And then there were two.
Rob Keyes is the editor-in-chief of Game Rant, a spin-off from the quirky, analysis-fueled Screen Rant. Parjanya Holtz is the merry German editor-at-large for TotalPlayStation. Together, not unlike the fabled Voltron, they form a complete picture of just what is right with Sony, what is wrong, and what will happen when these two elements intersect in the new year. (In keeping with the format, neither saw the other’s answers. It’s more like a reality-TV dating show this way.)
The topics discussed include the PS3, Vita, and the much-fabled PS4. Sorry, Move fans– no one really cares about the peripheral (including, apparently, Sony itself), so we didn’t get into the subject. But there’s lots of talk of shiny touch-screen controllers…
Will the PS Vita be able to outsell the 3DS? And what happens if it can’t?
The launch lineup of games on the Vita is far superior to what the 3DS had, but since then, the 3DS has dropped significantly in price and started offering a few great games. If Sony gets the third-party support it appears they’re already getting, and if they can make the game offerings and accessories more affordable, the Vita could beat out the 3DS in the long run– but the prices of games and the memory cards are a big turn-off.
This is an interesting question. I mean, if you look at the PSP’s numbers and compare them to the DS’s, you’ll see Nintendo’s portable outselling Sony’s at a two-to-one rate (according to Wikipedia’s numbers, that’s about 150 million DS units versus about 75 million PSPs), but does that mean the PSP was a failure and the DS, a total success? Absolutely not. Nintendo has been making handhelds for decades now, and the fact that Sony managed to sell as many PSPs as they did is an incredible testament to the power of the PlayStation brand.
Another thing that’s important to notice is Nintendo’s ingenious marketing push to turn the entire planet into gamers. Casual gaming has become Nintendo’s bread and butter, and that’s a share of the market Sony never really went after– especially with the PSP. Do you know any moms owning a PSP? I don’t. I mean, why would they? With stuff like Brain Age and tons of cooking recipe games on the DS, that’s a totally different story there. Don’t forget, though, Nintendo has a big problem now as their casual audience sees little reason to buy a product that can merely play games while their iPhones and Androids feature thousands of bite-sized distractions for cheap, or as seems to be the new trend, free!
What this means is that both the 3DS and Vita appeal to a very different, non-casual audience. And while the 3DS is a capable machine with a nice little gimmick, it’s also anything but a revolution from its predecessor. You have the moms and dads, and they already own a DS, so why would they invest their money into a 3DS when all they see themselves getting out of it is a visual gimmick? Things are very different with the Vita. Sony did the only right thing by sitting down and asking themselves what they could do to truly evolve the PSP from a fairly powerful little portable machine into something that is attractive to more serious gamers on the go. The Vita is a lot of control innovation and processing power bundled up into a sleek and sexy packaging that appeals to those of us who want a deeper, more engaging gaming experience than Angry Birds or Tiny Tower when killing time on a plane. That’s precisely where the 3DS falls flat, and even more so when held up against Sony’s new device.
So, to get back to your initial question, will the Vita outsell the 3DS? That’s a difficult question. As I’ve hinted at before, I definitely think Sony has an advantage over Nintendo this time around. They’ve crafted a product with the Vita that has managed to get me very excited, and not so long ago, I was pretty sure about having gotten way too old for handheld gaming machines.
But what if it can’t outsell the 3DS? Well, this very much depends on how many units Nintendo sells. If Nintendo once again manages to get rid of 150 million units and Sony follows with 75 million, then I’m sure they won’t be crying all the way to the bank. We shouldn’t forget that this is business, after all, and as we all know, business is about making money, not about world domination (though sometimes corporations do tend to confuse the two). I guess what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t really matter whether the 3DS outsells the Vita or the other way around, as long as Sony is happy with the money they make off of it.
Will the Vita be the last portable PlayStation?
I don’t think the Vita will represent the last gaming-focused mobile device in the PlayStation brand. If rumors about all of the big three’s next-gen home consoles prove true, all of them may feature controllers with built-in touch screens. If they’re smart, these devices could double as handheld platforms themselves. There is some limited cross-platform functionality with the Vita, but right now, it cannot be used as an independent controller for the PS3– although, in theory, it’s possible. I’d like to see the next gen bridge that gap entirely.
Sony also experimented with making a gaming-focused smart phone with the Xperia Play, a device we reviewed for Game Rant— it’s an official Android-powered phone under the PlayStation brand. It didn’t hit the mark for us, but if they continue down that path and merge what the Vita can do from an input perspective with an Android OS with browser/phone capabilities, then that would make the Vita and 3DS obsolete.
Not if Sony thinks it was a success.
Why can’t Sony sell first-party games?
Sony went on record a few weeks ago stating that they spend more on first-party games than Microsoft and Nintendo combined, but the unit sales per average title is far lower than their competitors, and I believe a lot of that has to do with branding. Resistance 3, for example, was a game we nominated for best shooter of the year on Game Rant, and we feel it’s greatly underappreciated from a sales standpoint, but when you look at its trailers and marketing versus other triple-A shooters, it’s such a tough sell. Its aesthetic, style, and time period lend itself to a niche audience, and looking at its features compared against Battlefield 3 and Modern Warfare 3, why would an average “mainstream” gamer choose Resistance over those?
