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Sony pressured to change game with PS4 console
by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) Feb 19, 2013

Sony bills coming PS4 console as future of gaming
New York (AFP) Feb 20, 2013 - Sony unveiled a new-generation PlayStation 4 system on Wednesday and laid out its vision for the "future of gaming" in a world rich with mobile gadgets and play streamed from the Internet cloud.

At a press event in New York, computer entertainment unit chief Andrew House said PS4 "represents a significant shift from thinking of PlayStation as a box or console to thinking of the PlayStation 4 as a leading place for play."

PS4 was designed to get to know players, ideally to the point of being able to predict which games people will buy and have them pre-loaded and ready to go.

It also allows live streaming of gameplay in real-time, letting friends virtually peer over one another's shoulders and even letting game makers to act as "directors" guiding players along.

Sony has also given a "green light" to building "the most powerful network for gaming in the world," according to David Perry, chief of Gaikai cloud gaming company purchased last year by Sony.

Gaikai specializes in letting people play videogames streamed from the Internet "cloud" instead of buying titles on disks popped into consoles or computers.

"By combining PlayStation 4, PlayStation Network, and social platforms our vision is to create the first social network with meaning dedicated to games," Perry said during the event.

A button on the PS4 controller will let players instantly stream in-game action to friends in real time, and even allow someone to transfer control to more capable allies when stuck, according to Perry.

He expressed a vision of letting people access and play videogames old or new on the Internet using PS4, smartphones, tablets or PS Vita handheld devices.

"We are exploring opportunity enabled by cloud technology with a long-term vision of making PlayStation technology available on any device," Perry said.

"This would fundamentally change the concept of game longevity, making any game new or old available to get up and running on any device, anywhere."

Sony needs to adapt to changing lifestyles while not alienating videogame lovers devoted to its hardware.

Low-cost or free games on smartphones or tablet computers are increasing the pressure on videogame companies to deliver experiences worth players' time and money.

With the press event still in progress, Sony had yet to indicate availability or pricing for the PS4. New-generation consoles are typically priced in the $400 to $500 range, and blockbuster game titles hit the market at $60 each.

Sony is expected to reveal its vision of the future of home entertainment on Wednesday by providing a glimpse at a new-generation PlayStation console that streams games, films, music and more.

"Sony needs a big hit with this game console," said Forrester analyst James McQuivey.

"Not just because it has lost its dominance in gaming to Microsoft's Xbox 360, but because the company needs to make what might be its last attempt to be relevant -- not as a device maker but as a digital platform."

McQuivey argued that the Japanese consumer electronics titan must show it can go beyond selling gadgets to skillfully cultivating ongoing relationships with customers who turn to online sources for entertainment.

"It's a big challenge," the analyst said. "While we won't know for a while whether Sony's new box succeeds as a device, we will know right away whether Sony has the right ambitions."

Analysts and industry insiders are certain that a Sony event in New York City on Wednesday evening will be devoted to introducing the PlayStation 4, a console that would hit the market next year.

"Expect Sony to come out, guns blazing, talking about technical details and specifications of what is likely to be a pretty mind-blowing system," said TechSavvy Global strategic innovation consultant Scott Steinberg.

The company will likely also announce "kick-ass games and development talent recruited to the cause," he continued, explaining that "Sony has traditionally been run by engineers and focused on high-performing gaming systems."

However, analysts want to see whether Sony goes beyond impressive hardware to a console that integrates services, the popularity of smartphones and tablet computers, and rich portfolios of games, films, music, and television shows.

"The question is going to be how the system has been updated to stay relevant to the times," Steinberg said. "Gamers want to know what they can get on the PS4 that they can't get anywhere else."

The PS4 will succeed PlayStation 3 consoles that began their lifespan in late 2006.

Sony has remained mum, but that hasn't stopped talk of hardware upgrades such as improved graphics and controllers with touchpads, and chatter of a Sony cable-style service to route film or music content to PlayStation consoles.

Speculation ahead of the event included talk of being able to play full-scale videogames streamed online -- a break from the practice of selling titles on disks.

"If Sony can offer streamed top-notch games via an affordable pricing plan, that would be a coup," Steinberg said. "It is a nascent market that will be growing by leaps and bounds in coming years."

Free or inexpensive free games on smartphones and tablet computers are increasing the pressure on videogame companies to deliver experiences worth players' time and money.

New generation consoles are typically priced in the $400 to $500 range, and blockbuster game titles hit the market at $60 each.

"Sony is under a lot of pressure," said National Alliance Capital Markets analyst Mike Hickey. "Gamers are desperate for innovation and better games."

While Sony is tethered to "legacy" hardware, companies such as Apple and Google are driving innovation with tablets, smartphones, and ways to route Internet offerings to television sets, according to Hickey.

In ramping up content and services for PlayStation, Sony needs to motivate people to upgrade from the current model.

"If Sony wants to win it, they need to show some killer games to get people to go out and spend a lot of money for the core game experience," Hickey said.

He blamed a dearth of compelling titles as a reason for disappointing sales of Nintendo's innovative Wii U consoles, introduced late last year.

"The Wii U is a case study you can't ignore," Hickey said. "Sony at least has to nail it with the games; the core market can drive the mass market."

Industry tracker NPD Group reported that just shy of $9 billion was spent in the United States last year on purchasing or renting video and computer games.

Another $5.92 billion was spent on game downloads, subscriptions, and play on mobile games or at social networks, according to NPD.

"Tablets are in every household and the computing power of tablets is going up every year," Hickey said. "Eventually, the tablet could very well become the console."


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Videogames coming to a cloud near you
Las Vegas (AFP) Jan 7, 2013
Videogames are moving further into the Internet cloud with new devices and services unveiled at the big Consumer Electronics Show this week. One major step came from computer graphics giant and chipmaker Nvidia, which announced agreements with six cloud gaming companies to deliver games to global broadband companies. This will allow gamers to play on any screen - including smart TVs, PC ... read more

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