Sony Playstation: What to expect from today’s announcement


A man walks on a floor advertisement for Sony Corp's PlayStation 3 game console at an electronic store in Tokyo April 27, 2011. (YURIKO NAKAO/REUTERS)
February 20, 2013

Sony needs to impress with its much-anticipated PlayStation event, which many expect will be the announcement of a new console. Sony itself has dropped heavy hints that it’s preparing to reveal new hardware in its teasers leading up to the Wednesday night event in New York.

There’s plenty of speculation about what may be in the PlayStation’s first major update since 2006, but here’s a rundown of the rumors, along with thoughts about what’s likely — and what’s not.

Cloud-based gaming: This seems to be the most solid line of speculation ahead of the event, especially since Sony’s acquisition of the cloud-gaming company Gaikai last year. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the console will still have a disk drive, but will focus heavily on cloud and streaming games.

The trend toward digital distribution has been a major shift in the gaming industry, and there had even been rumors that Sony would dispense with discs altogether. Streaming gaming has been a bit trickier to pin down because of the demands it puts on Internet connections, but it’s becoming easier as technology improves. Mixing old and new media would be a safe but forward-thinking option for Sony.

Redesigned controllers: Pictures of what are said to be the new console’s prototype controllers have been passed around the gaming press, including at IGN, showing a narrow touchscreen over the center of the device. It reportedly also gives gamers the ability to share their gameplay online.

The inclusion of a touchscreen has raised some questions about, well, why. The company has put a touchscreen on the back of its handheld device, but, as The Penny Arcade Report’s Ben Kuchera noted, there seems to be even less reason to use a touchscreen in a console game than in a handheld.

“At least the Vita’s touchscreen allows you to interact directly with the objects in the game; the touchpad seen in this controller would force you to look at your television while rubbing the pad,” he wrote.

Media integration: The changing nature of the gaming console has made media partnerships more important than ever for manufacturers who have to deliver a whole network of content — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and more — to keep up with competitors. Chief executive Kazuo Hirai has said repeatedly that he wants Sony to act as one company, and that could open the door for offering players some access to content from the company’s movie and music studios. In any case, having enough media to make the console the center of the living room is a must for Sony to stay in the game.

Smartphone controls: Will the console work with your smartphone? Microsoft has made some headway on this technology with the Xbox SmartGlass app, which lets users control the Xbox 360 from smartphones and tablets. Some developers have even added second-screen capabilities so that gamers can look at a map or inventory screen while playing.

Kotaku reported that the new PlayStation console will allow users to not only control their consoles by phone, but also to chat with their friends and buy and download games to the PlayStation through the phone.

Pricing, release date ?: Don’t expect any real details on price or release date from Sony on Wednesday— at least if the company’s past press conferences are anything to go on. That said, there have been some reports that the console is due in November 2013. Kotaku was the first to report that timeframe and the speculation that the device will go onto the market with $429 and $529 models.

Related stories:

Sony teases new PlayStation announcement

Intel confirms Internet TV service; launch planned for this year

Like Japan itself, Sony struggles to adapt

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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