PlayStation 4

Sony’s commitment to the oft-discussed ten year life cycle is generally a positive thing. As a consumer, you can be fairly confident when you buy a new PlayStation product on launch day that it will be supported for a full decade at the very least. That’s reassuring – gaming is an expensive hobby, and no one wants to be lumbered with an obsolete piece of hardware before it’s even hit its stride. But while the platform holder’s dedication to legacy support is largely admirable, it must make sure that it gets its priorities right when navigating the transition to the PlayStation 4 later this year.

Under arrest

There’s absolutely no denying that the PlayStation 3 has a lot of life left in it. Despite approaching its seventh year on the market, the console still hasn’t hit the magical mainstream $199.99 price point in North America, meaning that it’s one discount away from a serious sales spike. That’ll likely come before Christmas, timed to capitalise on the release of big third-party titles such as Battlefield 4 and Grand Theft Auto V. With new bundles, a low price point, and a back catalogue brimming with cheap content, the system seems well positioned to round out its last few years on the market in style.

And that’s fine. Considering the PS3’s extraordinarily problematic launch, it’ll be a change for the system to print some cash rather than suck it up like an overpowered Dyson. But the real beauty is that Sony doesn’t really need to do that much at all. Other than keeping store shelves replenished, negotiating new bundles with third-party publishers, and paying for the odd television or magazine advertisement, the console should pretty much sell itself. However, what’s concerning us is that the platform holder appears to be committing itself to further first-party support, too.

Feeling nervous

Many of us assumed earlier in the year that the likes of The Last of Us and Beyond: Two Souls would represent the last of Sony’s major exclusive offerings for the PS3, but that’s looking increasingly unlikely by the day. Mounting speculation suggests that the manufacturer’s lining up a new Gran Turismo game, as well as a third entry in the LittleBigPlanet franchise for the current console. If the rumours are accurate, both titles could be poised to launch later this year alongside the system’s successor. But isn’t that taking legacy support a little too far?

Many will point to the success of God of War II as a counterargument. The second entry in Sony Santa Monica’s colossal mythological series launched on the PlayStation 2 in March 2007, some five months after the PS3 had hit store shelves in North America. The title went on to sell almost a million copies in its first month alone, an impressive performance for a title running on outdated hardware. But while the release profited greatly from the humongous install base of its parent platform, it also served as a reminder of the issues that the system’s successor faced at the time.

On the rampage

At the start of 2007, the PS3 was in a bad place. There was very little meaningful content on the horizon for the expensive console, and it was getting trounced on the hardware charts due to its extortionate price point. A release like God of War II could have given the system real substance, and perhaps even turned the console’s fortunes around earlier. It may not have moved as many discs, but it almost certainly would have pushed systems off store shelves, and perhaps even have stopped Sony from ceding such an advantage to Microsoft in the long run.

Sony can’t afford to tread a similar path with the PS4. While there’s still a big place for its current generation console on the market, it needs to ensure that the majority of its resources are being ploughed into the console’s successor – especially when it comes to enormous franchises such as Gran Turismo. As the biggest brand in the platform holder’s portfolio, a mainline entry in the simulation series would do wonders for the install base of its next generation console. It’s absolutely baffling to think that the company would pass up on such an enormous opportunity.

Falling behind

And it’s even more perplexing when you consider that Microsoft’s almost guaranteed to sprint out of the blocks with the next Xbox. It seems extremely unlikely that the Redmond-based manufacturer will be producing much more content for its current console, allowing it to focus all of its attention on building an install base for the system’s successor. Sony needs to be doing the same for its own impending platform, otherwise it risks gifting an enormous advantage to its closest competitor all over again.

Of course, we can’t be too critical until we know the full story. It’s perfectly possible that the next Gran Turismo could be a cross-platform release, which would certainly change the complexion of this article. Regardless, the message remains the same: Sony must handle the transition to the PS4 better than it did with the PS3. That doesn’t mean that the current generation console suddenly needs to become irrelevant, but the focus – particularly when it comes to key franchises – surely must be on its successor now.

Do you think that Sony should continue to produce big first-party titles for the PS3? How do you think that the company should manage the transition to the PS4? Let us know in the comments section below.