I think the media and gamers alike didn’t expect Sony to announce anything very significant in regards to the video gaming world at CES 2014. That’s what E3 is for right? Well… yeah. However, yesterday Sony broke the rules by quietly dropping two bombs on the gaming world at CES.
Why now? Why not? Especially since consoles today have functionalities that overlap many consumer electronics that they sit next to in the entertainment center. I feel Sony wisely used CES as an opportunity to show everybody that the PlayStation 4 (PS4) can possibly match most of the XBoxOne’s value proposition for media in the living room. Plus Sony may have learned from Microsoft’s past media event fail back in May of 2013, that fell on deaf ears of hardcore gamers who just wanted to see games. CES may actually be the best place to talk about media capabilities for a console going forward.
Now don’t get it twisted, Sony spoke at length on a lot of other things outside of gaming. I just happen to be focused on worthy nuggets of info related to the gaming world at Sony’s keynote.
Play Play Play… Anywhere… on Anything?
The first big announcement from a gaming perspective was PlayStation Now, formerly known as “Gaikai.” The new moniker alone gives us a sense of how integrated they want this technology to be in the PlayStation suite of entertainment solutions. The ability to stream games is a huge undertaking by Sony, and will allow gamers more flexibility in where and what they game on. Beware OnLive.
There’s also a benefit desired by a lot of hardcore gamers from this service. The ability to play older games from previous PlayStations. In theory just imagine being able to adventure in Uncharted 1 thru 3 and dive into 4 on the very same console. Convenient eh? A virtual backwards compatibility. (I hope the trophies stay included in those games.)
What’s even more impressive to me is the fact that the service will also be provided to non-Sony products. Android and iOS smartphones and tablets will be allowed in this party. (Woot woot!) Thats a good thing for Sony, because it can be a gateway to building a relationship with casual gamers that are new to the PlayStation brand. Thus setting them on a path to desire an even more complete gaming experience, encouraging them to buy Sony’s console or handheld offerings.
Hopefully internet service providers are prepared for increased demand for bandwidth because a lot of these gaming services haven’t been the same since christmas as a consequence of crushing demand. Sony is recommending a 5mbps connection for optimal PlayStation Now performance. If users cannot get a steady connection because providers are gimping/throttling to save bandwidth, then we can expect to see frustrated players. Response time is critical when it it comes to streaming games. Also, wouldn’t it be nice if the DualShock 4 would be allowed to pair up with these third-party devices running PlayStation Now? (Wait? Did I just give Sony a billion dollar idea? Kaz call me… no, seriously call me.)
Waiting to Exhale?
When the PS4 was announced and even launched, its loudest detractors were very vocal about about how anemic the media portion of the console was. Fair enough. Even long time PlayStation consumers were concerned. Not that if Sony was going to remedy this shortcoming, but about how long would it take, because Sony has been known to go at a snail’s pace when it comes to meaningful updates for their consoles. Added pressure came from the fact that folks were watching live TV while gaming at the same time via their XboxOne… on day one.
Now don’t be fooled by most PS4 early adopters. A sizable number of people are holding their breath for the media side to come together. Despite most overwhelmingly value gaming over watching TV, that in no way means they wouldn’t want/use it at all if it were available. The fact that the PlayStation 3 is the most popular device to consume Netflix speaks in volume. PlayStation folk do hunger media, its just that their priorities on what has to be there first differs from XboxOne early adopters. I can respect that.
You Can Exhale Now
I’m certain the PlayStation community at large breathed a huge sigh of relief and cheered “Wow!” (Yes I was inspired to use that because of Kaz) at the announcement of the Sony Entertainment Network: Cloud-based TV service. It will be a live TV service with on-demand, DVR capabilities and social media interactions included in the experience. It’s good to hear that all the modern trimmings will be on a the PS4.
Oh, and before XboxOne commenters get uptight… nobody is claiming Sony did it first. Simply enjoy the fact that your PlayStation gaming brethren will be watching TV too. Thus validating your point that it can work if implemented correctly. Anyways, keep calm folks, I am not interested in a flame war. Moving along…
Another great prospect of the service is that its going to support multiple devices. So get ready to go from your TV to Tablet, to Smartphone to your Vita then back to the TV and not miss anything of the movie/show you are watching. SEN-Cloud-TV has me salivating (Yes, I took liberties to shorten the name of the service) at the possibilities of what amazing media bundles a behemoth entertainment company like Sony can offer. Keep in mind that Sony owns a huge amount of content and the breadth of that content is very diverse. From TV shows to movies to music. They don’t just own content… they make it.
If you happen to be a longtime listener of the DLB-Network Gaming Podcast, then you’ll know that I have been waiting for this moment. It could only happened when Sony realized it needed to present itself as a phrase I said quite a few times on the podcast, which is “The one company, company.”
Sony CEO Kaz Hirai, for a year has been telegraphing us how the corporate culture at Sony has changed. To me, this announcement alone proves it. Sony finally has broken down the silos and seemingly has all the departments, divisions and sister companies talking to each other effectively. There is no way they can pull this off if they weren’t. Propz Kaz.
Timing is Everything, But Seeing is Believing
Sony claims they’ll be rolling both of these services out in 2014. Yes, I wrote 2014. Not 15, 16 or even 17, but 14. If they can pull it off this year, it’ll be the most timely meaningful updates to a PlayStation console ever. (PS3 owners will understand why I emphasized meaningful)
I know its not E3, but it made perfect sense for Sony to drop what I call stealth bombs. They were a “we can do that too” at a very opportune time. As a result, a lot of people in the gaming universe are chomping at the bit for more. Sony had a stellar 2013 in regards to announcing, promoting, marketing and delivering on the PS4. Their gamble to hyper focus on ‘gaming’ first has paid off with them earning the largest console launch in gaming history, selling a whopping 4.2 million units as of December 28, 2013.
I’m looking forward to seeing what they do as an encore at E3 2014, because if they are willing to announce news this big, this early in the year, just imagine what they might have up their sleeve to impress us in June. Believe it or not, but… its looking like Sony could out do their 2013 E3 performance.