Sony has put its cards on the table. The PlayStation 4 release date is 15 November in North America and 29 November in Europe.
At a packed press conference earlier this week in Cologne, where the monstrous Gamescom event is being held, the company laid out its final pre-release vision for the machine. And it's all about games. Sure, there's a roster of video services (with LoveFilm and BBC iPlayer heading up the UK offering), but whether we're talking discs or digital distribution, triple-A publishers or one-person teams, it is and always has been about games.
On the opening day of Gamescom, I'm sitting with Andrew House, the president of Sony Computer Entertainment. At the conference the night before, in front of a global online audience, he had berated Microsoft for the mixed, confused positioning of its Xbox One console launch. At first it was going to be a digital-focused machine, with discs relegated to a secondary position; there would be no traditional pre-owned game sales, there would be a requirement for near-constant internet connection. But in a historic mea culpa the then-president of interactive entertainment, Don Mattrick, backtracked on the harshest of the DRM measures. Sony wasn't going to let this go.
"While others have shifted their message and changed their story," said House during the press event, "we were consistent in maintaining a message that is fair and in tune with consumer desires."
I'm going to get this over with early, I tell him. "Oh no," he says, in mock horror, "when a journalist says that to you, you know it's bad." I bring up the Xbox One dig.
"Yeah, I did reference it last night, I did open the door to the question," he admits. And it all goes back to that initial Xbox One proposition, unveiled at the Microsoft campus back in May – that the console would be a digital-media machine, that everything was shifting, that game discs were all but obsolete. The whole thing has been warped and misrepresented since, but the message coming from Redmond was that gamers would have to get used to a new way of purchasing and playing games. We tend to stay away from over analysing what the competition is up to," continues House. "But I'll characterise it this way: I was surprised … we constructed our E3 presentation because there was somehow a suspicion that the policies and approaches taken by our competition would create an industry trend in that direction. The reason we made such a strong statement at E3, and continue to do so, is because we were surprised by that.
"We thought perhaps slightly naively that the current model worked quite well and was consumer friendly – and our goal was to be consistent on that. But given the speculation that was happening there, it apparently became necessary for us to make a statement and say what our intent was."
So, as it was euphorically proclaimed at Sony's E3 press show, PlayStation 4 supports pre-owned game sales and doesn't require online authentication.
There are limits to this system, and there was intriguing potential in the Xbox One proposition, but for House the key thing is consistency: "As I said in my presentation last night, we have some very clear and defined goals about what we want this next generation of gaming to be, and what a new platform should deliver; we feel right now that we're on track to deliver that.
"We also wanted people to tangibly asses how much pent up demand there seems to be for a new generation of games. It's even taken us a little bit by surprise, but I've been hearing it consistently from retailers and publishers.
"Maybe it's just that the current lifecycle has been rather more prolonged than it has been previously, but there does seem to be this demand. The fact that we've got in excess of a million pre-orders at this stage is a very strong testament to the fact that people are really interested in games, they're interested in new and more powerful consoles and what those can deliver. But also there's an interest in different experiences, which is why we feel embracing the independent developer community is so important to this generation."
- India Violet Updated at: Thursday, August 22, 2013