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Can the PlayStation 4 Compete with Casual Mobile Gaming?

At a New York press event on 20 February, 2013, Sony took to the world stage to unveil its latest incarnation of the PlayStation line: the PlayStation 4 (PS4). Although the console itself was not revealed, Sony’s main emphasis was on the concept behind the PS4, which was given a vague release window of holiday season 2013. Notably, much attention was paid to how the console will fit in with, and thus compete against, consumer movement to casual mobile experience offered by smartphones and tablets, which typically run on iOS, Android and Windows mobile operating systems. Interestingly, Sony’s announcement also had positive implications for its fledgling handheld console, the PSVita.

Inevitably, Sony demonstrated that the PS4’s graphical prowess surpassed that of its predecessor, the PlayStation 3 (PS3), but the difference between the two is far less noticeable than the disparity between previous generations of gaming hardware. Innovation for the next generation of consoles will involve initiatives focused upon engaging with the ever expanding prevalence of social media within society. In fact, it was consumer movement to social media and casual mobile gaming that Sony revealed as the main impetus behind the PS4 concept.

One of the opening statements of Sony’s two hour long presentation highlighted the importance of ease of access to its gaming services, and the company seems overtly concerned with the threat posed by casual mobile gaming to its videogame business. In order to counter such a threat, Sony has given the PS4 a social-heavy focus, enabling such features as easy gameplay video capture and sharing features, more fluid integration with social networks, such as Facebook and, perhaps most importantly, access to PlayStation content on a variety of devices.

Notably, access to PlayStation services on rival tablets and smartphones, through PlayStation Mobile, represents a significant step for Sony in combatting the impact of such devices on the core gaming market. Sony enabling PlayStation services on devices that have been identified as a direct threat to Sony’s PlayStation revenues is a prime example of a company employing the tactic of “If you can’t beat them, join them”. This move may prove key to the ongoing longevity of Sony’s gaming brand.

In addition to the use of tablets and smartphones to interact with the PS4, Sony also revealed remote play for the PSVita, a utility whereby PS4 games can be streamed from the next generation console to Sony’s current flagship handheld. Interestingly, such functionality echoes part of the functionality of Nintendo’s Wii U console, which the PS4 will be in direct competition with in the home console sector. Additionally, Sony will surely hope that the level of interactivity between PS4 and PSVita will serve to bolster sales of its handheld console, which has been struggling to compete with casual mobile games and Nintendo’s 3DS handheld console since its Westerm launch early last year.

In essence, the PS4 represents a reaction to market trends on Sony’s part; a reaction that may prove to make a substantial difference in a few years’ time. If the company is able to integrate its latest console effectively with social media, while simultaneously harnessing the power of mobile smart devices to its advantage, the company could see success with the PS4. The ball is now in Microsoft’s court, who will want to announce the successor to its Xbox 360 console as soon as possible in order to avoid getting caught in the PS4’s shadow.

Please read more in our case study – Sony: Losing the Battle in the Television Division

For more updates on the technology and telecoms sectors, follow me on Twitter: @Matt_MarketLine

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