PlayStation

Five years of Kaz Hirai at Sony in five charts

Bloomberg has put together an interesting piece, outlining the five years that Kaz Hirai has been at the helm of Sony with five different charts. Prior to Kaz Hirai, Sony was led by Sir Howard Stringer during a time that I like to refer to as ‘the lost decade’ during which competitors like Apple and Samsung were able to overtake the once-dominant brand. To help turn things around, Sony would promote Kaz Hirai to CEO in April 2012 and since then, he’s been able to double the company’s valuation.

 Hirai’s biggest accomplishment has arguably been the return to profitability in consumer electronics. The 56-year old has slashed costs in everything from televisions to smartphones while retreating from unprofitable businesses. But he’s also doubled-down on more research and development, a move that’s resulted in “fewer and better products,” according to Macquarie Capital analyst Damian Thong. 

If that sounds all too rosy, it’s because it is. Yes, Sony has been able to double its stock price, and yes, they are now profitable, but as the below chart shows, it’s not because they’re winning over consumers.

PS4 gains Sudden Strike 4, an RTS

Sudden_Strike_4_1

I grew up playing RTS games from a handful of World of Warcraft games to just about every iteration of Command & Conquer you can think of. Unfortunately as we’ve moved towards a more twitch finger friendly era of gaming, RTS games have been mostly left behind, minus a few games here and there like Civilization. Now, you can add Sudden Strike 4 to the list of modern RTS games that are coming to Mac, PC, and PS4.

9 new titles come to PlayStation Now

PlayStation_Now_PC_1

PlayStation Now, the streaming game service which is accessible on PS4 and PC, is gaining 9 new titles. As it stands, PlayStation Now gives you access to over 500 PS3 titles and it’s expected that PS4 titles will eventually make the list as well. Previously, PS Now was also available on PS3, PS Vita, and various Sony TVs and Blu-ray players but that came to a halt earlier this year. The reason? Likely those impending PS4 titles which likely required a little bit more juice than older consoles and TVs could handle. As for the new titles coming to PS Now, they include:

PlayStation VR sales outpace HTC Vive and Oculus Rift by a wide margin

VR_Sales_Q1_2017

VR in general isn’t the darling many in the tech community had hoped for but that shouldn’t be surprising seeing how the tech still needs refinement. On top of that, content, though there is a steady supply, still isn’t what it should be in order to attract consumers in much larger quantities towards the new medium. Still, between the three major players in VR, Sony is by far doing the best as you can see from the above chart. From gameindustry.biz:

 Sony has been more vocal about the PSVR being about VR, not games. They are working with companies for commercial applications, even though it is not the obvious first choice. But even the PlayStation is part of a larger effort to bring an entertainment ecosystem into the home – not just gaming experiences. They are going to the same route with the PSVR. 

In general and perhaps ironically, despite the fact that it’s an industry darling, it’s Oculus who is doing the worst, even with a price cut:

PlayStation E3 keynote date and time revealed

E3_2017_Logo

It’s almost June, which to gamers can only mean one thing – E3. Like years before, PlayStation will once again take the stage on Monday, June 12th at 6 PM PST (9 PM EDT, 2 AM BST) to reveal what they have in store for the year. It’s unlikely that we’ll see any new hardware revision, seeing how PS4 Pro is still less than a year old and the same goes for PSVR. This means software is the key differentiator between PlayStation and Xbox at E3 and likely big titles reveals will include:

  • The Last of Us: Part 2
  • God of War
  • Destiny 2
  • Gran Turismo Sport
  • Final Fantasy 7?
  • Red Dead Redemption 2
  • Spider-Man

In general, I hope that Sony gives the PS4 Pro much more emphasis and in fact mostly forgets about the PS4 because it’s really that much of a better console. Anything they can do to highlight its power and get gamers to upgrade will go a long way towards giving those with a 1080p or 4K TV a better gaming experience. As was the case with Horizon, all first party studios are developing their games with the more powerful console in mind.

I’ve also been told it’s a possibility we’ll finally see what Sucker Punch has been up to. You’ll note their absence after inFamous: Second Son and First Light shipped but the studio has been working hard on a mystery project that’s not inFamous. Initially many had speculated that project to be a Spider-Man related game but that gig obviously went to Insomniac Games.

