Sony is working on a new video game console to succeed the swiftly maturing PlayStation 3. Codenamed Orbis, the PlayStation 4 will do a number of things according to various sources within and without Sony. The PlayStation 4 will support 4K playback. Following its acquisition of streaming video game company Gaikai, Sony’s executives have hinted that the PlayStation 4 will itself offer cloud-based streaming service. From the sound of things, the new device will continue Sony’s sometimes ill-advised strategy of making the most powerful piece of consumer tech it can. What about the games though? Who is making software that will actually run on the machine?
Sony, of course. PlayStation 4 game development, however, is reportedly causing some strain on the company’s internal studios.
“We do have a challenge to manage [the next generation of consoles], particularly in terms of dev studio resources,” said PlayStation UK managing director Fergal Gara in an interview with Computer and Video Games, “The more platforms you have, and the amount of rich content you have to deliver on all the systems you are supporting clearly puts pressure on decisions made across the studio network, which is something we are battling with.”
The problem according to Gara is that Sony doesn’t feel that it’s fully saturated the global PlayStation 3 market. The company did claim in 2006 that it would support the console for ten years, and while sales have cooled in the US, it still sees opportunity in Europe. “When you look at the UK market, it’s easy to say that current consoles are fading. But if you look at PS3, it’s holding up a lot better than others, so it warrants support. But if you look at continental Europe, PS3 hasn’t even peaked yet. Why would you run away from a console business when you’re not even top of the hill? We’re certainly not going to run away from it.”
Sony is in an unenviable position in the game hardware business. Microsoft’s next Xbox has been in developers’ hands for some time, and expectations are that the device will be out next fall. Considering how Sony has priced new models of the PlayStation 3 going into Christmas, it’s clear that the company aims to have that machine as its primary focus for at least another calendar year. Third-party publishers may have reason to continue supporting the device with the comparable Wii U on shelves, but Sony can’t offer true parity with Nintendo’s machine without bundling the expensive, failing PS Vita handheld in with its home hardware. Meanwhile, its first party development teams continue to stretch themselves thinner and thinner. They have to support three platforms, one that’s unreleased, all while Sony is shuttering studios. Difficult times for CEO Kaz Hirai’s ward.