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Opinion

Opinion: How Not To Announce A Console

Schrödinger's PlayStation 4.

When Sony came to revealing the PlayStation 4 to the public, they knew they had to get it right. By and large, I think they did. It was a million miles from a perfect showing, but through the highs and lows, the questions answered and unanswered, they got the job done. Yet, I find it somewhat bemusing to see how strongly this has been criticised.

In particular, I’ve noticed a trend among Apple bloggers of questioning the timing and content of Sony’s press conference. Why have they held a conference when so many elements were seemingly not quite ready? Why did they not show the PlayStation 4 design? Why do all these companies persist in not mimicking Apple’s perfected release model?

Even Microsoft employees were quite publicly snarky about the event, something our very own editor sent a cheeky rebuttal for:

I’m firmly in Bunimomike’s camp, when he calls for us to be allowed our optimism and passion. However, I’m torn between this and the validity of some of the incoming arguments.

I’ve scoffed along with the Apple crowd as Microsoft stumbled through the Surface unveiling, the company formerly known as RIM endlessly battled with Blackberry 10, and I questioned their timing, strategy and so on. Yet the games industry is quite a different proposition.

For one thing, computers, phones, tablets, TVs, microwaves and everything else is in a state of perpetual change, whilst new consoles only arrive after 5 years at a minimum. They are the fixed standard to which developers can work with absolute certainty, before eventually being superseded, at which point you need to rally your troops behind a new standard. Similar to how Microsoft have with the new interface for Windows 8 or Apple did with the iPhone in 2007.


This is what a PS4 looks like right now. It's a big metal box with holes.

Sony had to send out developer kits ahead of time so that developers could get to work in earnest for the games to be delivered on day one, alongside the console. They seem to have flung the net far and wide to get everybody involved. When you do that there will be leaks, and so there were, as almost everything from the core specifications to some of the game trademarks were known before the lights had even dimmed in New York.

We also know quite a lot about Durango, of course, but perhaps not the sheer volume of information that emerged about the PS4. We saw the DualShock 4′s Share button, we had rumours of cached video uploads and streaming. There’s only so much time before these rumours become old news to the public, before you have no surprises left for your actual unveiling, and so Sony forced their own hand into staging this conference. Maybe they weren’t quite ready, but they had to do something or lose control of the story, something which can happen all too often in the modern world.

It was a necessary evil though, given the way in which games are developed. Unlike with the oft evolutionary release of smartphones and computers, you can’t make this huge an architectural and technological change and expect developers to deliver their products in a matter of weeks or months. You can barely expect everyone to deliver updates when you’ve done something as simplistic as change the resolution, let alone shift development to a wholly new device. Like a Hollywood film, it takes years of development to produce a top end title for an existing console, and with new hardware that process is stretched out even further.

Yet, I feel that Sony’s timing of the announcement is a lesson learnt from Apple, just not the Apple of 2013. Several years ago, Apple stopped attending trade shows outright, and this is now the second time in a row where Sony have announced a PlayStation console at a dedicated event. By doing so, it has allowed Sony to set the talking points and draw a line in the sand. They perfectly built up the hype leading to the show, and did so without interference or noise from Microsoft or anyone else. There were further leaks, but just enough was held on to that everyone wanted to tune in and see for themselves. And there’s still more to see next time.


"How would you like to share?" - Sony have set their more social agenda for the next generation.

Though this new machine seems far from being a complete revolution to how we play games, I see a marked similarity to what Apple did with the iPhone announcement in 2007. Through some of rough points in the presentation, they have come and set the agenda for this generational shift. We now know what the PS4 will deliver in terms of streaming, sharing and connectivity and everything that comes after this is an imitation.

Whether Microsoft announce their console in March or wait until E3, if they have 8GB of expensive GDDR5 RAM, a share button and a vast array of streaming video capabilities, it’s because Sony did it first. Microsoft might honestly have planned to have these all along, or just wanted to wait until they could show off their own perfected version in a really slick presentation, but Sony took control and did it first in the eyes of the public.

Sony, to my mind, found themselves in the middle of an incredibly tricky balancing act. They couldn’t completely disregard their closest rival’s plans, they couldn’t allow the volume of leaks to take the story out of their control, and they had to produce a compelling narrative that sets a clear direction for their next generation machine. All of this whilst rushing to put a show together and presumably trying to cling on to a few secrets to reveal later down the line.

Personally, I think they succeeded and I’m fascinated to now see the battle at E3.

Does it really matter that you didn’t get to see the box?

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45 Comments
  1. uncleniccius
    Member
    Since: Jan 2012

    While I agree what he says was a poke at Sony, he later mentioned that he loved ‘seeing great games’.
    I am intrigued for E3 though!

    Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 18:15.
  2. The Von Braun
    Member
    Since: Oct 2012

    ‘Never mind the width, feel the quality’.

