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The PlayStation Platform: Sony's real next-gen console Exclusive
The PlayStation Platform: Sony's real next-gen console
September 19, 2012 | By Patrick Miller

September 19, 2012 | By Patrick Miller
More: Business/Marketing, Exclusive

During Sony's pre-Tokyo Game Show press conference, company representatives announced a slimmer PlayStation 3 model, PS Vita-PS3 connectivity features, a few games and a price cut for the PSP -- plus a few minor items on their PlayStation Network and and PlayStation Mobile platforms.

Taken individually, each item doesn't sound particularly exciting (especially this far into a console cycle, when everyone is waiting for hints of the next-generation entries from Sony and Microsoft).

But read between the lines, and you'll see that Sony is setting the tone for the next platform wars—wars which will be fought not just in home consoles, but in mobile computing platforms and entertainment apps on set-top boxes.

Current-gen tech, next-gen platform

If you were underwhelmed by Sony's announcements today (perhaps because you were hoping for a surprise PS4 preview), you may have missed the point: "the console wars" is an antiquated idea as of the current generation, where Apple and Nintendo managed to carve out new market niches with innovative hardware and software at lower price points and left Microsoft and Sony to fight over the core audience.

Since the last console cycle started, we've seen mobile/social games on smartphones and tablets eat at the dedicated portable console market, a resurgent PC games market attract higher-end core audiences, and lower-end consoles (the Wii) and media-streaming set-top boxes lure away more casual, general-entertainment audiences.

In order for Sony to succeed, it needs more than just a strong flagship home console -- it needs a strong presence in each of these areas. And Sony is building that presence by strategically positioning its existing hardware (PS3, PSP, PS Vita) in order to build that next-gen platform well before a PlayStation 4 ever comes out.

Why the PS3 Slimmer matters

The redesigned PS3 reinforces the message Sony has already sent; namely, that we're going to be in this console cycle for a little while longer.

With the previous generation, Sony found that the PS2 sold very well even after the PS3 had already launched -- most likely due to its excellent library, brand strength, and the PS3's remarkably high initial price point. Consumers who weren't interested in Blu-ray, entertainment apps, and the latest-and-greatest games would buy the PS2 instead.

With the PS3 Slimmer, Sony can position the refreshed PS3 console as the lower-end buy-in to the PlayStation Platform once the PS4 is already out -- somewhat equivalent to the iPod Touch's place in Apple's mobile device array. With the PS3's launch, Sony learned that there are plenty of consumers out there who want PlayStation games without paying a premium for the newest stuff; this time, however, the PS3 can still be those people's cheaper portals to the vast library of existing PS3 content (including PS3 disc and downloadable games, access to Sony's other media channels, back catalogues, etc.).

Essentially, Sony can use the PS3 as a way to attract new customers at lower price points, draw them into the PlayStation Platform, and once they're invested in Sony's hardware and media, it'll be easier to upsell those PS3 owners on a PS Vita or a PS4 later on -- just like Apple does with its iOS and Mac lines.

And if the PS3 gets significantly cheaper after a PS4 release, it could be within a price range that makes it competitive with standalone set-top boxes like the Roku or Apple TV as well, especially considering its relatively large hard drive size is great for consumers who are just as interested in the PS3's media center functions as they would be in its game library.

PS Vita vs. the Wii U

Despite the fact that the main announcement during today's conference was the new PS3 redesign, most of the show was about the Vita -- several new game announcements, a brief rehash of the Cross Connect feature that lets you use the Vita's touchscreen and camera with the PS3, and a few demos of intriguing apps (live streaming via Nico Nico Douga and comic book reader apps, for example).

Certainly, the new core-friendly PS Vita titles might sell a few more consoles to the few enthusiasts who are still willing to shell out for a dedicated portable game device, but it can't be a secret to anyone at Sony that such devices are on the way out thanks to smartphones and tablets. But the real point here is that the features that connect the Vita to the PS3 (Cross Buy and Cross Control, for example) are aimed at turning the six-year-old console into a challenger for the Wii U's early next-gen experience.

