Can PlayStation 4 get Sony back in the game?
That was reflected in Sony’s miserable financial results. The company has lost money for the past three years, hampered not only by slower console sales but also by a range of unexciting electronic products, a strong yen and the 2011 tsunami that struck Japan.
Analysts have made dire remarks about the one-time powerhouse’s viability. But Sony seems to have bottomed out, helped by a yen that has now weakened. Sony executives said this month that they expected a profit in 2013.
Sony’s new chief executive, Kazuo Hirai, has a longtime personal connection to the PlayStation franchise and is making it one of the core elements of a more tightly focused company.
Hirai became known for some of his more confident statements about the PlayStation, particularly a 2006 swipe at Microsoft: “The next generation doesn’t start until we say it does.”
These days, the next generation is playing games on the web. Console makers typically sell their consoles for a loss and generate profit through sales of games. In 2012, US consumers spent $14.8 billion on game content, including computer and video games, down from $16.34 billion in the previous year, according to the NDP Group, a research firm.
Instead of buying traditional games, which typically cost $50 or more, many consumers are being drawn to the cheaper, sometimes free games available for their smartphones and tablets, analysts say.
PlayStation 4 games can be streamed to the PlayStation Vita, Sony’s portable game device, among other features.
“The architecture is like a PC in many ways, but supercharged to bring out its full potential as a gaming platform,” said Mark Cerny, Sony’s lead system architect.
James L McQuivey, a Forrester analyst, said that for the PlayStation 4 to succeed, Sony needed to think beyond games. The console will have to provide other types of content and services, like video conferencing, third-party apps and a TV service to create a deeper, long-term relationship with the customer.
By comparison, Apple, the world’s leading consumer electronics maker, does not just sell hardware. It also has a universe of digital content including apps, music, movies and ebooks to make people come back for more Apple gear every year.
Apple generally takes an enviable 30 per cent cut of all media it sells. Microsoft, Google and Amazon are making similar moves to create such a product array.
“Then and only then can Sony hope to learn enough about its users to overcome its own bias toward preferring to design products in response to engineering principles rather than customer needs,” McQuivey said. – (New York Times)