    Still do not ‘get’ the media bemoaning fact the damn console was’nt shown.Loo jurno types, this is’nt a tablet device or handheld, it’ll get put under my tv, have wires trailing from it and as long as it works, when i switch her on, that’s all i expect.

    I’ll be looking at said TV, not the console, do you see?.

    I mean, past consoles i’ve bought:

    The Dreamcast, looked like a pie maker, the N64, a Fisher Price toy, the PS2? well i had better looking fan heaters in my room, the PS3, 360 and Xbox, big, black boxes with lights on.

    The Mega Drive? ok, got me, that looked the buisness, it stamped it’s 16 Bits in an ‘in yer face’ sort of way, had a sleek look to it and a volume slider on the console, yes, it rocked.

    The 32X i had? a ruddy mushroom, the Jaguar, nothing special, nor was the 2600, the PLaystation or Saturn.

    My Crystal Xbox? nice, but still a monster.

    It’s not changing room’s where the case has to match the wall paper, is it?.

    Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 18:18.
    • blast71
      Member
      Since: May 2012

      Agree, don’t give a toss what it looks like, as long as it does the job.

      Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 18:52.
    • freezebug2
      Member
      Since: Dec 2008

      Agreed, I don’t think there’s never been a console that could be classed as beautiful in design…although I did think that the gamecube was a sensation back in the day with it’s simplistic yet practical and unique design.
      I think that Sony had all bases covered at the conference and delivered a great presentation in terms of what I wanted to know about the PS4 with it’s new capabilities and functions to suitably impress.
      A viewing of the new console would have been cool but not as a deal decision maker, only for rubbernecking purposes.
      If the console turned out to look like a relative that’s usually kept in the dungeon for public safety, just plonk it behind a speaker or similar! (I very much doubt that’ll be the case though) :P

      Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 20:59.
      • freezebug2
        Member
        Since: Dec 2008

        *ever* nicht *never*

        Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 21:00.
    • Roynaldo
      Member
      Since: Nov 2008

      Love this comment.

      Comment posted on 23/02/2013 at 09:33.
  3. plutoniumdragon
    Member
    Since: Dec 2008

    It’s quite possible they haven’t designed a box (or even the PCB) yet, much better to concentrate on what separates the brand from the competition at this stage.
    They’ve answered a lot of the questions people were asking, piqued a lot of interest and kept some secrets until their rival’s unveiling.
    I’d say win all round personally.

    Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 18:19.
  4. tonycawley
    Pint! Pint!
    Since: Feb 2009

    Haters gonna hate!

    Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 18:59.
  5. E8_BALL_
    Member
    Since: Jul 2010

    To be fair, Sony never said they were going to reveal the PS4, merely that they were hosting a conference. It was the assumption of gamers & press alike, some of the same press that are now bitching.

    I find it all hypocritical, unprofessional, childish, embarrassing & insulting.

    Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 19:00.
    • E8_BALL_
      Member
      Since: Jul 2010

      Thankfully I made a good choice & have settled into a site, where it’s staff & community have their head screwed on.

      Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 22:30.
      • Sheepdip
        Member
        Since: Feb 2013

        Can you give me the URL? I can’t think of a single gaming website on the internet (or in print), that’s not been tarnished by Microsoft’s money…

        Comment posted on 23/02/2013 at 19:29.
      • KeRaSh
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        You better put that tinfoil hat back on, otherwise those Microsoft rays will take over your brain!

        Comment posted on 25/02/2013 at 08:39.
  6. The Lone Steven
    Never heard of him.
    Since: May 2010

    Sony were smart to not show the PS4 itself as it allows them more time to build up the hype as well as to fine tune any features that they may be having with, with the prototype.

    I usually don’t care how the console look as long as it is not prone to breaking down or barely gets supported. For me, the console has to appeal to me before i decide if it’s the one to get as my only console, for the next gen. Not the looks as you can have the best looking console but runs like shit.

    As for Major Nelson’s childish tweet, i recall the Kinect demostration turning out to be a scripted mime act to some videos instead of actually demostrating the Kinect live. If i remeber correctly.

    Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 19:10.
    • KeRaSh
      Member
      Since: Nov 2009

      Yeah, the PS4 could be plushy and pink for all I care. I’d have to hide it, but it certainly wouldn’t stop me from getting one.

      Comment posted on 25/02/2013 at 08:45.
  7. Kennykazey
    Member
    Since: Mar 2010

    We all know the box will be rectangular and black with some ports and LEDs, so I couldn’t care much less. I think Sony focused on what matters whilst holding a few things back for later showing. Maybe it needed a last minute change to fit the additional memory?

    On the topic of announcing it half a year before launch, I say it’s just fine. It allows Sony a lot of time to prepare and build hype, and as you said, makes Microsoft come second.

    Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 19:10.
    • tonycawley
      Pint! Pint!
      Since: Feb 2009

      Half a year? 6 months? That’d put release in August. No chance. We won’t see it in EU til march 2014. That’s a year and a month.

      Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 19:43.
      • Kennykazey
        Member
        Since: Mar 2010

        DOH! I was actually refering to the Holiday release, which isn’t six months away either… So that’s a fail on my part. I must have been more tired in my lunch break than I thought.

        Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 21:43.
  8. Galgomite
    Member
    Since: Oct 2010

    I really wish Sony just copied how Apple does an announcement. Did you notice they muted audience reactions and applause? Why? And why couldn’t they show the box? Given I’d already seen many of the software demos on YouTube months ago, the easiest way that Sony could have differentiated themselves was with the console shell itself. My takeaway was that this round was really meant to appeal to developers, not gamers.
    What did get me excited at the conference, though, was the “games server” idea. I’d like to see Sony take over the whole house with PS4 in a way only a console maker can. I want them to stop giving Vita exclusive powers. I want them to sell a gamepad for Android and iPad, and let people play their games via Gaikai. When people see much better graphics on their tablet screens, they’ll buy their tablet and maybe even PC content on the PS Store.

    Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 19:12.
    • bunimomike
      Member
      Since: Jul 2009

      What other software demos had you seen on YouTube months ago? Even with the SquareEnix and WatchDog’s stuff, we didn’t know it was running on the PS4 last year. We all hoped but let’s be fair, good that they showed it again seeing as both are drop-dead gorgeous.

      The “box” itself simply isn’t complete. From a product design perspective they’ll be trying to hold off for as long as possible simply because Sony are only now finalising the details that go in there. Every facet of the internal design will affect how the outside looks. From physical form to material usage to heat dissipation and how to deal with it.

      Whilst they’ll peg it down as “we need to hold something back to reveal” I don’t doubt for a second that it’s simply not ready.

      :-)

      Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 21:23.
      • E8_BALL_
        Member
        Since: Jul 2010

        &… they may also be waiting for Microsoft to show their hand, leaving room for tweaks.

        Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 22:33.
      • KeRaSh
        Member
        Since: Nov 2009

        Apparently, Watch Dogs was running on a PC. ; )
        I’m sure that it will look just as great, if not better, when it finally comes out, though.
        This might be the best launch game I could have wished for and I’d probably get a PS4 just for that game.

        Comment posted on 25/02/2013 at 08:42.
    • Sheepdip
      Member
      Since: Feb 2013

      They couldn’t show the box, as if they changed it in any way between now an release, the rabid press would have created aload of hate spin, you know, like the boomerang controller nonsense.

      The gaming media all have it in for Sony. Microsoft’s money and influence has ensured that the message “it’s cool to support the hip new underdog” and “Sony are complacent” nonsense all sticks.

      Comment posted on 23/02/2013 at 19:33.
  9. jimmy-google
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    What they seem to forget is that Sony didn’t announce a console reveal or a ps4 reveal. They said they would show the future of playstation and that is what they did.

    What these “critics” wanted to see was a new fashion accessory not an actual console

    Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 19:35.
  10. Narayan11
    Member
    Since: Jul 2011

    I totally agree with Teflon. I think they took the brave decision to announce the fututre of PS in their own terms. They grabbed everyone’s attention in a very intelligently way on what the future of the Playstation is going to be. Everyone expected a machine, when all along they only talked about “the future of playstation”. We expected something that was never promised, media did the same on everything we read, we all lead ourselves to believe they were going to show the console, when all along Sony only said “hey guys on the 20th come and see the future of Playstation.” Very nice psycological PR… but i still dont understand why people are concern on fact they didnt show the PS4 itself. It does not matter. The whole press conference, was about the future of the PS, about the player, about the developers, about sharing, about the interface in today’s world, and i really liked their vision. I think is what the next generation needs.

    Sony’s press release was about the vision, not a shinny new box (remember that one of the phrases that showed on the press conference in their intro video was “its not a box!”) and i thought everyone had got the hint.

    of course you will need a new powerful machine to support that new vision. How is it going to look? Irrelevant (it stays behind or underneath the TV anyways, you dont carry it around like a iPhone remember?). What is important is that Sony took the reigns on the new console war putting pressure on Microsoft and Nintendo. No matter what Micro and Nintendo show us, on the back of our mind, we will be saying “Nice, but Sony showed us the same thing 3 months ago.” Microsoft and Nitendo cannot escape the fact that they are behind and the Sony press conference will be the standard to beat, not the conference itself but the machine, the interface, the tech, the vision…

    By Sony going solo, everyone now will compare Micro vs Sony and Nintendo vs Sony…

    Great Job Sony, in my fair opinion.

    Comment posted on 22/02/2013 at 19:46.
    • Roynaldo
      Member
      Since: Nov 2008

      Yeah… The headline was be the first to know, not see. They revealed knlwledge as promised. Case closed.

      Comment posted on 23/02/2013 at 09:36.

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