PlayStation 3 owners could spend the $300 on a new Wii U, or they could replicate the experience by pairing their PS3 with a PS Vita for a few bucks less instead. This move might not shut Nintendo out completely, but if it puts a dent in the Wii U's initial uptake (especially among consumers who purchased a Wii and found that they never ended up playing it after the novelty of Wii Sports wore off), that might be all Sony needs to nudge the Wii U down the way of the Dreamcast once Sony's ready to release a proper PlayStation successor.

PSP and PS Mobile: The low-impact mobile strategy

The last prong of Sony's next-gen platform strategy, of course, is mobile. The PS Vita is most likely not a serious challenger to the smartphone-tablet market, but it doesn't have to be. Instead, PlayStation Mobile is a low-risk way for Sony to bring cheaper, bite-sized games worthy of the PlayStation brand to several Android devices (as well as the Vita, naturally).

This could help solve Android game developers' problems with making money on Google Play and players' problems finding the good stuff on Google Play, and if it doesn't, well, at least Sony can use it to build a mobile presence without practically starting one from scratch (see Windows Phone 7 and 8).

PS Mobile is meant to attract more casual audiences. Even the venerable PSP is sticking around, with a price cut and a few new titles for folks who want that low-cost option for portable PlayStation-quality games.

Meet the new PlayStation, same as the old PlayStation

No, today's announcements weren't sexy, but beneath the relative lack of glitz and glam lies a Sony that appears to better understand its position in the market -- and how it can potentially leverage that position into the center of the next big round of platform wars.

By cleverly positioning the PS3, PS Vita, PSP, PS Mobile as a platform with internal synergy -- something like a "set bonus", if you think about it -- Sony is trying to transform its hardware and software offerings into something new without necessarily having to build something new.

Each of these announcements point towards a more-savvy Sony that understands that the power of its brand has to be more powerful than the power of each of its hardware platforms; PlayStation on your TV, on your phone, in your backpack, and so on.

Or, as Sony PlayStation group CEO Andrew House put it, "All day PlayStation, every day PlayStation."

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k s
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I don't really see this strategy working out for them. Each of their devices looks and acts differently (unlike Microsoft's) not to mention they don't really have a mascot on all their devices (like Nintendo). Such a divided approach cannot stand against the unified fronts of Nintendo, Microsoft, or apple as each has a strong uniform approach and people will see this.

Joe McGinn
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Utterly convoluted and even incomprehensible strategy. Sounds like something they dreamed up to make themselves feel better about being such a balkanized company.

Lyon Medina
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Michael K
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have to agree with k s, Sony's halfharted ambitions seem to forced. It also seems like there is little focus and maturity in their doing.
1. PS Mobile:
Instead of making their errors, they could learn from the others. WP7, XBLIG, Palm/HP, Blackbarry and even Android had gone a way of limiting devs on how they create apps, nearly all of them realized they have open up their platform. Once c++ works, people can port their JVM, Ruby etc. games to the platform.
2. Connectivity:
how on earth is it possible there is no Sony TV with a build in Playstation? why does every sony phone have a wifi-to-TV streamer for games and nobody on earth knows that? why can't I play PS3 games on my Xperia Play on the go (I mean: streaming), while it works on PSP? Why is the PSVita not running android? do they really think a lot of people will buy two of nearly the same devices (phone and psv), while one has phoning capabilities, the other has a better gaming experience, but you can listen to music, buy and watch movies, surf the web, +gimmicks on both of them. They even think people will have two data plans, WHY?

what I liked was their idea to connect their cameras to their cloud, immediatelly submitting pictures to it, no need to move memcards between devices or connect them with cables, not even explicit blu-tooth connections are needed. But that's all positive I've seen.

The rest always sounds good when they roughly tell what they plan, but once it comes to details, you wonder why they do it. it even seems they don't know themself. Do they want to earn money by selling devices? by selling software? by creating a network? they need to make some of those branches serve the other to get an advantage. Trying to make their cut in every division of Sony, it's like a restaurant serving candy, steaks and popcorn, every food individually is tasty, but nobody will go to this restaurant to if they feel like they want a good steak or ..., and neither will anyone want all 3 mediocre at the same time.

It's somehow sad, it's such a versatile, big company. They have more possibilities than Apple and Microsoft together (they sell/create premium TVs, Cameras, Phones, Music, Movies, Games....), but they can't get it all sticket together, in a proper way.

