Why Sony Would Be Crazy To Announce PS4 Before May

As the internet dissolves into another day of crazy rumours, speculation over when Sony will announce the PS4 continues afresh. The twilight years of any console generation are generally the same, of course, but this time it’s a little different, and it’s fair to say that we’re unlikely to find ourselves in this situation ever again.

Why? Well, for starters the PlayStation 4 and the next Xbox are highly likely to be the final ‘consoles’ as we understand the term – weighty, expensive boxes are surely on their way out and whatever happens this year there’s every chance that the following generation will be all about streaming data to a dumb terminal, rather than pouring billions into R&D to ensure the chipsets are as future-proof as possible before being outdated in a year by a modest PC.

Games consoles will become a service, rather than a singular unit.

The way we consume games is changing, the way publishers are publishing games is changing, and the perceived value we attach to games is changing too. We’ll see these shifts over the next few years, starting with the consoles released (as many expect to be the case) in 2013.

But until then, let’s look at why Sony shouldn’t be too hasty to start shouting about the PS4.

Unlike the Xbox 360, Sony has a number of top tier exclusives still to run this generation. The likes of God Of War, Beyond and The Last Of Us might not be system sellers in the true sense of the word, but they’re solid, AAA games that’ll lock nicely into the PS3’s existing userbase. They’re not alone, either – there’s a good handful of really great games yet to roll out.

The Last Of Us – out in May – in particular, is seen by many to be the PS3’s swansong. A highly regarded developer, masses of carefully managed hype and publicity and a great concept that’s had gamers talking since it was first outed. Every showing has been positive, and in the absence of one last Uncharted it’s good that Sony has something tangible to really focus on for the next few months.

For Sony to announce a successor to the PS3 before The Last Of Us is released could be disastrous for the game. Unless Sony have been working on the title with the idea that it’ll work on both PS3 and PS4 (with considerable visual boosts) all a next-gen announcement would do is take away from the game. And whilst core gamers are well aware that there’s something around the corner, Joe Public, the vast majority, won’t be.

They’ll want to know they’re investing in a game that’s running on the latest hardware. And unlike the Xbox 360, where big name exclusives are very much dried up, the PS3 still has stacks of such games to get out of the door. By revealing what they’re working on next they risk splintering that market and ruining the chance for the games to really sell.

Technically, Microsoft have the upper hand just now. They’ve little to lose by starting to shout about the next Xbox, and by doing so may well force Sony’s hand. Hence the secrecy, and what is presumably a very careful, tactical game of cat and mouse between the two companies. If Microsoft didn’t want to show anything last E3, why would Sony?

While we’re on that subject, E3 is another question that muddies waters. The big trade show runs from June 11th to the 13th this year and the world’s games press, PR and big chain buyers will be under one roof, clamouring for the Next Big Thing to pour their free publicity, marketing expertise and money over.

So why wouldn’t Sony wait for that opportune moment? Because everyone else is shouting into the same space, competing for the same attention. The biggest announcements in technology and gaming are moving away from that kind of arena now – from Apple or Google’s single-company trade events to Nintendo Direct’s more individual web streams. Sony’s Move reveal was somewhat overshadowed by Microsoft’s smoke and mirrors show with Kinect and Milo. Move was the more useful tech but almost all of the world’s games press, and arguably plenty of developers too, bought into the performances on Microsoft’s stage. Sony would likely choose to avoid a similar situation on what has become Microsoft’s home turf.

It’s an interesting predicament because it doesn’t leave either platform holder with a great deal of time to really ramp things up, assuming a May announcement window and a Christmas release. But Microsoft could kick things off right before The Last Of Us launches, and start showing games – games that’ll make Naughty Dog’s title look relatively old hat. What would Sony do then?

What Sony need to be doing now is making the PS3 as appealing as possible to the casual market (further price drops and bundles are just the start) and yet simultaneously convincing core gamers that there’s still life in the old dog yet.

