We’re in a bit of a strange situation right now. We don’t know when the next Xbox will be announced, or have any real details about it beyond rumours, yet it does seem to be taking over the news cycle at the moment. The coverage certainly isn’t positive, in fact it’s pretty much proclaiming the death of Microsoft’s next console before they’ve actually confirmed its existence, but it’s still what’s getting all the coverage; it’s like the PS4 has slipped off the map for now.
That’s probably not all that bad for Sony though, they’re likely happy to sit back and watch Microsoft spiral out of control, but it does feel like they need to be pushing the PS4 more than they are right now. Although they’ve done well in controlling the message and have got a very positive reaction to the PS4, there doesn’t seem to be as much noise around the PS4 as there is around whatever Microsoft have coming next.
That noise isn’t coming from Microsoft, it would be a lot more refined and positive if it was, but there does seem to be more column inches given over to speculation about the next Xbox at the moment. We’ve heard from Sony that they’ve got a detailed plan of reveals over the next year, anything less would be complete lunacy anyway, but they need an event soon to make sure they stay in the forefront of consumers’ minds.
Of course, that’s not the only issue Sony are facing. While I thought they did a brilliant job with the PS4’s announcement, they’ve still left a lot of questions unanswered about the console that need to be cleared up before E3. If they’ve got the hardware details and pricing nailed down before June rolls around then they can reserve their summer blockbuster press event for detailed looks at the games coming to the console, much like Nintendo did last year.
Having that free run into E3 is important for Sony, particularly as they’ll likely be going up against Microsoft’s new machine by that point. While no-one’s confirmed that Microsoft are going to be showing their next console before E3, the consensus is that they’d be pretty much crazy to leave it till June, with some analysts pointing to a May reveal.
No, the way to go for Microsoft is a dedicated reveal event, exactly as Sony did. Get the press there, spread the news of the announcement and let the world watch as you pull back the veil for the first time, confirming or destroying the rumours that have been circulating for months. Doing it this way will likely make the new console the dominant news story for a few weeks, whereas waiting till E3 just makes it one big story amongst many.
Sony will, obviously, want to disrupt the fallout from Microsoft’s announcement event as much as possible, and the way to do that is another PS4 event. They know they can’t combat the event itself, the only way to do that would be to announce that everyone on the planet will be getting a PS4 for free, but they can attempt to push back and lessen the impact of Microsoft’s event.
For my money they need to go after Microsoft have announced to achieve this, and perhaps that’s why it’s being rumoured that Microsoft have placed their event at the end of May. If those rumours are true it simply doesn’t give Sony the time to put another event between Microsoft’s event and E3.
A late May reveal would mean the only real option for Sony is to host another event in the next few weeks. Although this approach means that they probably won’t be able to cut-short the coverage of the next Xbox, it does mean that Microsoft will be pushed further onto the back foot.
Of course it likely won’t be an entirely adversarial decision, I doubt crushing Microsoft’s console is as key to Sony as is often made out. Trying to remove the threat from a competitor is certainly important, but it’s never going to be the only reason for any decision. They want to program against Microsoft, and vice-versa, but more than anything they need to further embed the PlayStation 4 in the public mindset. Doing that not only improves their own prospects, but makes Microsoft’s job harder as well.
The simplest way to do that really is a pre-E3 event, and I’d be very surprised if we don’t see something from Sony in late April or early May, as has been rumoured. Hopefully they’ll tell us how much it is, I really need to start saving.