Maurício Gomes
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I know why Sony insisted in the Blu-Ray at least...

Sony actually is not really about the costumer devices, they win a good chunk of money from production of content, they sell:

Sony Vegas
Debug consoles
Editing Stations
Blu-Ray press machines
Audio and Video processing equipment

So what is the point of forcing Blu-Ray? It was defeat HD-DVD and force studios to use Blu-Ray, studios that now have to buy all the crap I mentioned from Sony...

No company can live forever taking losses, Sony did not take huge losses from PS3, Sony won the format wars, and now everyone wanting to make games, movies or to some extent music, must buy equipment from Sony (obviously this is more striking for movies, where there are no alternative, Sony has a virtual monopoly there)

Nooh Ha
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"Im sure one day we will be able to find out the whole truth behind Sony's fall from grace."

They may have falled from grace in your eyes but global sales data suggests consumers dont quite see it that way. They have been outselling the Wii and 360 in every territory except the USA for most of the last year and have an IB of over 65m while less than half way through their global shelf life.

Bob Charone
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"They may have falled from grace in your eyes but global sales data suggests consumers dont quite see it that way."

but as a company, there doing something wrong.

Apple $26B
Microsoft $17B
Nintendo $<0
Sony $<0

so Sony isn't earning money, but maybe they have cash

Apple $77B
Microsoft $66B
Sony $25B
Nintendo $14B

not much cash, but maybe they can buy a competitor

Apple $658B
Microsoft $261B
Nintendo $18B
Sony $13B

nope, if anything Apple or Microsoft could buy both Nintendo and Sony!
in fact a few years ago Sony's stock jumped on rumours that Apple would buy them!
but Apple has no use for them :(

Josh Gibson
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@dario The controller on the PS3 is fantastic, I don't understand what problems you have with it, outside of maybe L2 and R2.

Doug Poston
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@dario: "Why is the graphical quality on PS3 games almost identical to Xbox games..."

There are several factors for this but, in my experience, it's because the 360 is a lot easier to develop on than the PS3.

If a game is released on both platforms, the bulk of the development is done on the 360 and then it is ported over to the PS3.

Lyon Medina
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Reference links please for your numbers.

Allan Munyika
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Another good question to ask is why haven't we seen a tablet from Sony released in tandem with a mobile/online gaming service. A tablet would offer better value to consumers than a dedicated gaming device like the PS Vita. Gaming is moving online and Sony are in a very good position to leverage thid opportunity because they make laptops, phones etc.

Bob Charone
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" Reference links please for your numbers. "

from Wikipedia and Yahoo Finance latest year possible, currency conversion same day.

Lyon Medina
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Sorry Bob, Wiki is not a vaild source for numbers, facts, or statistics. Yeah if I could see the link to the numbers you got from Yahoo I would be gladly accept your estimations, but untill then they are only just that.

(Which I thought were right until reading the articles below)

I found these articles’s that do quote some Yahoo numbers (which are unavailable at this time.) from 2007 that estimates them at around $85 billion

Lyon Medina
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Oh I know, I wasn't trying to put him on the spot or anything. I personally just always like to glance at the reports myself. I thought the numbers were more spot on, and I was looking for just the report and or article with the credit to support them.

I don't mind personal opinion, but when it comes to anything with numbers I have a pet peeve when there are no supporting data packets that companies issue to the public. So it's literally pay an outside company a large sum of money or tie 25 separate reports together to formulate a basic idea.

Why I like achievements so much. You either have it or you don't.

Also a great article, just finished reading it.

TC Weidner
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I have to agree with the comments here, I not buying this articles assertions one bit. If they were to actually follow this article assumptions, it would be disaster. Trying to be all thing to all people is a recipe for failure.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Chris Hendricks
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PS3 + Vita as a cheaper Wii U alternative? Only to those who already have a PS3.

Tom Baird
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That whole section seems a little overly-optimistic.

Even the author points out that even if you already have a PS3, getting the Vita is only going to be a few bucks cheaper. Considering how much backlash I'm seeing for the $300-$350 Wii U, I find it hard to believe people will be so keen on a $250-$300 controller.

