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Is PlayStation 4 a Game Changer?

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Sony announced its plans for PlayStation 4, a sequel of its fairly good gaming console, PlayStation 3. In the event, Sony focused more on the console’s remote and social features, but in the process they didn’t actually show the device. The product was absent from its own coming out party, but then it’s not a car or something.

The next-gen console will be called the PS4, with hardware confirmed as:
• Super Charged PC Architecture
• XB6 CPU
• Enhanced PC GPU
• 8 GB unified RAM

“PS4 is equipped with 8 GB of unified system memory, easing game creation and increasing the richness of content achievable on the platform. GDDR5 is used for this memory, giving the system 176 GB/second of bandwidth and providing a further boost to graphics performance.”

All that sounds good, but will it be a game changer? Well, the PlayStation brand has been around for over 20 years. It was very popular in its days, but the brand has lost its charm in recent years. The company has been incurring big losses since the launch of PlayStation 3 in late 2006. The Japanese technology major experienced a good $2 billion operating loss in the year which ended in March 2007, a $1.2 billion in operating loss the following year and a $600 million operating loss in the year to March 2009. Those are some huge amount of money, and the figure alone perhaps testifies the fact that PlayStation is growing irrelevant every second.

As far as the topic of the console being a game changer goes, the company has promised that the next generation gaming console will be faster and will have better graphics to deliver than its predecessors, but then power doesn’t mean anything. If we look into the recent past, we can see that there’s a sharp dip in console gaming. More and more users are migrating to tablets and smartphones which do not deliver enough gaming experience to satisfy a hard core gamer, but an amateur gamer will definitely be satisfied with such products, which apparently are cheap and are very portable.

Pricing plays a key role when selling this kind of product. PlayStation 3’s high price tag of over $600 definitely scared many customers away, and companies like Nintendo took good advantage of the situation by offering devices like Wii which are relatively cheaper. Even though the Wii comes with relatively mediocre specs, it managed to grab a lot of attention due to the fun factor. At the end of the day, it isn’t the power that counts, but how the device involves the user and the price tag.

The PS3 ran on chips that were specifically designed for the product, and hence were costly to make, but in case of PS4, Sony will be using more generic hardware, and hence the production costs should be decreased substantially, and I hope that will be reflected in the final price tag. Sony says that the PS4 will be out in time for the 2013 holiday season, which could be too late. What are your thoughts on this?