The PS4 reveal: Sony needs to show exclusive games, offer a clear vision, and announce a low price
So what’s the best case scenario for Sony’s announcement this evening? We’ll be covering it via live-blog, and Sophie will have a summary of everything we learned about the system shortly after the event, but for now, let’s take a step back from the rumors and speculation and think about ways that Sony could make a strong case for what we assume is going to be the next-generation PlayStation system.
It could be a slimmer Vita, though. You never know. But let’s focus on a new console for now.
Sony needs to show exclusive games
I love seeing new games at hardware events, because there is no point in the system unless there is something to put into it. We get excited about hardware reveals because they’re big news, but we actually buy the hardware to play games. That’s why we’re all here, and that’s the end result of all this bullshit. At some point Sony wants us to sit down with this new hardware and play some games.
So let’s see them. I don’t want to see some demo reels, or have titles hinted at, I want to know what games I’ll be able to play on the system when it’s released. I want to get excited about the new things those games are bringing to the table.
It’s not a matter of seeing a next-generation Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, although I’m all for both of those remote possibilities. Sony needs to show us games we won’t be able to get any place else. The vast majority of games that will be released for the next-generation PlayStation and Xbox will exist on both platforms, but right now Sony has the spotlight all to itself. It needs to sell us on games we won’t be able to get anyplace else. We need to see games that we absolutely won’t be able to play unless we buy a PlayStation 4, or whatever they plan on calling it.
The more exclusive games, the better. Especially since Sony is going to be the first out of the gate, Wii U notwithstanding. If they can show off a suite of games that will only be available on their hardware, and it’s a compelling selection, almost all their work is done for them.
Sony needs to communicate the vision behind their system
Why do we need a new system? We know the graphics are going to be better, there will be more storage, and everything is going to be bumped up a bit with new technology, but how will that positively impact the games we play? What’s the actual vision behind the system?
I don’t want the same games I’ve been playing on my PlayStation 3 but with higher frame rates and better graphics (well, we do want that, but not exclusively), I want games that simply wouldn’t be possible on current generation systems. I want new ways of interacting with the games I play, and the people I play them with, without Sony simply throwing a bunch of existing technology at the problem. It’s likely that the new PlayStation and Xbox systems will be roughly equal in terms of raw performance, so services and capabilities for interaction are good ways to set yourself apart.
What are these things? I honestly don’t know. But when we look at things like the Minecraft problem we see just how far behind the consoles have fallen in terms of innovation and freedom for both players and developers. Sony has always been wonderful about supporting smaller, weirder games, and I’d love to see that trend continue with the new system.
So we need to see a strong, consistent vision for the hardware, one that clearly explains how it will change how we play games for the better. This was a major failing of the Wii U, and if Sony’s elevator pitch is strong, it could give the company a huge advantage in the market.
A price that makes sense
Don’t get me wrong, I doubt we’re going to get a price point at tonight’s event, but the price of a console has never been more important. The 3DS was all but forced into an early price drop before sales picked up, and the Vita is dying an ugly death in the US due to pricing issues and a lack of games. The PlayStation 3 was released at the incredible price of $600, a number that hurt Sony during the early days of the system. They can’t afford to make the same mistake again.
Sony is in a better place with this upcoming hardware. It’s likely the company ditched the idea of expensive, proprietary hardware for the system to focus on parts that are easier to create or buy, and don’t cost an arm and a leg. When the final specs are revealed it’s likely that it’s going to look like a very, very fast PC packaged in a box and slapped with a PlayStation 4 logo. That’s the smart play, and it’s likely the direction both Microsoft and Sony will go in.
The Cell, for all of Sony’s foot stomping, was a bust. It didn’t lead to games that looked better than the 360, and in fact the early PS3 games would often look and perform significantly worse than the 360 versions. If Sony moves away from rolling their own solutions to the hardware, we can expect a much lower price, and that’s better for everyone. Known hardware is easier to code for, it’s less expensive for Sony, which will make the console less expensive for consumers, and it means ports to and from other consoles and the PC will be simpler. Everyone wins.
If Sony launches at anything higher than $400, they’re going to be in trouble. The strategy of bundling extra games and storage and then increasing the price has been a bust for the company so far, but lowering the price during Black Friday led to some positive gains in terms of sales.
We need a lower price right out of the gate, and Sony needs to stop pretending gamers are willing to pay more for premium hardware. At retail, the lowest price tag is going to be king.
I doubt we’ll get these three things, and hardware reveals tend to be awkward, unwieldy things. On the other hand, Sony could take this thing home if the company offers a handful of amazing, exclusive games, clearly communicates the goals of the new system and explains how it will help us play games better, and then announce a sub-$400 price point. Games, clear vision, and a low price. That’s all I want to see.
I’m curious for your thoughts though, what am I missing? What would you like to see? Be sure to tune into our live blog as well, so we can talk about what’s going on in real time. This is going to be a fun night.