And it's another optional peripheral, meaning it's unsafe to develop strictly PS3+Vita games, since it reduces your customer base drastically, and so all you'll get is a few optional gimmick sections in otherwise standard PS3 games.

Developers on the WiiU can guarantee the controller, and so are more likely to be able to create games that where the controller's capabilities integral to the game design.

Neko Otome
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Thank you for repeating what the article already said for people who refused to read it.

Patrick Miller
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Chris: Yeah, and I think that's the point -- it's to create an incentive for PS3 owners who would buy a Wii U to instead buy a PS Vita.

Tom: Oh, I agree. But the Vita is a $300 controller that also exists as its own standalone console, which would help get the sale. I doubt many Sony developers will actually take the cross-control thing seriously for the reasons you explained, but that won't stop Sony from using the possibility that they will as an early shot against the Wii U.

Joseph Anthony B. A. Tanimowo-Reyes
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I was going to point out how bad the logic in this article is, but then I saw that the comments already had just about everything I had to say on the matter.

Honestly, what? Who let this thing go up?

Jonathan Jennings
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wasn't one of sonys initial statements when the ps3 was unveiled that they expected the ps3 to last for a prolonged period of time ? i was curious about all the next gen " how will sony respond to the wii-u / next xbox" statements because i thought they made it pretty clear they wanted to ride the ps3 for quite a while.

Eric Pobirs
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This is a good natural progression to reaching the lowest price point for the platform for those holding out. I know several people who only bother with obsolete platforms because they like knowing the exact value proposition.

If Sony really wants to push the media center aspect more, they need to do one thing that would be a very small cost for them: support MKV files. This is a huge glaring gap in the PS3 and Xbox video playback functions. I end up using my LG BP-220 deck more for video because it will play almost everything (it doesn't understand Ogg Vorbis and a few other things that don't come up often) over the network from my DLNA server/router.

Lyon Medina
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An extremely optimistic view of the situation Sony is in.

To me with Sony it is the image they project that is the disconnect between it and the consumer(s) base here and the U.S. (I cannot speak for other countries). Commercials, promotions, and even the games that are promoted here are never targeted to the gaming market. They are targeted to the world market of "Sony Customers".

Sony is very popular, that much is for sure and they have very loyal customers, but the general gaming market turned violent on them at the time of the release of the PS3. Where Sony’s attach rates of games could not reach the X-Box 360 and it much more forgiving price entry point and larger library of unique next-gen games that was available at the time.

Spending more time now creating marketing, financing, promoting another whole new SKU of a soon to be past generation console will only further push them backwards in the race for gaming industry dominance in my opinion.

The PS3 is now a old console (with the launch of the WIIU apon us), PC is again where the new innovations, and upgrades are being made. All consoles have to play the catch up game in terms of graphics and processing speed. The PC becoming relevant will always happen at the end of a console generation as it is happening right now.


Attach Rates As Of 2009.

Wes Martinez
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I hope they are smarter with the new PS3 Slimmer? Who the hell makes these names up? The major failure in PS3 even second gen is low memory, eight cores no space to put all the information, so it bottle necks. I cant stand the kiddy direction Nintendo has gone. The first nintendo had all types of games, contra, metroid, metal gear, ikari warriors, smash tv, xenophobe, double dragon, ninja gaiden, tmnt, I could go on. Nintendo is stupid because my generation that group up with Nintendo are old now, we have the nostalgia from those games but come on everything is fluffy and your hardware sucks compared to the competition. Wii U? Seriously? All gimmick BS, I love PC hands down but out of consoles, Microsoft holds the crown for 3rd gen consoles (ps3, xbox 360, Wii).

Patrick Miller
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Just FYI, "PS3 Slimmer" isn't the actual name of the console.

Joseph Anthony B. A. Tanimowo-Reyes
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That's 7th-gen, not 3rd-gen.

Cody Scott
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i think the vita could easily compete with tablets and phones to some degree. Just open up the platform for indies to sell on a playstation market place at a lower cost to the indies and the low priced quality games would pay for themselves.

Steven Christian
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They should do a lot of things, as people have mentioned. But the problem is they don't. I had a PS1, PS2 and PS3, but Sony just continue doing their own crazy thing, meanwhile I have moved on from the PS3 to PC/Android.

