News Column

PlayStation 4: Game Changer

Feb. 21, 2013

Brett Molina, USA TODAY

Sony on Wednesday announced PlayStation 4 -- officially moving into the video game industry's next hardware cycle.

Sony did not reveal details on pricing, or even a peek at what the new hardware will look like. It said PS4 will be available for the holiday season.

A new DualShock controller for PS4 is designed in tandem with a stereo camera, similar to Microsoft's Kinect. Sony says the new system uses highly advanced graphics processing, akin to high-end PCs. The PS4 will also have a heavily integrated social component, including sharing video of gameplay. A "Remote Play" feature will take advantage of the company's PlayStation Vita mobile device. Mark Cerny, lead system architect of the PS4, called the new console "an evolution of gaming itself."

After dominating earlier console generations with its original PlayStation and 2001's PlayStation 2, which sold more than 155 million worldwide, Sony lost traction in the PS3 era to Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii.

Since its 2006 launch, more than 70 million PS3s have been sold, compared with more than 76 million Xbox 360s and 95 million Wiis sold globally.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter says Microsoft's one-year head start on that console generation and the PS3's high cost at launch contributed to its third-place standing. "(Sony) started behind the cycle, because they were late and expensive," he says.

The next console generation started in November, when Nintendo launched its Wii U device with a tablet-style GamePad controller. Global sales have topped 3 million.

The new hardware could not come at a better time for the video game industry, which finished last year with a 22% plunge in sales. One reason for the decline is a console cycle that's lasted longer than previous generations. The Xbox 360 is approaching its eighth year on store shelves; the PS3 and Wii have been around more than six years.

"Developers have really squeezed every last bit of innovation they could out of the current hardware," says Jesse Divnich, analyst at Electronic Entertainment Design and Research. "Both developers and consumers are screaming for new technology."

Meanwhile, home consoles must contend with the rising smartphone and tablet gaming market, which features a wide selection of games for a lower price, sometimes free.

But Digital World Research CEO P.J. McNealy says there is still plenty of opportunity. "The death knell for the console business is a little premature," McNealy says. "There's still an element of gaming on a console in front of a big TV that can't be replicated on a mid- or small screen."

(c) Copyright 2013 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2013

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