Sony thrilled and excited many gaming fans last week when they finally took the covers off their upcoming console, PlayStation 4.
I just can’t stop asking myself: why?
To clear things up straight away, I have no problem with Sony’s new console. PlayStation 4 appears to be a capable device and anything to give the video game industry a shot in the arm is a good thing at this point.
I am more concerned about the timing of the announcement, rather than the announcement itself. To me, it feels like Sony rushed the PlayStation 4 announcement to either beat Microsoft to the punch, or to “kick Nintendo while they’re down”, as it is clear that company’s profits for the full year will not hit original target come March 31.
Of course, a more sensible argument would be that Sony wanted the PlayStation 4 to be “out there” going into their new financial year, which starts on April 1. That way, Sony can report earnings as “pre-PlayStation 4″ and “post-PlayStation 4″ eras.
The reason I feel the PlayStation 4 announcement was too early is simple: the games, the features and even the hardware itself leave a lot to the imagination.
Sure, we saw some games but the ones that were shown were hardly anything revolutionary. Killzone: Shdaow Fall looked nice, but nothing that couldn’t be done on an upmarket PC. Knack raised the most questions — this title is being developed by the guy who made PlayStation 4, yet it doesn’t really look (on the surface at least) like anything that couldn’t exist on PlayStation 3.
While Sony showed off the DualShock 4 controller, they failed to explain how the new touch panel will work in games, or how it will set PlayStation 4 apart.
Perhaps the reasons for these somewhat underwhelming announcements is due to the fact PlayStation 4 is simply not ready to be shown. Not that it’s a horrible thing, of course. One similar example can be found in the movie industry. The upcoming Star Trek movie has pleased legions of fans already by showing off small clips and set photos before the movie finished shooting.
So, what can we gleam from Sony’s premature announcement? I think the first thing to be careful of is forming an opinion on the PlayStation 4 just yet. We haven’t seen the actual console, but more than that, we haven’t really seen what the PlayStation 4 is capable of, outside its shiny graphics. Writing it off as a flop, or indeed claiming it’s the best thing since sliced bread would both be uninformed to say the least.
We also know that Sony is serious about developer support. PlayStation 4’s announcement served to be a concept demo for developers, I think, more than a marketing stunt for customers. It might work, and hundreds of developers will probably flock to the system. I believe this was Sony’s true purpose for announcing the console now, before the actual console even exists. The public nature might’ve been the company’s plan to “seal the deal” with developers, who must now be questioning moving development from a machine that has only just started to become massively popular.
Not many companies can launch a new product without it actually appearing in the launch and live to tell the tale, but when we take the PlayStation 4 announcement for what it was, and what it was meant to be, it might just prove to be one of Sony’s best ideas yet.
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