What Sony does well in is their unique exclusives, things like the Uncharted and God of War games, which do sell well, which have franchise characters, and which can sell hardware on their own. They’re the types of games that don’t have competition or substitutes on the other consoles. Microsoft does well with Gears of War and Halo because Sony and Nintendo don’t have shooters like those with those types of bankable characters. Nintendo, of course, lives off their stable of recognizable characters who get dozens of first-party games on every Nintendo platform. With games like The Last of Us and The Last Guardian on the way, Sony will be fine, and I expect other developers to take over the reins of Resistance and Twisted Metal for PS4.
Because Sony needs a radically different and fresh approach to marketing their games. Sony’s first-party titles are designed specifically for a hardcore audience, and yet Resistance 3 didn’t get the TV ad it deserved. They need to look at what a company like Ubisoft does with its Assassin’s Creed games in order to gain the necessary momentum and hype to make people want to spend their hard-earned pesos on PlayStation exclusives amidst the busiest season of the year. Show us what you got, Sony, and create some ads with an emotional punch. Perhaps slapping Kevin Butler on everything you promote isn’t such a great idea after all.
If unaffected by external pressure, how long could the PS3 soldier on? It seems to have a lot of life left in it.
One of the biggest misconceptions we see from the community regarding “lifecycles” is in regards to when a console’s life actually ends. Sony’s marketing team continues to push the idea that the PS3 will be their go-to console for 10 years, but that does not mean that the PS4 cannot release during that time. When the PS4 releases, the PS3’s life does not end. Just look back at the PS2 and how many games released and units it sold for years after the PS3 released.
The PS3 will be here a while, even a few years after the PS4 releases; it’s just a shame it hasn’t seen an overhaul of its interface and that they can’t add proper party chat. Sony will likely be the last to unveil their next-gen console as they focus on the Vita.
I’m sure the PS3 could easily give us another five or six years full of high-quality entertainment. I mean, it’s got everything we expect and need from a modern gaming system, doesn’t it? What incredible hardware and/or software innovation could the PS4 possibly bring along that would make the PS3’s existence truly obsolete? While I’m sure Sony (and Microsoft) will have a few cool things up their sleeves, in the end, everything will boil down to sheer processing superiority over the current generation. The PS4 and Xbox 720 will deliver better-looking games first and foremost, but pure innovation in videogames shouldn’t be tied to processing capabilities in a day and age when what we see on those screens seems to only become shinier and more numerous. Perhaps we need to take a step back and try to figure out what really makes videogames special before demanding prettier graphics yet again. In that regard, I see nothing wrong with the PS3 being my system of choice for at least a few more years.
Will the PS4 be the last console to launch?
It’s difficult enough predicting the next generation of platforms; looking two ahead is impossible. What I can say is that from what we’re seeing from things like Apple TV, the latest Google Chrome and Adobe news for browser-based gaming, and cloud-gaming services like OnLive, all while the PC is making a resurgence thanks to the aging consoles, there are too many separate offerings that do not support true cross-platform play, so something major will have to change. This is not just a problem from a consumer standpoint– the uniqueness of all of these consoles places such a large and unnecessary burden upon developers attempting to release multi-platform games.
I’ve been wondering that myself quite a bit lately. According to Sony’s stance, there seems to be no reason to not stick to their planned 10-year lifecycle for the PS3. If they do end up sticking to their initial plan, Sony will indeed have the last system to launch next generation. The result would once again be a superior hardware playing catch-up. I’m not sure if that’s a strategy Sony would be wise to run with this time around, though.
If both Nintendo and (supposedly) Microsoft feature touch-screen controllers, will Sony be forced to follow suit?
Yes, and I believe it’s already happening. Earlier this month, rumored patents hit the web depicting a Wii U-like tablet controller for Sony. While I expect to see the next PlayStation and Xbox support backwards compatibility for the games, controllers, and gamer profiles of the current-gen, I also expect each to offer an upgraded motion control (i.e., Kinect 2) as well as tablet-based controllers, even though that’s not something I’m personally excited for.
Definitely not. Why would they? I have yet to be convinced of the benefits of such a device, and I hope Sony won’t just jump on a bandwagon because they think they need to have what their competition does. Plus, in theory, the Vita could work as something similar. After all, there are already people who have managed to hack the system, allowing it to stream games right from the PS3. I don’t see why Sony wouldn’t capitalize on that technology if it makes sense.
Of course, Sony is known to make irrational decisions unnecessarily limiting their own insane hardware potential.
What do you think will be Sony’s big surprise announcement at this year’s E3?
An actual usable browser for the Vita.
In all seriousness– although I’m not joking about how terrible that Vita browser is- I expect Sony to go crazy on the videogames front. God of War 4 and The Last of Us are guaranteed, and I expect some nice surprises for the Vita and PS3 we haven’t heard about yet. They have to go big to compete with the Wii U’s full unveiling and surprise game announcements as well as the potential of Microsoft teasing the Xbox 360 successor.
I definitely do not think it will be the PS4. If we’re lucky, we’ll see a bunch of fantastic first- and third-party exclusives. If we’re not, this will be quite an uneventful E3 for Sony fans that’ll mostly focus on PS2 hardware sales graphs and Vita content. I sure hope Sony will prove me wrong, though.
Marc N. Kleinhenz writes about games, movies, and, occasionally, his three cats. Oh– and mittens, too.