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Daily Reaction: Why The PS4 Needs to Release First

September 4, 2012 Written by Dan Oravasaari

Daily Reaction is a PSLS exclusive feature where Sebastian Moss & Dan Oravasaari discuss today’s most hard-hitting topics every single weekday.

With rumors of the next generation of consoles swirling around the internet, the question of whether Microsoft or Sony will be to market first is of much debate. As the PS3 had released well beyond the Xbox 360 this generation, is Sony going to fall into the same traps, or are they preparing to retake the helm as lead platform? GameStop has revealed that they expect only one console to release next year, while Sony’s 2nd Party developer Zindagi has hinted that it will be the PS4. Even Michael Pachter thinks that Sony will make the first move. With that, we discuss what would it would mean for the gaming industry if the “PS4” did reach store shelves before the “Xbox 720”.

Dan: Let me start off by saying I do not think that we will see much of a lead by either Microsoft or Sony with the next generation. As third party support is now one of the biggest factors for the success of a console, neither company is going to let the other gain a lead nearly as big as we saw with the PS3 and Xbox 360. Yet, it is not impossible for external factors to delay the launch of such a massive endeavor, as the technology increases the need for specific resources goes up – and with what we have seen natural disasters due to computer components, there is no guarantee the best laid plan will go off without a hitch.

If Sony was able to secure a big enough lead on the next generation, I really think we could see a significant turnaround in the perception of the size of its user base. When the Xbox 360 hit the market, and became instantly associated as the console of this this generation, Sony had instantly lost all ground gained with its PS1 and PS2 consoles. People had automatically associated that anyone who had played the latest generation, was playing on an Xbox 360, mainly because it had become an unrivaled champion. This perception had never changed during the current console lifecycle, and with the boom of the friendslist and social gaming – people sought Microsoft’s system mainly to join their friends. Sadly, even if Sony was able to come out first, they would most likely still not see as big of a lead as the Xbox 360 had seen. Yet, the perception of the general audience would not underestimate the number of PS3 users, as many Xbox 360 players currently do – leading to a greater number of sales, as more people might see their friends owning one.

Seb: Yeah, Sony releasing the PS4 earlier won’t have as big an impact on the industry as the 360’s early lead (unless it’s an insane length), as a huge number of gamers have been tied to their online ecosystems, something Sony couldn’t do with the PS2. But it could still give them the upper hand they will desperately need entering the next gen, being that they are in their worst financial state ever for a console launch. Getting next year’s Christmas without the 720 (or whatever) there to spoil the party, they could entice quite a few core gamers who can’t wait for next gen goodness, or some COD players who want to play MW4 with graphics on par with BF3.

It does come down to when exactly the PS4 launches, and where it launches – does it come out in time for Black Friday in the US, will Europe be shafted again? And will Sony have enough consoles in stock to take advantage of the lead? Historically, Sony has showed that they have huge problems sticking to deadlines, coordinating parts or producing sufficient stock, which is bizarre when you consider how much more hardware experience they have compared to Microsoft.

The Vita showed that they were willing to miss a Christmas and release in a dull month, but I’m hoping the low sales of the handheld will convince them otherwise with the PS4. People are fickle, most don’t read sites like PSLS, they just buy what’s hot, what’s gaining all the buzz and excitement on the mainstream news. Take Apple, I use their products and do think they are a pretty great, but the reason they are able to charge so much and are guaranteed to sell well is simply down to hype. Apple spends a lot on ads, but around launch, most of it is done for them by the news, by the internet, by word of mouth.

Release the PS4 on October 2013, make sure it has enough titles to be “the Christmas present”, and they will have the hype they need, subsidizing their probably meager ad budget.

Dan: Exactly, if Sony can do a worldwide launch by next Christmas they have a shot at actually having a greater presence this coming generation. Yet, the one big issue that we need to address will be cost. As the PS3 launched with an absurdly high price point, the lead that Microsoft had made was only drawn out by the lingering price point Sony refused to change. So even if Sony can beat Microsoft to the shelves, they will just get passed over by consumers picking up the Wii U, or the Xbox 720 – if it is released by then. If Sony can forget the kitchen sink this time around, they could potentially find a realistic pricing structure that won’t require us to purchase costly necessary add-ons like memory cards or hard-drives, hopefully speeding up their to market date, and lowering the pricing model over all. The likelihood of any of this though, is incredibly low as Sony has become notorious for pushing needless features and functionality, while forgetting the primitive function that these systems are supposed to be able to do well – game.

The one advantage that Sony will have this time around that it did not before, is the fact that they already have emplaced one of the biggest advantages the PS3 had over the Xbox 360 – the Blu-ray drive. The PS3’s disc capacity is capable of reaching 25 to 50 GB per game disc, yet with advancements in technology, Sharp has been able to create the BDXL – a disc capable of reaching 100 to 128 GB per disc, all while being compatible with newer Blu-ray drives with little more than a firmware update. As Microsoft will have to explore new technology and production for its newest console, Sony will have already had the necessary infrastructure ready – that is to say if BDXL can be financially viable and readily available in time for launch.

Seb: Yeah, it’s crucial that if Sony does launch first they don’t squander their time on the market by releasing at a ludicrously high price. I think the great thing about next gen is that there really isn’t a physical format coming out that Sony needs to push, so they don’t have to coordinate with the launch of a new disc platform, as they did with Blu-ray. A lot of the focus on the PS3’s launch was all about Blu-ray, and a lot of its cost was the expensive BR diodes. That is no longer an issue and should be a great way to stop Sony sabotaging itself with an expensive, unproven medium.

And, of course, no one wants Sony to rush to be first just so that they can be first, it’s important that they don’t follow what MS did, where their greed to first caused the RROD, something Sony couldn’t afford if they suffered it. Sony also needs to launch with a strong lineup, to help dispel the ‘PS3 haz no gameses’ belief that plagued its release and subsequent two years. Luckily, Naughty Dog have a team working on something that isn’t TLOU (Uncharted 4?), there’s Guerrilla Games, Santa Monica’s New IP and Polyphony Digital. With the PS4 likely to be far less difficult to develop for, with Sony probably ditching The Cell, there’s a good chance that they’ll be able to get their developers to line up a strong release list that could give them the early jump they need. Now only if they hadn’t killed Sony Studio Liverpool

When do you think Sony will be releasing the PS4? Will you be picking one up on day one, or wait for a later price drop? What features are you hoping Sony keeps or drops as they step into the next-gen? Make sure to follow Seb and Dan somewhere, because most of you don’t read this far anyway.