With the recent press event of the PlayStation 4 a few nights ago, Sony sent games media into a frenzy. How much will it cost? What titles will be available at release? Will it be backwards compatible? For more information about the new console's specifics, read up on the coverage from this very site. Needless to say, many questions remain after the event, and many criticisms have been cast Sony's way. It's all standard behavior for any major gaming announcement, and we all know someone busy griping about the potential console that will be the first in line to buy one. Sony has to know this is standard procedure as well.
But how will the new console--or any console for that matter--fare in today's social and mobile world? The last major console release--the Wii U--is considered a near failure by many. Before that, the Kinect was mocked as it poorly delivered, so how will an even more powerful and more "social" console, like the PS4, do in this new market? Remember, more gamers find fun on social networks or through mobile app stores. For the same price that the PS4 will potentially sell for ($400 US), someone could buy a new iPad or other tablet with access to games and everything else on the Internet. Of course, the PS4 will allow players to play better looking games and perform some tricks of its own, but we have all seen just how popular less-than-stellar graphics still are. Many of these players are fine playing in the browser or through a mobile device.
As Sony promises, the new console will be geared toward "hardcore" players, people who want state-of-the-art graphics and "chillingly real" blood. That 16 to 25-year-old market is still strong, but it is possible that developers or publishers would rather take smaller chances on social, casual or core titles. The budgets for a social game can be much smaller, but the payouts can be enormous, at least by comparison. The PS4 is based around the idea that people will not only tolerate the same (if not higher) prices on physical discs and downloads, but also the possibility of more intrusive verification procedures to ward off pirates, a policy against backwards-compatibility, and the need for a much faster network in order to take part in many of the console's promised social features. It's possible that the console, even with its all-in-one convenience and powerful graphics, is a relic of the past, the same as physical media or DVDs.
It's also possible that the gameplay that a console offers is becoming less and less popular. Or, at least, it's going to be overrun by more social and core games that promise ease of entry and multiplayer functionality with potentially millions of people spread across social networks. Sure, a massively successful console game can pull in millions and millions of dollars over a successful run, but those games represent not only the same companies making the same profits but the same players purchasing the same games. The games list on Facebook or in any app store represents players from all styles and levels of ability. You can possibly buy and download some indie titles or casual titles in the PlayStation store, but that number will always be greatly outgunned by Facebook or the app stores. It's simply easier and cheaper to develop for anything but a major console. The console is the realm of the big studios or the occasional indie-of-the-month. In order to keep up with the growth of the social and mobile market, a console like the PS4 will need to offer something equivalent of a Steam store. And it likely won't offer anything near that size.
At this point in its life cycle, the PS4 probably wants to hold on to its current customers. The PlayStation 3 pulled in many who were looking for a "cheap" Blu-ray player, but now those devices go for 40 dollars. Movies and streaming media is nothing exclusive to a console either, the internet and any basic tablet already has that covered. And, yes, there are millions of people who do not mind viewing their content on smaller screens. Even then, many basic tablets offer connection to a larger screen thanks to wireless connection or HDMI.
My bet is that core gaming will continue to attract those social or casual players who want more of a challenge. The numbers of PlayStation customers will likely stay the same, as the console is offering nothing really out of the ordinary or new, except for those who are already invested in the PlayStation experience. For the rest of us, we'd rather keep our money in social, casual or mobile gaming. It's cheaper, there's more variety, graphics are quickly catching up to console quality and we can load these games from almost any device.
What do you think? Will the PlayStation and the social gamers ever cross paths? Share your thoughts in the comments! Add Comment.
Beau covers MMORPGs for Massively, enjoys blogging on his personal site and loves social and casual gaming. He has been exploring games since '99 and has no plans to stop. For Games.com News, he explores the world of hardcore Facebook and social games. You can join him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.