As for the entire conference schedule:

Burger King and PlayStation team up so you can order Whoppers via PS4

Burger_King_Burger_Clan

Here’s a completely left field partnership for you: Burger King and PlayStation. Carly Regehr writes for Fansided:

 Burger King is finally separating itself from the major game players of the fast food industry. The chain has formally announced that it will merge one of America’s classic institution, a fast food restaurant, with an emerging market, eSports. As a result of these two unrelated entities, Burger King’s so-called Burger Clan, the official name of the odd partnership, will have the responsibility of order taking through a PlayStation console. 

So how does all of this work? Here’s a video that… kind of explains it?

Why Microsoft doesn’t want to make games like ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’ for Xbox is BS

Xbox E3 2013 Media Briefing

I count myself as a big fan of Phil Spencer, head of Xbox and a guy who’s proven to love the entire gaming industry and not just be an Xbox mouthpiece, but this has BS written all over it. When asked why Xbox is behind PlayStation when it comes to exclusive, narrative driven games, here’s his response:

 The audience for those big story-driven games… I won’t say it isn’t as large, but they’re not as consistent. You’ll have things like Zelda or Horizon Zero Dawn that’ll come out, and they’ll do really well, but they don’t have the same impact that they used to have, because the big service-based games are capturing such a large amount of the audience. Sony’s first-party studios do a lot of these games, and they’re good at them, but outside of that, it’s difficult – they’re become more rare; it’s a difficult business decision for those teams, you’re fighting into more headwind. 

PS4 momentum increases as sales approach 60 million and profits rise

If Apple is the iPhone company, Sony is most certainly the PlayStation company. Nick Summers from Engadget:

 The company sold 20 million PlayStation 4 consoles over the 12-month period, beating the 17.7 million figure posted in its 2015 fiscal year. Those numbers helped Sony’s gaming division pull in 1,650 billion yen (roughly $14.73 billion), a 6.3 percent increase year-over-year. More importantly, gaming-related profit rose by an impressive 46.9 billion yen to 135.6 billion yen (roughly $1.1 billion), up from 88.7 billion yen the year prior. 

For Q4 2016, Sony Mobile was able to post a profit mainly due to cost cutting measures but as PlayStation shows, the healthy way to do it is by creating a product consumers want to buy in droves and nearly four years in, the momentum is as strong as ever for Sony’s gaming division. So why are profits up by over 6% compared to the year before?

Sony profits to reach highest since 1998?

PlayStation_HQ_San_Mateo

Following the positive news from earlier this week, we will likely see Sony, when they reveal their earnings report on Friday, post their second consecutive year with profits reaching $2 billion, meaning that this could be their best year since 1998. From Bloomberg:

 Sony Corp. shares jumped the most in almost three months after the company’s better-than-projected preliminary earnings boosted analyst confidence in its ability to hit the highest profit levels in almost two decades.

The Tokyo-based company rose as much as 4.6 percent in early Tokyo trading, headed for its biggest jump since Feb. 3. Sony reported preliminary operating profit of 285 billion yen ($2.6 billion) for the fiscal year through March 2017, 19 percent higher than its previous forecast, according to a statement Friday after the close. It also said net income would be about 73 billion yen, more than twice the previous forecast.

That triggered JPMorgan Chase & Co. to upgrade its rating on the stock to overweight from neutral, while analysts from Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to Credit Suisse Group AG reiterated bullish outlooks. They say that the previous fiscal year’s firm results indicate Sony can achieve operating profit of 500 billion yen, which would be the highest level since 1998. 

Xbox head Phil Spencer talks trading notes on VR with PlayStation team

Phil_Spencer_VR

Microsoft’s Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, is someone I continue to have great respect for. Listening to him talk, it’s clear that he has the utmost passion for his company and the greater gaming industry that they operate in. On many occasions, Spencer has gone on record for his admiration, if not acceptance, of milestones achieved by PlayStation. In previous console generation cycles, mudslinging between competitors was an all too familiar affair that sadly still runs deep among users of both platforms.

