Yesterday, Sony, remember them…finally came out to discuss their new gaming console – PS4. Of course they never showed the actual console, but did show off the controller, see below. 7 years after the last version of the venerable gaming platform, Sony looks to re-establish itself as a power in home entertainment. About time. But will it be enough? Something tells me that Sony has a great chance to try and lay claim to the next greater technological frontier – the television. Unfortunately, from the reports I have been reading it sounds as if Sony is going to fall short. Potentially miss a huge opportunity.
The television remains a bit stuck in the dark ages. Yes more are web enabled. However, you still interact with an old fashion remote control, you cannot send content to devices (unless you plug in add on devices), you do not have good search for content but it remains one of the pillars of our entertainment universe. One device that makes that device a bit more modern are the gaming consoles, cable boxes and other accoutrements. However these remain a jumble of different functions and devices. Game consoles, DVRs, cable boxes, smart blu-ray players…and the list goes on. But the king, at least the device that should be the king, was the game console. It had built in interactions – menus, joystick and qwerty keyboards – could get you to the web, allowed you to play games (entertain yourself and your friends), some have video capabilities (Xbox kinect) or mimic your movements (Playstation move). Sony had established themselves as the power player when the rolled out their PS family. Microsoft came in hard with the XBox and eventually we saw Nintendo reemerge with the Wii.
Since those heady days for those players, the technology and entertainment landscape has changed…drastically. The tablets, smartphones, iTunes, apps have all changed the entertainment space. Consumers are drawn to mobile gaming apps – Angry Bird or SongPop to name two. These tend to be cheaper and accessible on your mobile device. Of course franchises such as Madden remain powerhouses for the gaming consoles. But that cannot be their only means to ROI. Gaming consoles need to go after what make the mobile world so attractive – content that goes where you need. Sony should look to hard wire the likes of Netflix or partnering with iTunes or Amazon for a content partner – Sony provides the hardware and platform, these other players provide the content. Maybe even partner with Google to get Google + hardwired into the social aspect of the console and allow YouTube to be a channel on the console.
I know that all these services can be accessed at your television, but they all remain difficult to configure and leverage in their current forms. Sony had a chance to take a big step towards re-establishing themselves as the king of the television. Granted, they might have tried to do these behind the scene only to be shunned by the aforementioned players. We might never know. But as it is constituted, the PS4 should do okay. Gamers will want to get their hands on the device, but they will continue to be relegated to a back seat when it comes to the home technology landscape.