And somewhere by the wayside is the PS Vita, seemingly forgotten of late, that needs at least an occasional nod from the platform holder. Sony have – essentially – got their hands full as is. May’s four months away, and I really can’t see anything coming from Japan within that timescale. It just doesn’t make any sense.

I’m guessing that if the PS4 does release this year, it’ll only be in Japan, with a Western release early 2014. Microsoft are unlikely to follow that timescale, with the Western markets massively more important to the Redmond company. It’s a tense, uncertain year ahead, but I’m fairly sure that nothing’s really going to emerge until at least May.

After all, unless Sony are forced, such a move would be crazy.



  1. So much more competition this time around, the announcement is critical in capturing the mind share of customers and developers.

    Nintendo will be into their second Christmas period with a greater range of games, a possible pricedrop timed with big name titles could see them do what the 3DS did to the Vita (as far as mainstream sales are concerned)

    Valve using the OEM approach which saw Microsoft’s Windows and Google’s Android dominate sales share in their respective sectors will put the cat among the pigeons, people are turning to PC & Steam now & that’s without a cohesive marketing strategy & product line.

    And large parts of the potential market just get their gaming kicks through other means, not to mention incredibly tough economic conditions in comparison to the botched, sluggish launch of the relative 2006/07 boom.

    If as suggested in the article Sony aren’t on shelves in the West until 2014 – with an empty release calendar in second half of 2013 it could prove fatal, especially as their pockets aren’t very deep these days.

    • Of course Sony could catch everyone out and announce the PS4 in May with a release date announced at E3 for the middle of June instantly filling up the second half of 2013 with releases.

      They could very well leave E3 for just the Vita.

      • Knowing Sony, that would be a very boring E3…

  2. “Games consoles will become a service, rather than a singular unit.”

    If this happens then I won’t be buying, sadly. I can’t begin to imagine the problems we could have with streaming games and DRM – assuming it’ll all be cloud based. This gen has been bad enough at times with “lazy” developers releasing broken games, put at least you can avoid patches to find workarounds – but if an entire game is stored on a server you’d have to wait for a fix (which sometimes never come). Also, Sony can’t always communicate to their consumers or make their Store run properly (they’re a bloody technology company) so theres little chance I’d trust them to allow me access to a catalogue of paid-for games, stored on their servers, whenever I want (read: maintenance). There’s also risk of not being able to play if your internet provider is playing silly-buggers.

    I personally buy 90% of my games new, but not allowing people to buy second-hand games, or more importantly meaning new games can’t be traded in, will no doubt hit the smaller developers since people will be less likely to take a chance on a game or new IP if they can’t trade it in if they don’t enjoy it. Not many people can afford to waste £40.

    • I think a full transition to a gaming service is at least a decade or so away, and a lot can change in that time. Don’t count yourself out of buying it just yet.

      • I hope you’re right! :)

      • Me too. I won’t be buying into a service based console. It’s fine as an additional option and PS+ is excellent but not at the costs of having your own console and games on discs/cards.

    • But, an alternative way of thinking about it, is that if everyone streams the game from a server, then any problems that exist will be present for everyone and the game publishers will be forced to fix the issue. Then when its fixed, the problem won’t exist for anyone.

  3. I’m really looking forward to The Last of Us but see it as a hardcore game. Though it will be a hundred times better, it is not Halo, CoD, GTA or FIFA, thus will sell well but to only hardcore gamers. I’ve tried to sell the fact that Uncharted is truly amazing to friends and colleagues, but most just simply are not interested in even trying it, so I don’t expect The Last of Us to suffer should PS4 be announced.

    Gaming has changed and deciding factors will be:

    Who announces first.
    What tech and features each console packs.
    Exclusive deals on the titles most people play (CoD etc).
    Online features.

