There will be a PlayStation 4. It might be called Orbis. It may or may not play used games, but it will very likely play Blu-ray discs as well as video games downloaded from the PlayStation Network. It’ll do everything the PlayStation 3 does today, and the games will be prettier with more advanced physics. That’s what a new console is supposed to do. It’s what they’ve always done. PlayStation 4 will do more though. It will almost certainly be the first video game console from an established industry leader to make cloud-based streaming gaming a central part of its business.
“We need to make sure that we continue our success in the entertainment space—in the music space, in the video game space, and in motion pictures. That’s an area where we are profitable, and it needs to continue to grow,” Sony CEO Kaz Hirai told Business Week. Until 2012, Hirai was president of Sony Computer Entertainment and was largely responsible for rehabilitating Sony’s console business after the PlayStation 3’s disappointing 2006 debut. Now he hopes to rehabilitate all of Sony’s businesses, by unifying them through all its hardware and cloud services.
“People are moving more and more to the mobile space, the two keywords, and you’ll probably hear this from everybody: smartphones and tablets. Related to that is moving a lot of things to the cloud,” said Hirai, “In regards to the cloud, one of the things that you probably saw is our acquisition of a company called Gaikai. That is a company that’s going to propel the movement of the video game business into the cloud space very quickly.”
Gaikai isn’t the only purchase Sony’s made this summer in building its nascent cloud-based entertainment business. Earlier this week, Sony announced its intent to gain full ownership of Japanese broadband company So-Net so it can “advance the pursuit of cloud services and interactive entertainment experiences in Japan and Asia.”
Sony built its global empire on selling hardware and controlling the physical medium that people consumed entertainment on, a company of materials first and foremost. Its business was Walkmans, televisions, CDs, and DVDs. It’s desperately clung to that past in the last decade, hoping Blu-ray and devices like PlayStation Vita would somehow, someway keep earning the cash that Sony’s goods did in the past. It’s over though. Digital won. Now Hirai’s working overtime to make sure Sony is ready for a future when even digital goods aren’t stored on your hardware. Read between his comments, and the PlayStation 4 takes on a very clear shape as a streaming device.