The PS4 is going to launch into an infinitely more competitive environment and at a time when consoles are much less relevant than when the PS3 arrived. Sales are still there to be had, but I seriously doubt that there are the numbers required to maintain three major platforms. And of the three encumbents its Sony that I see most at risk.
Ninendo has the youth and non-serious gamers market wrapped up and Microsoft have delivered a compelling reason to choose an Xbox over PS4 with the Kinect.
Sony needs to look at the success of the PS Vita to understand the future its gaming division faces.
The Vita is hand down the best serious mobile gaming platform produced. Its just that hardly anybody wants a serious mobile gaming platform anymore. The market has been carved up between Nintendo and smartphones. And as a result Vita sales are all but meaningless.
If Sony wants the PS4 to succeed it has to make some significant changes to the way it does business.
- Heavily subsidise the upfront cost of buying the console, recover losses through add-on revenue generating subscriptions
- Encourage smaller developers onto the platform, fund development of PS4 games if necessary
- Encourage a home brew market, make development tools accessible to non-traditional developers
- Tie in mobile and console gaming
Unfortunately for Sony, even if it gets all of this right there are no guarantees that the PS4 will succeed. On top of all of this it needs to find that must-have game that makes people choose PS4 over its competition. And that's something over which it has little control.
Certainly, Sony's plan to make the PS4 cheaper to build (and therefore to sell) is a good one, but that may not be enough to save it.