Imagine the unthinkable: Sony’s next PlayStation, or whatever it’s ultimately called, arrives not next year and not the year after that, but sometime in 2015. Three years out — a lifetime in console years. Could you live with that?
Just to be clear, that’s not what Sony V.P. of hardware marketing John Koller told Gamespot in a recent interview, but he did confirm that Sony plans to support the PS3 “for the next few years.”
…we’re going to continue supporting it not only that long, but as long as there is a development spigot that’s running hot. And I can tell you right now, the development spigot for PS3 is very hot. A lot of great games coming. Same thing with PS2…it’s kind of stuck around as that old warrior, many years after its launch. But there’s still games launching for it.
Wait — before we continue — they’re still making games for the PlayStation 2? A game system that came out while Bill Clinton was president? I had to double-check this, but it looks like Koller’s right. There was Major League Baseball 2K12, released back in March, as well as both FIFA 13 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2013, out this month. That’s kind of remarkable. By comparison, original Xbox development ended, what, the second the Xbox 360 arrived?
Anyway, Koller didn’t specify “2015,” nor should we read much into a casual response like this. It’s just the Sony marketing machine telegraphing its hopes that you’ll spend a bunch of money this holiday shopping season (especially those who don’t yet own a PS3). It’s not a promise or a guarantee that the PS3 will still be with us in three years’ time, because that’s not the kind of thing companies like Sony (or Microsoft, or Nintendo) do.
It’s also not a statement that’s really aimed at existing PS3 owners, because they’re already in the bag. Has anyone not bought a game they wanted to play for a console they already own because they thought a game system sequel was imminent?
That leaves who, then? Nintendo Wii owners who want to get “more core”? Buyers who’ve yet to place a game console bet? I don’t see many Xbox 360 owners crossing lines at this point, with their social gaming capital invested in Xbox LIVE, do you? It’s hard to know who, exactly, Sony’s thinking about here.
Sony’s holiday lineup makes the message even harder to decipher. The company doesn’t have a Halo 4 this year to drive new system sales through the holidays. There’s PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, sure, but we’re talking a game that’s clearly aimed at people who already own a PS3. If you don’t know who Nathan Drake, Nariko, Cole McGrath or Sackboy are — all characters that debuted on the PS3 — what’s the point?
Another problem: The new 250 GB PS3 “slimmer,” marketed to folks who don’t yet have a PS3, is actually a little more expensive than the current 160 GB PS3 slim. Sony’s trying to spin the new PS3 as a “better value” with the bigger hard drive and pack-in game, but the game — Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – is the third in a series you’ve only ever been able to play on the PS3. Sony’s asking new buyers, who’ve never played an Uncharted, to leap in with a game that depends to a large extent on your appreciation of the characters and their relationships through the first two games. If you want to sell to newcomers, why not include all three in the Uncharted series? Or something with more cross-demographic appeal, like the original LittleBigPlanet and its sequel?
But okay, maybe you just want a cheap Blu-ray device. The problem: Sony sells dedicated players for as little as $100. That’s roughly $170 less than the new “entry-level” PS3.
Still — and here’s where I’m guessing Sony and I are on the same page — I’d like to think systems like the PS3 and Xbox 360 have a few more years before their successors arrive. I don’t care about “more realistic graphics,” whatever that means at this point. Outliers like Mario 64 or Halo aside, new systems take forever to get going. I’d much rather see what designers can do with systems they know through and through, without a platform acclimation curve.
According to Koller:
A lot of great content is coming. And over the next 2-3 years, the PS3 has got an incredible lineup.
It’s probably hoping for too much. There’s the competition to think about, and this is nothing if not a long game of flinch. The Xbox 360 will be eight years old next year — one year older than the PS3. What if Microsoft announces its next Xbox at E3 2013?
Yeah, we watch what the competitors do, but we don’t make decisions based on what they do. We like our position.
That sounds a little pat to me. Everyone makes decisions based to some extent on what their competition’s up to. Even Nintendo’s Wii was a reactionary device — whether to industry staleness, or, arguably, to what Sony was doing with the EyeToy on the PS2. With the PS3, Sony waited a year longer than Microsoft to get into the game, assuming at the time that its PS2 still had legs (it did) and that the PS3, with its boutique price tag, would sell based on brand affinity alone (it didn’t).
A lot of this depends on how customers react to the Wii U this holiday. If a Nintendo threat fails to materialize — say both Microsoft and Sony meet or exceed holiday sales expectations — who knows how much longer things could roll.
What do you think? Am I wrong to hope we might not see next-gen systems until 2014 or 2015? Vote in our poll (above), or let me know what you’re thinking and why below.