In case you haven't heard the news, Sony officially announced the next generation of it's console today, the Playstation 4. It's been about 6.5 years since the launch of the Playstation 3, and it's obvious that not only the gaming world, but also the technological landscape itself has progressed drastically. Sony claims it has an 8-core x86 processor, 8GB of RAM, and the usual built-in storage. These specs aren't particularly mind-blowing on their own, but it's much easier to squeeze performance out of a purpose-built machine.
So, why has the Playstation 4 already failed? The answer is actually quite simple: Sony is focusing on all the wrong things. Instead of focusing on the real problems that threaten the platform, they're catering to today's trends. For example, the new DualShock 4 controller has a dedicated "Share" button because being "social" is such a popular trend right now. I'm not saying Facebook or Twitter are going away any time soon, but has Sony considered the actual value this feature adds to the console? It's superfluous, at best.
The controller also has a "light bar" that helps the console track the physical location of the user. They've basically integrated the Playstation Move directly into the controller. I'm sure many gamers are looking forward to cheesy gaming experiences that were made as an excuse to use this bit of hardware.
Friends can tune in and watch your gaming session remotely, which most gamers will use no more than once. There is some cool technology being put to use behind the concept of streaming games to your console, but this has already been done on PCs. Remember OnLive? Less than 2 years after launch, the company laid off all of its employees. It turns out gamers like to actually own their games.
Now most people by this point will simply say, why not just buy a PC? While I agree 100%, I can see the arguments for having a standalone console. They work well in the living room, provide simplicity, and give you top-notch graphics (well... at least for the first year or two) at an affordable price.
If Sony truly wanted to be revolutionary, they would have found a way to merge the PC and console gaming world. Valve is coming close to this reality with their Steam Box concept, and they are definitely on the right track. However, the biggest problem for Sony is that they don't hold the keys to the kingdom, so to speak. While Linux support for games is growing (also spearheaded by Valve), Windows still holds out as the primary PC gaming platform. Of course we all know that Windows is made by Microsoft. Microsoft also makes a little product you might have heard of called the Xbox 360.
If the Xbox 720, or whatever you want to call it, allows PC games (or any PC software, really) to run on the Xbox hardware, the implications could be immense. Microsoft already holds the Windows kernel and all of the code libraries to make it a reality. Open up the platform just enough to allow greater portability, but not so much that the business model is at stake. It could be a godsend for developers, and the end-users would reap the benefits.
The ball has been passed to you now, Microsoft. Don't waste time putting a tweet button on your controller.
Posted February 20, 2013