The video game industry rumor mill continues to be sucked in by the gravitational force of Sony Orbis, the codename for the PlayStation 4. Word slipped to the Web last week that Sony’s successor to the PlayStation 3 would be a technological workhorse that also blocks the play of used games. People may be playing games on this box sooner than expected. A new report says that Sony believes it will beat Microsoft’s Durango, the Xbox 360 successor sometimes called Xbox 720, to the market ahead of Christmas 2013.
This rumor comes from website VG247. An unnamed source said, “Sony are completely in the belief that they have the jump on Microsoft this time. You should be watching the timing of next year’s E3 keynotes, and who’s going to go first.” Both Microsoft and Sony’s new consoles will be on the market by 2014 said another source, with the new Xbox out before Christmas 2013. It follows then that the PlayStation 4 will release sometime between June 2013 and early fall.
Developers working with publishers like Ubisoft are already preparing games for this new PlayStation.
These rumors certainly jive with others about both Sony and Microsoft’s plans. VG247 is a fount of industry speculation, but its track record with rumors is somewhat reliable. The site accurately predicted that Starbreeze would announce its revamp of the Syndicate franchise at the end of the summer in 2011.
Anyone that interprets this rumor to mean that the PlayStation 4 will be released well in advance of the Xbox 720 is in for a rude awakening though. Both consoles will likely be out in the fall of 2013 and within just a few weeks of each other. Industry slap fights over who gets to market first are usually determined over a matter of days. It only matters when a console comes out a year ahead of its competitors. That’s the time necessary to become entrenched against the competition.
For example, look at the previous generation of consoles. Sony’s PlayStation 2, the best-selling home console of all time, was the first in stores, releasing in October 2000, and that lead seemingly made a profound difference in the long run. The original Xbox’s three-day lead on Nintendo’s Gamecube—which released on Nov. 15, 2001 and Nov. 18 respectively—was negligible though. The PlayStation 2 in terms of sales and developer support crushed those systems, and the Xbox’s tiny lead didn’t help it outsell Gamecube around the world.
The Xbox 360’s year-long lead on the Playstation 3 also seemingly gave it a leg up in the sales race, firmly establishing Microsoft’s machine ahead of Sony’s in the U.S. (though not in the international market.) Nintendo’s Wii shatters the rule though, as that technologically underpowered system came out a year after the Xbox 360 and Microsoft’s machine still hasn’t caught up in total sales. (Microsoft has sold 66 million 360s worldwide since 2005 where Nintendo has sold more than 95 million since 2006.)
Unless Sony releases Orbis/Playstation 4 in the fall of 2012, its lead won’t make much of a difference in the fight with Durango/Xbox 720. Even if it does though, that extra year on shelves won’t mean a thing without consumer support of the system.