Talking Point: Do We Need PlayStation 4 Yet?
Posted by Christopher Ingram
The future is... when?
Recently we looked at The Future of PlayStation, and if there's one topic constantly hammering itself to the top of news sites it's which new home consoles might appear at the 2012 E3 Expo. We know that a new console from Microsoft is a possibility and Nintendo’s Wii U is a definite, but Sony has previously stated many times that PS4 won’t be shown this year. As we’ve let all these exciting new revelations sink in and file away in our brains, one question seems to linger in our minds: do we really need PlayStation 4 just yet?
Back in October, as we were all in excited anticipation for PlayStation 3’s biggest 2011 game Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, we found ourselves taken aback by a nugget of news at Develop that claimed a few Sony studios had begun working on PlayStation 4 projects. At the time, it was hard to think forward to the PS4 when the PS3 was about to be pushed further than we’d ever seen. Sony has stated many times over that the PS3 would have a solid ten year life cycle and we were just about to hit the five year benchmark when this news came across our desk, but it's reasonable that a few of the studios would surely be needed to head into the next-gen development, as it takes years to create killer launch titles for a new home console.
After being blown away by Uncharted 3 and witnessing what the PlayStation 3 is still capable of, we started looking forward to PlayStation Vita: Sony’s new high tech handheld was about to launch in Japan and the thought of PS4 becoming a relatively near reality had long since drifted away. But that all changed when MCV reported that Sony will indeed be showing off the PS4 at E3, quoting an unnamed “ultra-high level source” and “100 per cent concrete” information. Is it possible that Sony is worried that it has to show PS4 now to keep up with the competition? While this could potentially allude to E3 2012 being the best showing in history, it also brings us back to our original question: even if Sony does show off the PS4, do we need it yet? Well, let’s dig a bit deeper and see what we can find.
The Power of Four
Worldwide PS3 sales are now sitting right about even with its only HD competition: Xbox 360, which is now starting to show its age not because of the system's power, but instead by disc limitations. We’ve seen developers scale down games to fit the limited disc capacity, and going forward it could even lead to the system missing out on games altogether as more multiplatform developers start using the PS3 as their primary kit. Microsoft has in turn shifted the 360 to a more casual appeal through the use of Kinect, finding great sales success in spite of the majority of its games not faring too well with reviewers. But with the majority of Xbox owners being core gamers, the Kinect effect isn’t quite as appealing as the likes of, say, Gears of War 3 and it’s looking like the time for the next Xbox console is right around the corner. An E3 showing is seemingly inevitable.
PlayStation Move has been a subtle sales success for Sony, but it’s also clearly still in its infancy too. It's given us a great way to play FPS games with motion controls and has surprisingly found its niche with core gamers, but games being developed solely around the controller haven’t quite found their stride just yet. Sony has pledged that this will change and is backing developers to bring new high quality Move exclusive titles to the PS3 in the coming years and Sorcery is looking like it could have just the magic touch needed to set the glowing controller on fire this Spring. With titles like BioShock Infinite, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and DUST 514 supporting Move, it’s clear that core gamers will keep on Movin’ in the coming years as well.
Then we’ve got PlayStation Vita charging up to challenge the realms of what portable gaming can be. Portable consoles have always offered stripped-down versions of console games, but Vita is changing that by allowing cross-platform play between Vita and PS3. Equally tantalising is the ability to play games on your PS3 at home and then pick up right where you left off on-the-go with Vita. With the immense power of Vita and the connectivity it holds with the PS3, there’s a potential for developers to explore exciting avenues for titles that use both the PS3 and Vita together in new and creative ways – similar to Wii U. Thinking forward, Sony has the potential to market Vita as a direct competitor to Wii U. The PS3 already has an install base of over 55 million units sold worldwide and rapidly growing, so many gamers have no need to purchase a PS3 to gain the Wii U-like features, all they need to do is purchase Vita for $249 – possibly cheaper than the Wii U price point. Whether or not Sony will take advantage of this scenario is yet to be seen, but one thing that’s completely transparent is that interconnectivity between the systems holds the potential to expand the way we play games, whether we’re at home or away. With both being independent consoles at the same time, the possibilities here are seemingly unlimited.
System specifications also play a major role in home consoles and the PS3 is no different, so let’s briefly talk about them here for a minute. With Ultra High Definition Televisions (a.k.a. UHDTV’s) still years away from landing on retail shelves, there’s not much room for the PS4 to improve in the realm of graphics. One thing many seem forget is that Sony is an electronics company first and foremost and when the PS3 launched you probably bought a new TV, HDMI cable and surround sound system to enjoy the new console in its full glory. Sony made a lot of sales from multiple sources and the PS3 showed off multiple products to the entire entertainment media. Sony’s PlayStation brand is a medium to sell a full range of products: wouldn’t it make sense for Sony to move into the next generation of UHDTV’s and surround sound with the PS4, just as it did with the PS3? If so, this means we won’t be seeing PS4 for a few more years down the road.
With Naughty Dog currently developing The Last of Us, Sony pushing for new high quality Move exclusives and Vita’s interconnectivity features, there’s definitely still a lot of life left in the PS3. Whether watching movies on Netflix, catching game highlights on NHL Gamecenter or streaming music through Music Unlimited, Sony’s idea to create a gaming system that "only does everything" has finally become a reality. There’s no reason for Sony to dive off the cliff when it's just now reaching the top: it’s always wise to enjoy the view for a while planning your next big climb.
Do you think we’ll be seeing PS4 at E3? Can the PS3 hold strong against the upcoming Wii U and Xbox console? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.