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terminal, rather than pouring billions into R&D to ensure the chipsets are as future-proof as possible before being outdated in a year by a modest PC.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. Can anyone remember what the announcement to release gaps were for 360 & ps3? I think I remember 360 being announced fairly early in the xbox’s lifespan.

    • PS3 was announced (in May 2005) 2 months after the first God of War and GT4 were released and several months before Shadow of the Colossus. It was also a year before MGS3 was out and they even announce MGS4 was in the works for the PS3 a year before 3 was out.

      The Xbox 360 was announce 4 days before the PS3.

      • Thanks, certainly a big difference than today then. I’ve never been a fan of the tactic of announcing things shortly before they’re released, I think its better to build anticipation and give people time to save up.

  2. I’m not quite convinced building up a streaming infrastructure is really cheaper than the R&D that it takes to create a new console. For streaming to actually make sense in many genres, you need a ridiculously low latency and that can only be achieved if you are close to the datacenter. Even then it has a negative impact on genres that rely on fast reactions, like shooters and fighting games, even jump and run games that require exact jump timing. I couldn’t have played Rayman Origins if there was the slightest delay between my button press and the jumping animation.
    So, even if you are conserviative with the number of datacenters that host the gaming hardware to stream from you are looking at around 10 datacenters spread across the busiest gaming regions. Now imagine console launches that go the way of MMORPG launches. You come home with your new console, hook everything up and then get loads of network errors or end up in a connection queue with 4-5 digits and once you connect, you have horrible input lag, visual fragmentations and regular disconnects. Something like that simply cannot happen. Something like that is bound to happen because Sony does not have the cash to back up such an infrastructure, especially from day one.

  3. No need for a new PS yet in my opinion. As you say there are some promising exclusives on the horizon and the hardware still seems perfectly adequate – unlike the 360 which feels ancient now thanks to its standard DVD drive.
    That said, no doubt they will follow the crowd and release a new console in fear of being left behind.

    • July – Dec 2013 appears to have no Sony games coming out on any platform. They need to announce something even if it is just a load of games. It’s getting a bit close to that barren spell.

    • The PS3 might have a Blu Ray drive, but that didn’t help when it came to Skyrim… The truth is, the PS3’s limiting factor is the lack of RAM and since that is not something you can upgrade, the PS3 is running out of steam.
      Sure, you have your first party studios with the knowledge and funds to perfect the code to utilize the Cell and work with the existing RAM but other studios don’t have that option and some ported games are proof of that.

  4. How badly would The Last of Us be affected by a PS4 announcement?

    God of War released on PS2 after PS3 was announced in 2005 and God of War 2 didn’t release until 2007, after the PS3 was in shops and both sold quite well, didn’t they?

  5. Very interesting speculation. I dunno, i still have a sort of stupid allegiance to Sony despite all their flaws this generation and feel that i’ll get a PS4 in any case.

    Unfortunately i don’t think many people are as lenient as i am and will jump ship due to the issues i mentioned before.

    I don’t think Sony’s reputation is great right now and i’m really not sure how the new PlayStation will fare with the public because of that.

    Somehow they need to appease all the people they’ve repeatedly irritated this generation and prove that they’ve still got it. I’m really not sure if they do, but we’ll see.

  6. People are overseeing a most important fact: video-games are about games, not about hardware. So, unless new generation of hardware is really disruptive in terms of concepts and resources, launching new hardware just for the gist of it is meaningless.

    I’m quite tired of this “PS4, XBox720” talk. First because what put me down in last launches (for instance Assassins Creed 3) was not hardware not being able to deal with the games but the games being bad engineered, poorly devised, bloated, without satisfactory internal mechanics.

    Look at Journey. It is a fine game. It wouldn’t be better in PS4 or anything else. That’s because it was solid designed. Game concept is fine, game mechanics is fine. Same thing about other outstanding games.

    Like many others, I’m not willing to spend $400 in a new piece of hardware. If it becomes the case (of being forced to migrate of platform) I’ll probably invest in a gaming computer and bet in the NVIDIA Shield as game control. Simple like that.

    Besides, all that’s being told about PS4 is that it will “look like” a PC (meaning AMD + AMD + Microsoft (?)) and it will have measures to prevent user playing “used games”. If that’s the imagination and creativity of Sony engineers applied to a game console… well… yeah, the best thing to do is to invest in gaming computers.

    Under current marketing model, Sony profits from each game license sold. Also, under this model, Sony sells consoles at loss. That said, more games sales means more Sony profits. Console sales decrease Sony profits unless each console sold means enough game licenses to amortize hardware losses. That’s the problem with Vita: they cannot drop prices because they’re not selling enough games and they’re not selling enough games because developers won’t invest in a small hardware base.

    It would be meaningful for Sony to swap PS3 by PS4 if the later hardware was cheaper to manufacture than PS3 and also if they could assure the biggest possible amount of games to be sold for this platform. That’s simply not the case.

    On the other hand, current speculations are lethal to Sony: anybody who’s about to invest US$50Mega to develop a new game will put projects in hold till they see how platform is selling (let’s remember that US$400 is just too expensive for most people in the prevailing situation of economy). It’s smelling like Vita marketing in larger scale.

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