Sony’s shifting gears

Sony’s John Kodera gave a statement to Washington Street Journal that the PlayStation 4 is at the end of its console life cycle. This, combined with Sony stopping physical Vita game production outside Japan, is all about the momentum inside the company. Nobody’s surprised that PS VR is selling less than expected, VR has never been popular enough to make a breakthrough as its always expected to. We were told that the new technology will make VR more viable, but that’s the story we get every single time. VR requires a proper paradigm shift in terms of technology and how its presented before it’ll catch on. 3D TVs were in the same boat. I guess Star Trek‘s holodecks would be the pinnacle end point of both techs, but I doubt no company wants to invest money into hardlight or holomatter technology just yet.

Sony’s strategy for the future doesn’t seem all that rosy. Switch is controlling the market from two ends, and Sony effectively handed out the handheld end to Nintendo. As much as some people love their Vita and titles on it, the system was bust the very moment Sony themselves ported Gravity Rush as a franchise to PS4. The writing was on the wall for the console before it, and I’ll assure you the console won’t get a great swansong. It’ll drift and die slowly without a fanfare.

Vita could’ve been a great system. Sony’s mishandling reminds me of how Sega managed to screw their systems over post-Mega Drive. However, PS4 has not been lacking in mishandling department either, with the system having less significant titles and seemingly having a very bread-and-butter approach. Nothing about the system stands out. Xbone has the same thing going on for it, but at least neither systems are Wii U.

Will Sony come up with a hybrid console? While it is in their nature to respond to Nintendo’s shifts in how they approach the market, with Nintendo often doing the very same thing, the big question is whether or not Sony is willing to completely abandon their high-end, high-spec consoles. The Switch is not more powerful than its 8th generation competitors, yet it hits the sweetspots with its library in most cases.

The whole deal why PlayStation even exists was to put better technology in use for a game console. Ken Kutaragi’s want to create a system stemmed from his disliking of the Famicom’s sound. Each PlayStation, ever since it was supposed to be a Super Famicom add-on, has been driving some sort of media revolution and put high-end tech into the console. Original was driven by a CD and extremely good audio, before they gutted that out. Sure, PC-Engine was the first CD-based system with Mega Drive having Sega CD, yet both of these were marginal success at best. This was mainstream success with 3D graphics at the forefront. PS2 can be said to be the main cause for the DVD revolution and rapid shift from VHS, as it offered a cheap drive with further capabilities. PS3 again pushed the notion of sound and graphics, and introduced Blu-Ray, but at this point the competition had severely changed. PS4 doesn’t have anything for it, no new media, no real graphics overhauling. Everything’s become mundane and standard. All these have concentrated on bringing the multimedia experience to the living room.

Sony’s whole business, from sound to televisions to gaming, has been living room centric. Certainly, they’ve made numerous high-end portable products, yet they’ve never managed to achieve their Walkman glory days. Their corporate politics and customs are reason for this, and current paradigm with formats won’t allow Sony to create such devices any longer. Sony has been a company of engineers, after all. Modern technology requires as much, if not even more, emphasize on the digital engineering with coding and such.

If Sony intends to continue on with producing a console for a television set, it needs an edge. Cutting edge technology in terms of graphics only carries so far. New IPs help only if they’re great, but as people are spending less time watching traditional television and everybody is having something in their pocket with a screen. A hybrid console could be a solution to them, but copying Nintendo’s approach would be a harsh hit on Sony’s ego.

The whole five to six years of consoles is, of course, utter bullshit. A console’s life cycle is as long as the support its given. There are no real reasons to simply kill one off if it has consumers. South Africa enjoyed Sega’s Master System and Mega Drive long into the 1990’s and even early 2000’s, before their official support was killed off. The original PlayStation simmered along the PS2 for a good while, as did the PS3 with PS4. This is a discussion I’ve covered to death, every time news about a console’s death comes out in fact.

E3’s just around the corner anyway, so it is possible Sony has something in store for the consumer in the hardware department. Hopefully it’s something worthwhile.

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