    OK that is very similar to how things have always been, with one HUGE difference; Fanboyism! Kids and even some adults will make their purchase based on rumours, specation and flaming debates hyping up one console over the other. It won’t be down to which is better to have it will be down to which is “cooler” to have. It is how the mobile phone market is and all other devices are following suit.
    Little Tommy is not going to want another 6 years of “we are all gonna test out the new CoD maps Tommy, shame you got a Playstation, you won’t even know what we are talking about for another two weeks”. Or “Dragonborn expansion rules! How is it on your PS3 Tommy?….oh sorry”. No matter how good the PS4 will be – it is all about image now (for most).

    So youtube, Facebook and the school playground will have perhaps the biggest affect on next gen sales. As such I say get the PS4 announced, hype up all its great features and make it the coolest thing to be seen having!
    Obviously all us real gamers will research for the best console (my money is on PS4) and look for the game line-up mixed with brand loyalty.

  4. “For Sony to announce a successor to the PS3 before The Last Of Us is released could be disastrous for the game.”

    I do not agree … the fact that they announce a new console for the end of the year, should have 0 (at maximum a very slight) impact on the sale of a game on a console people already have. Just because a new console is announced does it mean that people that have the previous model will not buy a single game for 7 months? especially a new highly (?) expected game?

    If you were to imply that sales of PS3 would decrease after such an announcement … that I could somewhat agree … however consider that the target audience is a bit different.

    • Absolutely agree, there’s no reason why announcing a console that people can’t buy yet would impact sales of a game they can play on their current console. Do you think people will just sit twiddling their thumbs saving their money waiting for the new console release? Sony released plenty of games for PS2 after the PS3 was announced, even with the promise of backwards compatibility.

      • I understand that, but the fact that you won’t be able to play them for several months surely makes it irrelevant. It’s as likely people will see Uncharted 4 and think, wow, ND are awesome developers, I really should play that other game they just released.

    • Agreed. I think it’ll have an almost negligible affect on sales. Anyone in two minds over it will instantly realise that they’ll get the fun they want from it within the first month or two. Anyone buying later into the year will care less anyway. Games are consumables, in many ways. The Last of Us is no different. Hopefully it’ll sell incredibly well and show why the PS3 still has plenty of power for the mass market to enjoy. Keep in mind, that we’re talking about the same Joe Public that’s only just now, creaked its way across the High Definition line and finally cast of those televisions of old. Keep in mind that the Wii has spanked the arse off Microsoft and Sony with sales figures and The Last of Us will look every bit as good as newer Wii U games.

      Really, I think it’ll be fine. 90% of gamers are up for great entertainment. They won’t worry about 8xAA, 60FPS, 1080p gaming compared to just enjoying things.

      • My point was that when Sony show the PS4 they’ll show games. Games that’ll make TLOU look very old all of a sudden. Possibly even an Uncharted 4…

      • Sorry, my second post above was a reply to Alex.

      • Aye, Al. I know what you mean. Just that most people won’t really notice things are kicking off (for the next generation) for quite a while. I still mention PS4 to some friends and they reply with a “oh, is there something new coming?” which I find funny.

        With most people at least relatively in the dark – add to this that they will still hopefully think “but this is out NOW and I can enjoy it NOW before I start saving for the new console in a few months time” – I really think Naughty Dog will suffer very little with what looks like to be a cracking release. Also, keep in mind that whatever we see that’s new and shiny (on the next gen consoles) will be not too far off what we’re seeing on top-end PCs anyway so much of the audience is fairly savvy with the visuals department.

        At least, that’s how I feel it’ll be. :-)

      • @Alex: I still don’t think that showing shiny new graphics would have such a huge impact on The Last of us. The PS4 is a completely different console. Basically it compares to the PS3 just like a new high end PC would. Do games with great graphics running on high end PCs keep people from buying PS3 games at the moment? Did people stop buying games when Square Enix showed off their next gen Luminous engine? I doubt it.

  5. You don’t want to have a massive gap between announcement and release. A couple of months to build the buzz. Any more and the buzz fades.
    Also I agree they’ll release in Japan before Christmas then Europe and USA early 2014 but I think it’s a terrible idea. I understand Japan is their homeland but this battle qill be won or lost in Europe and the USA. As such Sony need to prioritise those regions and get it released before/in line with the next ms offering. Otherwise a repeat of this gen will ensue.

