Is Sony Missing The Casual Gaming Market With PlayStation 4?
This week Sony unveiled its latest video game console. And while the actual physical PlayStation 4 has yet to be seen, the reported specs sound impressive. It offers a custom chip that reportedly contains eight x86-64 cores and a state of the art graphics processor. It also offers a GPU that can be used for general purpose computer (GPGPU) that can reportedly handle something cans “physics simulation.”
To accomplish this it contains a unified array of 18 compute units, which collectively can generate 1.84 Teraflops — that sounds like something to jump for — while it is also going to be equipped with 8GB of unified system memory.
This, in a word, sounds “hardcore”, and fittingly at the demonstration event in New York City, Sony did prove that this is the system for the “hardcore.”
We need to ask — is Sony missing the boat on casual gaming?
That might seem an odd question to ask, but the last time Sony introduced a console its competition was Nintendo and Microsoft, which each had a new system as well — the Wii and the Xbox 360 respectively. That was in 2006, with the Xbox 360 being out for year. Fast forward to this coming holiday and it is seven years later and Sony isn’t just competing against Nintendo’s Wii U or the expected Xbox 720 (or whatever it eventually is called). No, Sony is competing against Apple and Google as well — and even BlackBerry and Samsung and a plethora of other players.
Sony is competing against apps, the cloud, and of course tablets and smartphones.
It is hard not to see people playing Temple Run, Angry Birds and a hundred versions of solitaire everywhere. When the PlayStation came out in 1994 there wasn’t even Snake on most phones. In 2000 Sony faced off against the PC as much as Sega and Nintendo — to be joined in the video game arena by Microsoft in 2001.
Even in 2006 most people didn’t have smartphones. There were mobile games but these were variations of Tetris and simple puzzle games. Today causal gaming is huge, and more importantly it is everywhere. So the question must be asked, is Sony putting too much emphasis into the hardcore?
Of course the answer is no, yes and maybe.
No, because Nintendo has offered little in the way of a truly hardcore gaming experience even with its new Wii U. The system maybe “hardcore” but it is Nintendo hardcore, meaning that Nintendo will offer Mario, Zelda and other signature franchises — but the serious Call of Duty and Medal of Honor shooter fans will still look to Sony and Microsoft for those. The PC has even made a bit of a comeback thanks in part to these hardcore shooters.
However, as Nintendo’s Wii was a surprise hit because it is embraced the casual gamer the Wii U is failing to connect. The Wii was something found at senior centers, on cruise ships and in other places where causal gaming was the only gaming. Nintendo opted not to pursue that course again, and it has left an opening, one that Sony could have taken advantage of.
Yes, however Sony made the right choice because if it embraced casual over hardcore it would have given the market to Microsoft. The PlayStation 3 may have lost money for Sony early on — a lot of money if reports are to be believed — but the system has slowly gained momentum and it has a nice install base that is translating into serious profits for Sony. It also helped Sony win the Blu-ray format war beating out HD-DVD. But first and foremost it was a hardcore game console and Sony has established itself as a brand by doing just that, so it needed to embrace the hardcore.
Finally, there is the maybe. To really succeed Sony needs to embrace the casual and the hardcore and it isn’t clear yet if that is possible. We still have to see what Microsoft has yet to unveil. Sometimes, the best is saved for last.
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