The sarcastic ‘Year of the PlayStation 3’ meme has existed as long as the console itself. Lacking software and struggling commercially next to the more affordable Xbox 360 and innovative Nintendo Wii, forum posters and bloggers adopted the scornful slogan in order to mock the manufacturer’s initial missteps with its current generation console. Despite eventually shrugging those early concerns aside, the phrase still pops up from time to time in response to the platform’s line-up. It’s typically used in jest, but in 2013, it actually carries some truth.
Little more than two months ago, Sony Santa Monica deployed God of War: Ascension, a somewhat unnecessary but thoroughly enjoyable instalment in one of PlayStation’s best-selling franchises. It was accompanied by Gears of War: Judgment on the Xbox 360 – two prequels produced for outgoing consoles. Except, that’s not entirely true for the Japanese manufacturer’s existing machine, as the PS3 still has a lot of life left in it. The next few months will plot the arrival of new games from Naughty Dog, Quantic Dream, and now Polyphony Digital – not exactly small names for a platform on its last legs.
In fact, when you look at the line-up Sony’s got in store for its current generation system over the coming months, it makes for impressive reading. The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, Gran Turismo 6 – these are the sort of titles that you’d expect to see on a console in its prime, not one on the verge of being leapfrogged by new hardware. Incredibly, the catalogue bulges further when you factor in third parties, too. Cross-generation games such as Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, and Call of Duty: Ghosts are still on the way – and then there’s the small matter of a little sequel called Grand Theft Auto V, the latest entry in one of the biggest franchises in gaming.
It’s a line-up that’s fitting of the moniker ‘Year of the PS3’, and certainly not for derisive reasons. The platform’s had strong periods in the past, of course – both 2009 and 2011 immediately spring to mind – but nothing quite on the scale of what the coming months hold. That, under ordinary circumstances, would be cause for celebration – but with the PlayStation 4 right around the corner, it’s starting to look a little odd. The question is: has the manufacturer lost its marbles, or is it actually making the right moves?
We’ve always maintained that the PS3 will remain its relevancy in the marketplace for some time yet, but today’s Gran Turismo 6 announcement changed our stance somewhat. The platform holder’s currently putting a lot of resources behind The Last of Us, and Beyond: Two Soul’s recent appearance at the Tribeca Film Festival indicated that it’s on the verge of doing the same for the Quantic Dream adventure. Considering the sales of the franchise in general, we’d be shocked if it didn’t provide Polyphony Digital’s just revealed sequel with a similar amount of support. So, where, exactly, will the PS4 fit in?
Well, it’s not like the next generation console’s going to be released without any form of marketing support – ‘Greatness Awaits’, remember – but we think that it’s becoming increasingly obvious that the PS3 is going to remain the platform holder’s flagship console throughout the holiday season. With the system still yet to reach a mainstream price point – it’ll almost certainly be reduced to $199 in North America at some point this year – it strikes us that the manufacturer’s going to give the console one last Christmas to shine. It may seem like a baffling strategy at first – and we’ve struggled with the concept ourselves for several months – but it does actually make some sense.
The reality is that the hardcore market will purchase the PS4 regardless. The lure of new entries in popular franchises such as Killzone and inFAMOUS will prove too strong for devoted gamers, and, short of a $599 US dollar-esque pricing disaster, the system will sell out at launch irrespective of the PS3’s line-up. Much like the Wii U, those early sales will eventually tail off in early 2014, but that’s when the company can change direction. Theoretically, it has very little to lose by focusing on its existing system this Christmas, and yet it has a whole lot to gain.
With the software that’s currently in the pipeline for the PS3 and a reduced price point, the console is going to sell absolute gangbusters this year. Sony estimated 10 million units in its recent financial forecast, but we already have some reason to believe that it may be intentionally setting its targets low. Regardless, we wouldn’t be surprised if it exceeded that, and it’s important to remember that it will be raking in pure profit in the process. The system is now approaching its eighth year on the market, and you have to imagine that even at a lower cost, it will be seriously raking in cash for the company this year.
And, ultimately, that will put the PS4 in good stead. It’s true that Microsoft’s likely to sprint out of the blocks with the next Xbox, but guiding the PS3 through another successful holiday season will not necessarily doom its successor to failure. Realistically, how many more units is the Redmond-based manufacturer likely to sell in a single quarter? And let’s not forget that the North American firm’s refreshed system will actually have competition this time around – from both current and next generation machines.
Sony’s clearly looking to the future with its hardware transition strategy, and there’s definitely some sense in the decision. It will bank big profits on the back of the likes of Gran Turismo 6 this Christmas, and lock a number of casual players into its brand. Meanwhile, the PS4 will still get its moment in the spotlight, and should find itself in a much stronger position than its predecessor on account of actually being on store shelves this time around. Whether the next Xbox rockets to an early lead or not, it doesn’t really matter – the Japanese manufacturer is more concerned with the long game, as the PS3 is currently proving in spades.
What do you make of Sony’s strategy with the PS4? Do you think that the company’s making the right decisions with its current generation software line-up? Let us know in the comments section below.