    • I agree and I think (read: hope) they get the PS4 out across all regions around the same time before christmas.

    • They waited this gen to make sure there were enough units and then loads were left on the shelves. They may as well just release everywhere with minimal units available and get the good sold out headlines around the world.

      • If they pull another PSP release they can shove their units up their asses. I’m not going to wait another half year because they decided to ship all the EU units to the States because they couldn’t keep up with the demand.

  6. I don’t think Sony should worry too much about affecting The Last Of Us, there are many people who not only want the game, but there are people like myself who are taking their time with console launches and are either happy with their current systems or starting out on it. Encouraging late adopters ain’t exactly a bad thing for Sony, the PS1 and PS2 along with the PSP are proof of that, cheap to develop and they still get the money from game purchases (Now with online downloading, it means preowned sales aren’t as big, which means more cash for Sony and developers) released a long time ago.

    As long as they take their time with the launch of any new systems, promote the hell out of the Vita (They sunk money into R+D, might as well develop games for it and get sales up), and ensure backwards compatability to make the jump to next gen a lot easier, they’ll do fine.

  7. It’s not out of the question to assume that TLOU could also be a launch title for the PS4, which if the marketing for the PS3 release continues to be well executed, and the game lives up to the hype, would make a PS4 purchase for people who didn’t own a PS3 this generation very attractive.

    If Naughty Dog can simply change a few config file attributes from 3 to 5 and up the output to 1080p, early adopters would have a launch title that is guaranteed AAA goodness, and those of us that bought it first time round might be tempted to purchase the updated format.

    It’s certainly long odds due to the inevitable differences in architecture, but ND will have had access to the requirements of PS4 for a while now and are almost certainly working on something else with a modified version of the engine used for their PS3 games, so it’s not impossible.

    • Agreed. There are some wonderful games that many of us would love to take with us to the next PC/console/etc. Especially deep, emotionally rich and character driven adventures which are still decidedly lacking when looking at the cookie-cutter generic toss we often put up with.

    • I’d say it’s definitely a possibility. Just look at The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It was originally announced for the Game Cube but it also ended up as a launch title for the Wii.

  8. As good as Last Of Us looks there is the fact that many of PS3’s most recent exclusives haven’t set the world on fire (All Stars Battle Royale, LittleBigPlanet Karting, Starhawk) and Sony may believe that their failure is indicative of a need to shift to the next generation. This is obviously a flawed assumption as at least in Starhawk’s case Sony’s inept marketing had to play a part in their poor performance.

    I really don’t doubt that Sony would scupper this years releases with an announcement purely to keep line with Microsoft. The extent of effect such an announcement would have is of course debateable but it would have some effect, and lost sales could mean the loss of yet another valued developer or key personnel, which in turn could effect future developments.

    • I was so disappointed by starhawk. Spent 600+ hours on warhawk, about 15 on starhawk.

      • yep loved warhawk the first game i ever played online and the reason my mate went and bought a PS3 starhawk hasn’t received the same love.

    • It’s a huge shame as I loved Starhawk. Maybe the multiplayer portion will be added to Plus (because at this stage what hurt would it do?) and it’ll see a resurgence…

  9. What will happen Sony will announce PS4 I will look at the specs and then have to avoid all gaming sites because they will be filled with bell ends making silly statements like “£250 or no sale Sony ” or why should I pay £30-£40 for a game when I can pay 69p on droid/iOS .

    The gamers that have decided they want the last of us won’t just forget it existed just because PS4 as been announced .

  10. Great article Al, some very interesting points. However, I don’t think that the exclusives lined up are that relevant to first time PS3 buyers – word is getting around that the next-gen of consoles is to arrive soon, it’s not just existing gamers that follow gaming news that know about it. So they’re already thinking of holding out until the PS4. Sure, whenever they officially announce the console PS3 sales will drop, but I don’t think it will have that much effect on the sales of the games you mentioned.

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