Fun for the family

Subtract the upcoming God of War: Ascension and The Last of Us from the equation, and 2012 is looking like PS3’s most mainstream year yet. Sure, the likes of Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time and PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale have crossover appeal (they are evidently designed with nostalgia in mind) but they also covet a younger audience. Factor in the announcement of LittleBigPlanet Karting and next week’s magical motion controlled adventure Sorcery, and Sony’s intentions become clear: it is now targeting a slightly younger demographic.

The change in direction comes at a key point in the PS3’s lifespan. Challenged by pricing difficulties for much of the generation, the system is now potentially one cut away from reaching a mainstream audience. The race to $199 is something that’s been exaggerated by console manufacturers over the years, but there’s no doubt that the magic price point opens up the platform to a brand new audience. Indeed, Sony knows that it did a chunk of the PS2’s business after it fell below the psychological benchmark.

Sony probably won’t announce a price-drop at next month’s E3 – likely opting for the more favourable timing of GamesCom – but it’s clear from looking at the company’s portfolio that change is coming. As rumours regarding the next wave of PlayStation hardware surface, it's now looking towards a different market with PS3.

Magic moments

It’s going to be interesting to see how PlayStation Move factors into that new direction. While Kinect has successfully managed to widen the appeal of the traditionally hardcore Xbox 360, Sony’s motion offering hasn’t been quite as successful. There have been good games, of that there’s no doubt, but Sony has always pushed the peripheral as a supplement to the PS3 experience, rather than a key component.

But with Sorcery marking the first major Move release in over a year, Sony has the opportunity to re-market the device this Christmas. With PS3 packing a more casual friendly software line-up and, as we’ve speculated, a much more attractive price-point, Move finally has the opportunity to reach its full potential.

Of course, a lot of that is going to depend on software. The biggest problem Move has faced is the lacklustre support it’s received – not just from third-party developers, but also first-party studios too. Sony has the chance to rectify that this Fall, with well developed and prominently marketed software. The line-up doesn’t have to be large, but the quality needs to be good. A new Sports Champions, for example, would complement the soon to be released Sorcery well, and if Sony could find a way to bundle the games and hardware together, it’s easy to see the peripheral taking off at last.

The last of its kind

As such, this year’s E3 is going to provide an indication of how Sony feels about Move two years after release. There’ll undoubtedly be a nod to the peripheral during the company’s press conference, but the size of that acknowledgement will emphasise its intentions going forward.

Regardless of what the company does with its motion wand, however, it’s clear that this year is going to be all about pushing the PlayStation 3 into a new market. With the likes of Assassin’s Creed III and Call of Duty: Black Ops II on the horizon traditional gamers certainly won’t be forgotten, but beyond titles such as God of War: Ascension and The Last of Us, Sony’s core game efforts have clearly switched focus towards the PS4.