Daily Reaction: Does Sony Need a Kinect-Style Camera on PS4?

With more and more rumors, and PSLS-uncovered patents, pointing towards a Kinect-style camera in the works at SCE, it’s likely that Sony is considering adding such a device to the PS4, especially when you consider the runaway sales success the Kinect sensor has been. With that in mind, the Daily Reaction super group of Sebastian Oravasaari and Dan Moss discuss what it could mean for Sony, and what it could mean for you.

Seb: Ok, it’s probably best to get this out of the way to stop the flood of angry comments – Sony was first with the concept, they brought out a fun augmented reality camera on the PS2, called the EyeToy. But Microsoft were the first ones to properly turn such a device into a truly successful (and lucrative) product, due to a combination of advanced tech, full backing, and so much marketing the presidential election campaign would be jealous. It became the fastest selling technology device ever. Ever.

Naturally, Sony feels a little bummed – they came up with an idea, and then someone else managed to turn it into a success, and the last thing they want is Walkman vs iPod all over again. So they’re (probably) turning their considerable camera R&D team towards making a Kinect competitor. Unfortunately, that might not work out perfectly. First off, Microsoft has basically said in job descriptions, that I spotted, that they’re working on a newer Kinect for next gen. Secondly, even if Sony comes up with a superior product, that doesn’t mean much, as shown by the Move’s sales. And thirdly, there’s no way in hell Sony will be able to match MS’ marketing budget.

If Sony wants to have a chance at gaining sales and gaining traction, they need to invest heavily in it, both by investing in advertising, and by investing in developers who’ll work exclusively on the platform. Sadly, as shown by SixAxis, the Move (and even the Vita), Sony generally doesn’t support ‘side-projects’ outside of the main console line.

Dad: Well the one thing going for Sony right now is that they already have a camera with some nifty technology implemented in it, in the PlayStation Eye which they used for Move. Yet, as you did mention, Sony really does need to find a way to get their product lines to sell in a way that can keep up with Microsoft, even though they have a much bigger advertising budget. So the easiest way for Sony to not get left behind would be to actually push the PS Eye to a comparable level of accuracy as the Kinect is in it’s current state, or even match something to its eventual evolution.

As we have seen Sony try and try again to be able to make the Move a financial success, it has just bottomed out countless times. Yet, the reason that the Kinect was a success and the move wasn’t, was not simply that Microsoft had a better advertising budget (it helped thats for sure), it was that the Kinect is a simple device that requires little setup and didn’t add to this generation’s plastic accessory landfill. Having a device that sits there and allows you to interface with it, without having to pull out special toys just to use it, is every lazy gamer’s (and parent’s) dream.

As Sony has not lost the battle completely yet, they are starting to see motion gaming slip further out of their reach. Seemingly almost as a last ditch effort to keep their presence in the market alive, Sony is trying to push Wonderbook. Yet, even that seems to be in peril as Microsoft is now releasing a Harry Potter game on their already established Kinect platform. Allowing parents to purchase a product for a device that many might already own, something that could put the last nail in Sony’s Move device.

Seb’s Corner: The one interesting thing about Move is that it could still give them that edge. Their next gen PlayStation Eyeglass could, and probably will, support the Move controller, meaning it has some install base already and, more importantly, allows for physical controls in games, while the Kinect can’t do that.

It’s also interesting to look at some of the patents I dug up, which really hint at an incredible accuracy with the camera, including facial recognition down to eyebrow-tracking.

But what does this mean for you, the gamer? More than you’d think, despite how unappealing motion controls generally are. Sony appealed to both core and casuals with the PS2, that’s how they were such a success and made so much money which they could funnel into awesome games. They’ll need casual’s support once again if they want their gaming sector to remain profitable, and that’s something that could happen due to this camera. Or, as I fear, they could under-market it, and under-support it, causing it to bomb and losing them both money and developer support.

Another issue Sony faces is cost. If it’ll truly be a great camera, it’s going to be fairly pricey, so it’s unlikely they’ll force-bundle it with the PS4, the only sure-fire way of getting it in people’s homes. That leaves it all down to the marketing – Sony’s weakspot – and games. I can only hope we’ll see some great core motion games (or more craziness like Datura), but to appeal to casuals, Sony needs to be prepared to sign expensive, but popular, exclusive IP deals like Microsoft has done with Star Wars and Harry Potter Kinect titles. Seriously, look up how big those franchises are on Wikipedia, it’s insane. And that’s why Microsoft makes money.

Danmark: Yeah, Sony will have a big problem coming next gen on how exactly to push another peripheral into the market. As simply bundling the camera with the PS4 would push the cost up, and they would just be eaten alive for a second generation by Microsoft and Nintendo. They also cannot try to push a costly peripheral without having enough financial support to get the big names, and a comparable market, as the general consumer would have no justifiable reason to invest in the platform. So what exactly does Sony need to do to make something profitable in this emerging space? Easy, something else.

Literally, as Microsoft has already put over 10 million Kinects into homes around the world, Sony really needs to find a niche that isn’t just a me too. Sony needs advance the technology to something they are actually proud to back, something that does not interfere with our ability to interact with our virtual environments, but will enhance them. As Sony has patented a number of interesting pieces of tech, they need to start taking a ground somewhere, as they are always too late to the show with their too little and too late strategies. Whether it is moving towards a combination of VR and Move, Sony needs to finally pick a direction and actually follow through – otherwise they risk losing it all.

Should Sony go eyeballs deep with ultimate face-tracking cameras? Or should they give the middle finger to motion controls and embrace good ol’ buttons? Scream irrationally in the comments below, or spam Seb and Dan on Twitter.

Also, be sure to send DR comments, suggestions and ideas to – [email protected]  – as well as questions for us on the Bad Gamers Podcast.