Three Ways the PS4 May Win Next Gen and Three Ways it May Fail

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The next round of console wars is just around the corner. Who will win this time? Will we see a dramatic reversal of fortunes? With the Wii’s surprise success, it seems that everybody is thinking hard about what to do for the next generation, and anything could happen. That said, I think Sony has a shot at regaining some real ground, if they just follow these three rules:

Stick to a No-Frills Gaming Machine

We don't know much about the 360's successor, Durango, but it seems almost certain that they're shooting for a casual market, Nintendo's market. They're incorporating a Kinect 2.0 into the system and positioning the console as a one-stop-shop for TV, movies, and games. It will be more powerful than the Wii U, by a fair margin, but not immensely powerful. A Kinect currently goes for $100, so it's safe to say the Kinect 2 will add $50-75 or more to the Durango's price tag; The Wii-U's GamePad costs $150, $100 more than a typical controller. As of today, the Wii has a little more than 40% market share of the three consoles. So if Sony decides to stick to games without gimmicks, putting that $75 of "free" money into sheer horsepower, they'll reign the hardcore skies, competitor-less. And all of 60% sounds a lot sweeter than a third of 40%.

On the other hand, if Sony decides to keep its console moderately paced with the next Xbox, it means that they can release at the same time, with the same amount of power, for $50 less. For any gamer not enticed by a Kinect, the PS4 suddenly becomes extremely appealing -- all this on top of the device feeling more dedicated to the hardcore. Honestly, no matter what Sony decides, if they ditch the gimmicks they've started the game with an ace up their sleeve.

Ignore Nintendo

Sony really has zero need to develop the PS4 as a competitor to the Wii U: They already have one. We've seen how the Vita+PS3 can function pretty much exactly like the Wii U and its gamepad. Given a reasonable price-drop, it wouldn't be too shocking to see the whole thing bundled together as a direct competitor to the Wii U come this time next year. Given that the Wii U is, graphically speaking, slightly more powerful than the PS3 to begin with, it's almost like Sony has already released the Wii U killer. Sony just released a second slimming of the PS3, but oddly without a price drop. Perhaps they're waiting to surprise attack the Wii U by bundling it with a Vita for $400 weeks before the Wii U release. Ouch. In any case, we can probably reasonably expect the PS3+Vita to remain roughly on par with the price of the Wii U, so it'll be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming years.

Focus on Japanese Third Parties

Back in the day, Sony dominated gaming. The PS1 and PS2 were two of the most massive consoles as far as sales go. Every developer was flocking to these two machines to bring their games to the masses. These days, however, it seems that Sony has lost almost all of its third party support that had made it what it is today. One might think that development costs and a games-for-all mentality has moved everybody to multi-platform development. But, if we look a bit closer, we begin to see a black mist forming around Tokyo. Japanese game developers think their own games are dead. They scramble about every which-where, developing games with western themes, jumping ship from console to console, easily being swayed by the dollar. Japan is scared. Japan doesn't know what it should be doing nor where it should be doing it. Sony was once the glue that held these companies together, but now that they're scattered across the consoles, they're just lost. Okay, so it's a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point. Gamers still love Japanese games. Sony needs to push very hard next generation to not only bring these people back, but to convince them to remain true to themselves. If somebody can slap Japan and make them realize that they shouldn't be trying to make a Japanese Elder Scrolls, we'll see a huge resurgence in Japan and Japanese game sales. Hopefully, an easy-to-develop-for homegrown console, and perhaps a little monetary incentive, will do just that.

If Sony plays their cards right, they could have a real winner on their hands. But they could just as easily bring about their own end. Here are the three things that I think could bankrupt the PS4 if Sony pursues them:

Fight the Wii U

Flipping sides, if Sony instead attempts to join the rest of the pack and make their next console social and gimmicky, then there's a fair chance that they'll want to make it combo with the PS Vita in the same way the PS3 can now. In that case, they'll want to keep their costs WAY down, so that they can get a combo out there for $450 or less. This is probably the worst move Sony could make. Not only would they now be fighting for 1/3 of a pot, but they’d have the most expensive setup with the least amount of time and experience behind it. It basically comes down to one question: Does Sony want a slightly underpowered Wii U or a slightly overpowered Wii U? I hope very much they choose the former, but I fear they'll choose the latter.

Release in 2014

As great as a blow-out system is, all that power is almost always for naught if the system is released "too late." All signs are pointing to the 360's successor in 2013, with the PS4 only following suit in 2014. This all screams a bit of deja vu. It was Microsoft's year-long lead that propelled them to first place in this gen's war with Sony, and history is looking to repeat itself. There is one small ray of hope, however: Sony has said that they're not going to reveal the PS4 until after Microsoft announces the next Xbox. This may mean that Sony is looking to release their console as late as possible, but no later than Microsoft. So they're just waiting... If Microsoft says their next console is coming out in 2014, Sony is releasing theirs in 2014. If Microsoft says it's coming in 2013, suddenly Sony is ALSO releasing in 2013. Sony seems to be keen on releasing powerful systems. Hopefully they're also keen on releasing timely ones. But we'll just have to wait and see.

Stick with the Cell

This is very unlikely, but still possible. The cell architecture hurt Sony in the long run. Not only did it make the console much more expensive, they lost many exclusive developers because it was just too hard to develop for. What little rumors we have of the PS4 suggest that Sony is going back to the basics and ditching the cell. Sony also seems to have abandoned backwards compatibility, preferring to chase the money of digital re-releases. As long as Sony has a straightforward console next generation, they have much better chances of winning back long-time developers. If, however, they decide to stay on the cell route, their future seems grim.

Here's an interesting fact: Sony's very first console beat its competition to a pulp. The PS1 outsold the N64 3-to-1 and single-handedly killed Sega. But why was this the case? It's simple really: The PS1 was easier to develop for and could handle nearly limitless game sizes. In short, the PS1 was the exact opposite of the PS3. Has Sony learned their lesson? Have they humbled themselves and decided to go back to the basics with a cheap console that's easy to develop for, and release it in a timely manner? Only time will tell.