So the PlayStation 4 has been announced and, according to Sony, it is “the future”. Their press conference revealing the console (or, at least, details surrounding it – the hardware itself has still yet to be unveiled) was impressive, if not flawless, and Microsoft is now busy developing its rival, the as-yet-unnamed next Xbox (handily codenamed the ‘Xbox 720’).
So what can Microsoft learn from the PlayStation 4’s announcement?
It’s all about the games.
Given the PlayStation 3’s movement towards becoming an entertainment hub rather than a video game console in the past couple of years, it was heartening to see Sony push games to the forefront of their PlayStation 4 announcement. Sony’s presentation was all about the games and their developers, with the PS4’s x86 CPU architecture ensuring that it will be considerably easier for developers to build titles for both PCs and Sony’s new console. The PlayStation 3’s endless suffering with multiplatform titles was a large reason why the Xbox 360’s software performed better financially, but now that Sony is looking to rectify this with the PlayStation 4, Microsoft will need to ensure that developers know that games are their priority with the Xbox 720, otherwise they could risk losing some of that hefty third-party support they had with the 360.
Sony has come in strong, early.
The PlayStation 3 was a powerful beast when it first hit the shelves, but its launch suffered from an unreasonably high price point. While the PlayStation 4’s pricing has yet to be announced, it is unlikely that Sony will make this same mistake twice and, unlike what happened in this current console generation, they will be launching ahead of the Xbox 720. So what does this mean?
Well, launching ahead of the next Xbox obviously gives them time to court consumers away from Microsoft, and it also puts pressure on their rivals to come up with a console that will prove to be more alluring to those tempted to throw down the cash on the new PlayStation. The PS4’s specs may still trail behind that of PCs but, for a home console, they’re still impressive enough to warrant panic in Microsoft’s offices. Microsoft’s follow-up to the Xbox 360 must be as – or if not more – powerful than the PS4 if it wants to compete.
Don’t get your developers to act.
It has now become commonplace for video game press conferences to include a whole heap of awkward moments, and the PlayStation 4 announcement was no different: featuring Media Molecule’s Alex Evans trying to crack a joke about skin-shading and Sucker Punch’s Nate Fox delivering the most unashamedly hyperbolic introduction for Infamous: Second Son. Sony’s otherwise sleek presentation was marred by frequent cringe-inducing moments that often made it quite difficult to sit through. Microsoft would do well to avoid these “charming” repartees that, while appearing to be seemingly harmless, do reflect quite negatively on their image.
The consumer doesn’t trust you.
In a post Aliens: Colonial Marines world, everything exhibited at Sony’s press conference was met with caution. As time has passed consumers have now grown used to being lied to. The demo of Killzone: Shadow Fall was supposedly being played onstage, yet those watching still remained skeptical. It’s a shame that we now meet these exciting announcements with pessimism, but it’s not really our fault that this is the case. Up until the moment when we’ve got our hands on the new consoles, we’ll treat the majority of claims spouted by Sony and Microsoft as conjecture, which means that both companies therefore need to work extra hard in order to impress us. The specs revealed at the Sony press conference were certainly nothing to balk at, but all games footage shown was dutifully applauded but not quite believed. Microsoft would do well to acknowledge this distrust between consumer and producer.
Paul Tamburro is the UK Editor of Crave Online. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro.