It’s been seven years since the PS3 was released and gamers and the industry alike have long been waiting with bated breath for the start of a new console generation. But the wait is now over as Sony finally unveiled the new PlayStation 4 during a live press conference in New York on the 20th of February, which was live-streamed to over 3.2 million viewers around the globe.
Sony highlighted several key developments including the new PlayStation Cloud service and the heavily updated Dual Shock 4 controller. Sony also briefly touched upon the merging of their online content services across music, video and gaming, all of which will tie into their comprehensive social network capabilities.
One of Sony’s main areas of focus in this console generation is making core gaming a more social experience though the introduction of a new PlayStation Eye camera packaged with every unit and the new Dual Shock 4 controller, which includes a front-facing touchpad, microphone socket and a social sharing button. At a touch of a button, players will be able to automatically upload in-game screenshots or video content onto their Facebook profiles and UStream accounts, video chat with friends whilst playing and even be a spectator in each other’s games.
The new PlayStation Cloud service will offer users Sony’s back catalogue of titles as well as a way for them to trial new game demos instantly. Sony says it’s planning to drip feed more details on the new cloud service over the next few months, the majority of which is expected at this year’s E3 in June.
With the new focus on social and a rapid increase in user generated content, branded in-game integrations will have a wider impact as it’s not just gamers, but also their various networks of friends who would see brand presence in games. Brands could sponsor in-game events or integrations and could host competitions for the best user-generated videos around said branded content.
The PS Cloud service is rich in potential for brands as well. By opening up Sony’s vast library of software for PS4 users, brands could capitalize on consumer nostalgia by offering customers free access to classic titles or new releases. Although not yet confirmed, Sony is also likely to package the PS Cloud technology as a subscription service for its connected TVs, tablets and mobile products. And as Sony is also linking all its content services together, it’s likely that the social network that Sony are creating for the PS4 will also be present across their whole technological product range, which would also mean that the social sharing functionality would become more impactful across passion points, not just games, but music and video as well.
Additionally, the new technology of the PS Eye, touchpad and integration of the Move motion functionality into their new controller could be used to create innovative activations on the platform, much like how Kinect has been used for advertising purposes for the Xbox 360.
Sony is keen to show that it’s learned from its previous mistakes with regards to its content strategy, social capabilities and developer support by focusing heavily on these areas in the PS4.
But considering Sony’s current financial predicament, the success of its drive towards comprehensive content services will indicate the survival of the console industry as a whole as console USPs are gradually being eroded by mobiles, PCs and connected TVs. Whilst it’s likely that there’ll be a demand for consoles for another decade yet, eventually I believe small entertainment oriented PCs will take over the living room for our gaming and entertainment needs.
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