“We need to really take a look at where we excel and make investments to make sure that we continue to excel in those areas that will manifest itself in exciting projects that will really wow our customers” confided Kazuo Hirai, Sony’s CEO since April 2012, and member of the board of Sony Computer Entertainment and PlayStation 4’s grandfather.
PlayStation 4… The comeback?
The main architects of the current success of the PlayStation’s recovery, has been fighting a bloody business model, breathless with so many retakes on how Sony’s gaming console should be shaped for a next generation of the industry: Sony’s sales numbers of consoles and video games fell sharply by 15%, those of TV and other electronic products for home entertainment by 23% and 13% for components.
But Sony hasn’t said its last word. The Japanese company announced last February 20th, a new era for its home entertainment business, and as most of you already know by now, the PlayStation 4 emerged, with a more social factor implemented, more connected and meant to represent the so-called “future of gaming”. The new console is primarily Sony’s last hope for redemption.
The story of Sony has become the one of a dethroned Emperor. Even with the largest market share in the Middle East, Europe (except the United Kingdom) and Far East, the flagship of the Japanese industry missed the boat when the MP3 players and smartphones emerged , overwhelmed by competition at the moment with the likes of Samsung.
Last year, in November, Fitch Ratings lowered Sony to what is considered an unreliable investment, a humiliation for the Japanese group. Nevertheless, the numbers are real: Sony recorded continuous losses for over four years, with the group revealing a staggering loss of 457 billion yen (4,6 billion Dollars) at the end of 2012’s fiscal book.
“meaningful recovery will be slow, given the company’s loss of technology leadership in key products, high competition, weak economic conditions in developed markets and the strong yen.” stated Fitch Ratings. Let’s disregard the fact the yen is strong, and the global economy is rahter dead, Sony’s main problem was the loss of technology leadership in her flagship products, thus in this case the PlayStation 3 (and let’s not forget the PlayStation Vita).
Sony won’t survive over the rest of their catalog, as their global company ranking is now at 82 according to CNN’s top 500 (Samsung is at 20) and obviously their Smartphones are not a major priority with a mere 8.8 million Xperia Z sold in the world in the third quarter of 2012 (In comparison of Samsung’s 56.9 million and Apple’s 26.9 million smartphones).
This is when the last hope comes into play (see what I did there): videogames. The Playstation 4 symbolizes hope to do better than the PlayStation 3, with its 77 million units sold during its lifetime, or achieve the success of the PlayStation 2’s 155 million consoles sold. Even, with the group announced lowered net loss of 51 billion yen (520 million dollars) at the end of the first three quarters of 2012-2013, Sony relies heavily on the Playstation 4, despite this unlucky Japanese number.
But how will they accomplish that? As much as I was skeptical about the announcement back in February, this whole reveal showed me one important factor: Sony’s will to change. You see, one of the important factors of the Xbox 360’s success was the ease to develop on the machine, especially with studios born and raised in the PC golden age.
This whole reveal showed me one important factor: Sony’s will to change
As much as PlayStation fans will hate me for saying this, the console advanced infrastructure was never its greatest asset: slow loading speed, awkward ram dump, complex architecture. It wasn’t until first party development teams such as Naughty Dog and of course Sony Santa Monica fiddled around with the PlayStation 3, shared their findings, that Sony’s console really started to shine.
I presume that over the course of the past five years, Sony Computer Entertainment took in consideration all the comments, input and dreams of a more unified and consolidated machine from the developers, a change everyone wanted, and it was stated clearly, as president Andrew House boldly announced at the beginning of the PlayStation 4 reveal: “Today marks a moment of truth and bold step forward for PlayStation as a company.”
You see, introducing Mark Cerny as the PlayStation 4 lead architecture was already an audacious move from Sony, and on so many levels. Why you ask me? First of Cerny marks the dawn of a new age of development within Sony’s own business model, because first of all, Crash Bandicoot’s creator is not Japanese, and that secondly and most importantly, the PlayStation 4’s faith is not in the hand of Sony Japan, but in the many that forms their worldwide studios, as well as first party developers.
The PlayStation 4’s design pillars are straightforward: Simple, Immediate, Social, Integrated and Personalized. On the go play, multi-platform with the use of the PlayStation Vita, heavily integrated social media and you the player are at the centre of design dogma of Sony’s console. This also proves that the heavy Japanese mentality of business has been loosened, bringing a fresher perspective from everywhere around the world, and even if we haven’t seen the console itself, the new DualShock 4 proves it.
Even though not much has changed from the original PlayStation controller to the latest one, the DualShock 4 sends a clear message of wanting to change, without breaking the roots of its predecessors, emphasizing the upcoming console’s design pillars as well. But it’s that one simple addition to it that revolutionize it, and it’s not the touch pad located on the top, but just merely the Share button.
Nowadays, everyone wants a piece of self-indulgence in the social media massive universe, and while young teens are up to the neck with embarrassing Instagram self-shots, crazy Facebook updates or becoming virtual groupies of a certain Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga, a gamer just wants to showcase his skills.
Nowadays, everyone wants a piece of self-indulgence in the massive social media universe
While most gamers are not professional e-Sports athletes, nor have the capabilities to host daily stream sessions such as IdrA, their only way to prove their virtual skills were an endless collection of in-game trophies (achievements on the Xbox 360) or mostly a high ranked Call of Duty and Battlefield level in multiplayer. But what if we give the ability for all these young and upcoming talents to showcase their skills in different ways, in a professional technique, without the hassle of editing, using complex applications, and opening several stream accounts. That’s what the PlayStation 4’s Share button is about; it’s simple, immediate, social… Well, it’s pretty much what they had in mind building the machine.
So for all that, I close this piece on one simple advice for Sony, even if no one of their team might read it: take that risk, you need it. Sony needs all the innovation it can get, to build a machine worthy of the name PlayStation engraved in its wired guts, a console that will learn from it’s predecessor’s mistakes and a platform to help developers excel all of our wildest expectations and dreams. PlayStation 4, you are our last hope for Sony’s survival.