At the Developer Conference in Brighton this week, SCEI president Andrew House went over how Sony came up with the initial plans for the Playstation 4 reveal. With both Microsoft and Sony working on their next-gen consoles at the time, there was much debate about who would fire the first shot. Sony ended up doing so in February of 2013 at a live event in New York. According to House, being the first one out of the gate was very important.
You’ve got an opportunity to stake the ground and hopefully take something of a leadership position
“I think we were probably earlier in the announce than we have been previously, and that was very deliberate,” House said according to a transcription of his speech by IGN. “I wanted to be out there first with the first announcement for this generation so you’ve got an opportunity to stake the ground and hopefully take something of a leadership position. Again, we’d had the experience of launching later than our competitor and that played very heavily to many of the thought processes and decisions made about PlayStation 4.”
Of course, revealing first also caused Sony to famously not show the actual PS4 hardware at the unveiling. That ended up happening months later at E3 2013 in LA. House also discussed this seemingly strange aspect of the console’s reveal, passing it off as regular business for Sony.
“This is one where I think honestly we were a little caught off guard and wrong-footed,” House said. “If you look back at our history of previous reveals, we generally always went with explaining what the concept would be, articulating what package the overall consumer experience was going to be and then later revealing the hardware. So this felt very natural and normal to us.”
While it is true that we usually had some idea of what would be in the package before the actual console was shown to the public, I feel like this misses a key component of the story. With the Playstation 2 and Playstation 3 there was no massive live event scheduled to unveil the thing, only to not show the hardware itself until later. Still, it all worked out in the end, so why argue about semantics now.
As far as the final design of the PS4, House said that he labored over multiple variations for a long time. Taking five initial sketches, he narrowed them down to two designs. Those were made into physical mock-ups which sat on his desk for a week. He took advice from other Sony veterans about which one to finally go with, and eventually settled on the PS4 design that we all saw at E3. “My benchmark at the end of the day was knowing I was going to get up there at E3 and have to do this. What would I be proudest holding?”