PlayStation’s future as an online service is, “a good way of putting it”, says Sony. “We’re more about a brand than a box”
I recently sat down with Sony UK boss Fergal Gara at Eurogamer Expo to talk PS4, Sony and in particular the moves the company is making towards providing a range of services rather than just a box. In particular the acquisition of cloud gaming via Gaikai, the media streaming PS Vita TV and the claim by Shuhei Yoshida that Sony’s “ultimate goal [is] to deliver PlayStation games to all devices”.
Is the future of PlayStation a service?
The Japanese launch of Sony’s PS Vita TV is the most obvious move into new territories. While it’s essentially a Vita repackaged as a TV-friendly micro-console its ability to stream services like Netflix is a big selling point. I asked Gara if this marked an attempt by the company to branch out into a new market and compete with other small gaming/streaming boxes. “I think that’s a fair assessment,” he replied, “we’ve got the tech, we’ve seen what it’s capable of doing, and now we’ll bring it into one market initially and see how consumers feel about it”.
With the increasing prevalence of things like Remote Play and second screen apps the ecology of gaming seems to be opening up beyond simply switching on a PS4 – and it’s something Gara is aware of – but what does that mean for the future of Sony’s gaming content? “The direction of travel is that we want to make more PlayStation experiences available on more devices”, he explains. “So allowing us to interact with the gamer in more ways, more flexible ways, and through more touch points in their daily lives.”
“We see PlayStation as a brand, not just
a box. Going out to 2013 and probably
more appropriately 2014, 15, 16, 17 you’ll
start to see PlayStation 4 as a brand and
a set of services, a set of experiences”
As Gara puts it: “The top end experience for the foreseeable future is undoubtedly the PlayStation 4,” but that’s not where it will end. “Whether you take PlayStation Vita TV, or the Gaikai cloud gaming technology, there clearly is a strategy here to bring more PlayStation experiences here to more people in the ways they want it. We’re more about a brand and an ecosystem than we are about a box”. So while, “1995 was all about one box”, the future is, “evolving considerably”, and that’s what seems to be driving the ideas behind Sony’s new wave of products and services.
“We’re coming out with some specialist, dedicated and perhaps very cheap devices and we’re also creating and investing technology that can enable other variants of the same concepts,” explains Gara. How it plays out long term however has yet to be seen. “So where will all the hits be in all that? I don’t think you should expect all of these possibilities to be equally successful, that would be unusual. But the thing is that we’re responding to changes in gaming behaviour and we want to remain relevant whatever the future brings us. That’s what we’re investing in”.
So where does that leave PS4 in the future? Are Sony moving towards PlayStation as a service rather than just a box? “I think that’s good way of putting it really. We see PlayStation as a brand, not just as a box. Going out to 2013 and probably more appropriately 2014, 15, 16, 17 you’ll see start to see PlayStation 4 as a brand and a service, as a set of services, a set of experiences”. This move won’t be overnight though says Gara. “For the foreseeable PlayStation 4 will be the pinnacle in terms of the highest possible experiences, the most powerful service we can offer. But we can offer many many more. The Gaikai acquisition, PlayStation Vita TV capability. There are lots of pieces here that all point to that direction really. Which is: PlayStation experiences on devices, some Sony devices and non-Sony devices in time as well”.
It’s an idea that matches up with recent comments from Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada who believes PS5 won’t be a console but instead a cloud-based service. The PS4 could be that transitional piece of hardware. With its focus on digital content, streaming apps and games, second screens and seamless social output it’s already less about being tied to a physical console and more about accessing your content on whatever device you have to hand. Could be an interesting few years coming up then.