much comes with the territory of playing games these days. Gaming has become a pretty expensive hobby. Though this generation has seen the rise of charging for even the smallest of luxuries. I already pay to play online via Xbox Live, and now Sony has a similar subscription service that could increase my monthly gaming expense yet again. Yet I still read that people think Sony should start charging for online play? Whatever happened to getting something of value when you pay for a service?

What does Sony need to do to win me, and many more like me, back? Well it’s definitely not asking me to pay for online play, when it’s free on other platforms.

playstation-4-mock-up

It’s my living room, not yours

I don’t want a cable box, I have one. What Sony and Microsoft need to realize is that I have a cable provider, and it’s not them. It never will be. I will not rely on them for all of my entertainment needs. I have a wife, and convincing her to wade through the PlayStation Network for something to watch over dinner is never going to happen.I don’t want to use a PS move or a controller to change the channels on my tv. I have a remote for that. And I have no intentions of spending money on your over priced variation. The point of a console has always been to play games, and to increase the ‘wow factor’ with every new release. This has been the selling point for systems for years. Throw an insane amount of technical specs out for the guys who understand it, and show me a video of a game that looks so realistic, I urinate down my leg. I’ll head straight to the pre-order queue, apologizing to those around me for the stench.

Remember the first video of the frostbite 2 engine for Battlefield 3. It captured the imagination of shooter fans looking for a taste of the next-generation. It also helped EA go on to sell record numbers for the Battlefield franchise. I was blown away, I was ready to put big money down to play that until I found out it was running on a PC, and I HATE Battlefield. Make me feel that way with the PS4.

Games

There are two driving forces in console sales: Price and Games. If Modern Warfare 4 was only on Wii U, they couldn’t make those systems fast enough. We would all have them. Sony has secured some great titles as exclusives: Uncharted, God of War, Killzone, and The Last of Us (the last one I’m pretty excited about). And Sony needs to make sure they continue spending money on the development of great exclusive franchises. The Wii U’s recent launch failure wasn’t really a shock to many, but some point the blame, in part, to a lack of quality launch games.

If these great games don’t sell well, don’t look at the consumer for answers, Sony. Look at yourself, it’s your job to market the strengths of these game. 2012 was an abysmal year for some first party titles from Sony, and it was largely in part to a lack of marketing. Get on TV, buy web ads, let people know that you can’t get these types of game experiences anywhere else other than the PS4.

You’re not going to sell game consoles with the allure of web apps.

Price

No matter what is included with the system, Sony should continue to offer different versions of the PS4. There will always be players willing to play big money for upgraded systems, and options at retail are definitely a good thing.

Offering a low cost model gives the average joe an opportunity to become one of Sony’s ‘number of systems sold’ statistics. Finding the right balance of hardware and features to keep this price down is paramount for Sony. Give people the ability to wade back into PlayStation waters with a console whose price leads with a 3, and you’ll likely find yourself in the driver’s seat once again. Those consumers will likely drop more cash in the coffers as the generation matures.

It’s also too early to abandon PlayStation Plus. It’s just now gaining traction. Retaining the free online play via the PlayStation Network is a way to show your gamers you care, and for those that are ok with an annual fee, PlayStation Plus is the perfect solution. It shows your base that you don’t want all their money, just some of it, and you’re willing to give something back in return.

The Announcement

Who knows what Sony will announce next week. Will it be the PlayStation 4? If it’s not, there are going to be a lot of unhappy fans who have been patiently waiting for the next-gen.

This early marketing hinges on a combination of what exclusive games will arrive , a decent price point, and their ability to pay attention to the entire spectrum of gamers. For some of us who have owned every system since the first Nintendo, generational leaps are exciting times for our hobby. I’ve spent most of my life as a “gamer”, and I can’t wait to pass this hobby down to my children. That is, if Sony and Microsoft don’t ruin it for everyone with their cash hungry ways and inability to focus on what made them get into making video game consoles in the first place.

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