Stanley de Bruyn
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Sony isn't doing so well as a company, but pure the game bussness department. How is that roling. How are Sony TV doing? I agree with the article, sure the competition is bit further. So Sony has to catch up. So it going in that direction. They are reacting. So the what if Apple has it all smoothly running. They started out also from scratch long time ago. Like origin hitting steam and MS app store with Windows 8 going for steam to. So its logical the run a bit behind but that normal wenn you fresh role out your own solution to the established competition.
So they just react to the game industrie evolution, witch is a good thing for them.

Me I just look out for the nextgen high-end consoles. And PC hardware.

Kevin Fishburne
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I like the idea of a cheaper PS3. I always felt the platform didn't get a fair shake from the developer base and that it hasn't really lived up to its potential as a seminal gaming platform. The RAM issue is probably the biggest hardware factor (upgrade please) and Sony's consistent PR blunders and Draconian EULAs probably soured the social and business spheres.

Anyway, if Sony said, "Screw it, we're adding Steam support and allowing users to install arbitrary games from the Internet" (indies), it would be a radical and much needed move. The PR boon from actual gamers would clip the inputs.

Nooh Ha
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In contrast to most commenters, I do see some logic in technological continuity aiding sales of a future console generation. PS1 to PS2 and PS2 to PS3 had only (limited) backwards compatability as its sole form of technological continuity so was reliant on brand continuity to generate its sales succes. PlayStation's brand may be sullied in your eyes in the USA but it is still the most dominant console brand everywhere else in the world, in particular Europe where Nintendo has collapsed and Microsoft has once again failed to gain a major foothold (outside of the UK). Given its success without technological continuity, surely adding functional reasons for transitioning from PS3 to PS4 can only benefit its next gen adoption?

Bob Johnson
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No software will be made for Vita to PS3 gameplay. We all know how much anything not in the console box gets supported.

And the Wii U has been developed from the ground up for lag-free wireless streaming. It isn't going out over wifi to the controller. At least that is straight from the lips of Iwata.

I think Sony is in the most trouble of the big 3 at least in the US. Nintendo is doing its own thing while Sony is directly competing with MS and losing and bleeding money.

On the other hand Sony is doing better worldwide and may even be the #2 best selling console in the world right now.

Richard Bunk
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@dario silva

Sony has never been a price leader out of the gate. PS-1 was considered expensive due to the instance that it include CD-ROM. PS-2 was considered expensive due to the insistence that it include DVD-ROM.

See a trend here?

If you hate Sony but love Nintendo, you can thank Nintendo for Sony getting into video games.

wes bogdan
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With 360 avaible first it became the lead system to develop on so your a team was on xbox while your b or c team was doing a port if it wasn't outsourced but put playstations best like kz2,3 or uncharted 2,3 against gears or reach and the ps3 wins.

As for the dualshock l2 and r2 should have been gun triggers but the rest is perfection.

Sony's pad makes southpaw simple and the d-pad being across from the face buttons means you can swap functions so while looking on the left stick the d-pad would become the face buttons and zoom should be on the look stick side so l1 in southpaw and r1 in default. Of course when moving on the right stick the face buttons would become your d-pad. Make all future dualshocks with gun triggers and zoom /shoot would become l2/r2 and do a proper full face swap in southpaw and i'm golden.

Sony has sackboy and lbp + the original ps3 slim was when it went from doa to a success so they should pack in lbp with vita and @ least drop the outlandish mem card prices so it's cheaper to invest in vita vs prohibitively expensive.

William Collins
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Sony has been "Me Too-ing" for far too long and it's starting to catch up with them (going through the list would exhaust me this early in the day). I can't be the only one who sees the controller as an SNES game pad with two extra shoulder buttons, can I? ::: best d-pad ever, though :::

Ron Dippold
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Sorry, the only interesting 'Playstation Platform' bits are the spectacular indie games they're nurturing like Black Swan or Dryad. Those are genuinely good, and I love them (especially given how bad the last XBLA summer was), but those are a supporting strategy, not a system selling strategy.

The super slim makes sense, but don't try to sell this as a brilliant overarching masterstroke. It's a necessary stopgap.