When speaking to Gamasutra about the current status of VR and Xbox’s approach to it, Spencer said:

 The Sony guys have been great. they’ve had our teams down, we’ve had them up to look at HoloLens and stuff that’s been going on. Obviously Valve’s about a stone’s throw from here. So the VR community itself is actually very collaborative because I think everybody realizes how early we are in the evolution of what this thing is about. 

PS4 doubles storage to 1TB while keeping $299 price

ps4_slim_ad_uk

Good news for those looking to purchase a PS4 soon. Coming later this month, PS4 will ship with a standard 1TB drive versus the current 500GB while keeping its $299 price point. Announced in September, known as PS4 Slim, the new model provides a smaller footprint than its predecessor with a slightly redesigned DualShock 4 controller which I must say feels a lot better.

PlayStation Vue partners with ESL to launch esportsTV

PlayStation_Vue_iOS_Amazon

A quick Friday story for you. PlayStation Vue, the streaming TV service from Sony, is expanding its channel lineup by creating a new and unique channel that will be exclusive to the service. Jacob Wolf writes this for ESPN Esports:

Sony to create games for Microsoft HoloLens

Smurfs_Hololens_

A bit of odd news to kick off your Monday morning. Kyle Melnick writes this for VR Scout:

 the company has had to look to new platforms to extend their marketing reach even further. This apparently includes releasing an mixed reality Smurfs-themed children’s experience for the HoloLens.

Developed as part of a partnership between media agency OMD, AOL advertising content creators Partner Studio and VR production company UNIT9 

Sony to smartly expand PlayStation VR presence to arcades and theme parks

Official_PlayStation_VR_2

According to a new bit out by the WSJ which was reported on by Gamasutra, Sony is looking to expand the presence of PlayStation VR.

 Sony will start pushing its PlayStation VR virtual reality headset as a commercial device after making “slower-than-expected” progress in the consumer arena, according to a Wall Street Journal report citing people familiar with the matter.

Sony’s video game wing has established a “location-based entertainment” unit tasked with leading the commercial VR charge and finding partners in various industries, the report said. 

Reading the above piece might make you think that Sony wants to utilize PSVR in different commercial fields like say business or medical but that’s not all that’s happening. Instead, Sony will target

Exclusive gap between PS4 and Xbox One keeps on growing

Insomniac_Games_Spider_Man

As Paul Tassi writes for Forbes, there’s no two ways around it – Xbox One launched as a mess and as a result, Microsoft has never been able to get the traction it did with Xbox 360 despite all the positive momentum it had against Sony.

 This topic is unavoidably going to turn into a fanboy minefield in short order, but the narrative is pretty clear. Sony is doing a great job cultivating high-quality exclusive sequels from its storied franchises, but also creating new IPs that are must-have games. This is in contrast to Nintendo, which always produces solid first-party titles, but lacks most everything that’s third-party multiplatform, and Xbox, which still has a few core exclusive franchises, but they’re not what they once were, and Microsoft is almost more likely to cancel new exclusive IPs than see them to completion at this point.

There are many stories about how Sony got this far out in front of its competition this generation, and the most common tale is how Microsoft botched the reveal and rollout of the Xbox One at launch, first messing around with the idea of an always-on console that possibly was going to use discs as mere licenses, but even after scrapping that idea, still launching at a higher price with less power and marrying the system to an albatross called Kinect 2.0. 

One of the smartest things Sony has ever done is to invest in top first party studios, something Microsoft has never given much thought to.

 Microsoft has certainly produced some good games. I loved Halo 5, and was satisfied with Gears of War 4. ReCore is creative and Forza always fills the racing niche better than its rivals. I think Sunset Overdrive was a promising new IP that didn’t get enough love. Dead Rising and State of Decay are uh, adequate zombie franchises.

But the list sort of peters out there, and the only game there I would actually consider can’t-miss is probably Halo. If you flip to Sony, you have Until Dawn, Uncharted 4, Bloodborne, The Last Guardian, Nioh and Horizon Zero Dawn, with The Last of Us 2 and God of War 4 up ahead. And most of these aren’t just good. Many of the released titles are Game of the Year contenders in some capacity, which is something I don’t think anyone has said lately about Gears 4 or Halo Wars 2 outside of die-hard Xbox fans. 

Internal studios aside, level of freedom is another reason why developers stick to working with Sony and in many cases, might get first pass at titles as well.