Sony teases new PlayStation announcement


A man walks past a Sony logo in front of an electronics shop in Tokyo, May 3, 2011. (Kim Yung-Hoon/Reuters)

Sony’s got something cooking, and a new teaser video drops heavy hints that the Japanese electronics giant is set to show off a brand new PlayStation console.

All will be revealed at a Feb. 20 New York event Sony said is dedicated to the “future of PlayStation.” The teaser, posted on Sony’s official YouTube PlayStation channel, doesn’t tell eager fans much apart from the date of the big event.

The company last released a new console, the PlayStation 3, in 2006. The PS3’s shipments trail Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Nintendo’s Wii, and many feel it’s ripe for an update.

Console gaming has lost some ground to mobile platforms that offer players game for free or very low costs. The NPD Group reports that the video game’s retail revenue — which does not count digital download sales — has dropped significantly. The group’s most recent report shows sales in December fell 22 percent from the previous year.

Nintendo has already introduced its new console, the Wii U, in time for the 2012 holiday season. And Microsoft is also expected to release a new console this year, possibly at the game industry’s huge summer Electronic Entertainment Expo.

Sony could certainly use a fresh product. Lukewarm reception for its handheld Vita system, launched last February, certainly didn’t help the larger company’s sinking fortunes. Chief executive officer Kazuo Hirai — who took over in April and came up through the ranks by way of the video game division— is trying to make Sony a media powerhouse by encouraging its traditionally separated hardware, software and entertainment arms to collaborate. The question is whether such a package could come together in time.

A new PlayStation could be the first test of Hirai’s so-called “One Sony” model. It will certainly need to offer a complete package of fast hardware, smooth software and great games to take on the market-leading Xbox. Compelling entertainment partnerships are also a must-have for video game consoles, since many use their devices to watch streaming video as well.

As for the console itself, Sony could include increased cloud-gaming capabilities that bypass the need to buy physical game discs. The company acquired the Gaikai cloud-gaming company in July, considered a smart move as players increasingly opt for digital downloads. It’s probably, however, too early to expect the company to drop its physical discs altogether, given the slowdowns that can plague streaming games on overloaded Internet connections. A report from The Wall Street Journal indicates Sony has considered and rejected plans to eliminate the disk drive from its next console.

Related stories:

Wii U outpaces Wii’s sales numbers but still falls behind Xbox

CES 2013: Nvidia shows off mobile gaming device

Like Japan itself, Sony struggles to adapt

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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