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Welcome back to the second part of my three-part series.  Last week we went over some opinions on Nintendo and the way they approached the next generation market.   Since last week’s article, there has been a pretty important update.  Nintendo has released a system update for the Wii-U that speeds up menu loading and boasts performance by about 30%.  This enables the system to boot faster, as well as switch between programs more quickly.

Now before we really get into this once more, I want to reinforce a statement.  I wrote part one with the knowledge of having a physical system launched and in my hands.  It was based upon experience with a machine.  In this article, we are dealing with a system that has been announced, but not physically released yet.  We have the hardware facts, just no experience with them.   With keeping that in mind, let’s get back on track and talk about the ice cream layer of the sandwich: Sony.

If there is one thing that Sony likes to do, it is impress the ever living hell out of their customers.  Everything they make is a slick piece of technological erotica.  From Sony’s televisions to the Playstation 3 and PS Vita, they all look like incredibly expensive items.  That is because they are expensive.  When the Playstation 3 was announced, it was accompanied by a $499.99 and $599.99 price tag(s).  When the PS Vita launched, it did so with a $249.99 and $299.99 price tag(s).

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                Somehow Sony thought that this was a reasonable price-tag for a console (and handheld).  This resulted in poor sales.  Despite this fact, Jack Tretton went on record saying “If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that’s been on shelves for more than five minutes, I’ll give you 1200 bucks for it.”   So you can only assume that the direction of this company would head into a steady decline.  Partially due to higher ranking officials making themselves look like morons.  To make matters worse, third-party publishers started making their once exclusive games into multi-platform titles.  Some fans started to express their concerns by voicing their opinions, while others decided to vote with their wallets.

It’s been several rough years for Sony, but as of late they have been releasing a steady stream of great exclusive games on the Playstation 3.  With the coming of the Playstation 4, Sony is looking to do more than just release a better system; they are out to claim the throne once more.

When we look at the specifications of the Playstation 4, we are stunned to realize that Sony is abandoning the infamous Cell Processor that was used in the Playstation 3.  Smart decision on Sony’s part since most third party developers found it difficult to work with the Cell processor.  By making the smart move and switching over to an x86 type processor, more companies can make games with minimal issues.

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                Sony has also decided to keep on going with coming up with innovative ideas.  With the PS3, they had the Sixaxis controller system.  This added slight motion support to the controller.  You could tilt the controller in one direction and it would have some sort of interactive element with the characters.  They have built in better hardware that detects the controller movements more accurately.  They have even included a touch pad on the controller itself.  To top it all off, a share button has been included in the new controller.  This will allow us to instantly post videos to our favorite social networks.

We have also been shown some games, and the others are just basic concepts that are based off of already established games.  Diablo 3, Battlefield 4, and many other games are slated for the next generation console.  Some titles will be available upon the launch of the system (which has yet to be officially announced).

From what we see, the next generation jump for Sony looks like it could be done swiftly.  But what challenges do they have ahead of them?

Right away, Sony’s biggest challenge is gaining customer loyalty back from Microsoft.  Sony is literally giving games away for free with their online service, Playstation Plus, and people are still not biting.  This may be because this implementation has come too late for the system.  Early adapters to the system have already played those titles before, while new players can enjoy a series of games right out of the box.  How can they get more people to believe in their platform?  Make the obvious remarks that people do not get this service on the Xbox.  It would look like an attack ad, but it’s easy to understand that customers are truly oblivious to this concept.

Sony also needs to advertise that their online system is free.  Not even just their online multi-player system, but the ability to use programs like Netflix and Hulu are free.  Not a lot of consumers realize this.  Although the online functionality is free, the quality isn’t as great.  Sony’s network was hacked for several weeks and the downtime caused a lot of customers to travel over to Microsoft for the objectively better online solution.  Sony did end up giving people more free games when the network came back online, which was the very least they could do.

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                The Playstation 4 could really pull in the customer base by having Playstation Plus carry over to the next generation.  They could also use this as a form of backwards compatibility.  Rumors have it that due to the system utilizing an x86 processor, none of the games on the Playstation 3 will be playable in the next Playstation.  If they can update the software to include some sort of digital play of older Playstation 3 games, which would appeal to more people, and make them actually invest in the system upon launch.

Sony’s other challenge is to pre-emptively attack their competition.  We still don’t know what Microsoft has up their sleeves, but somehow Sony thinks that by announcing their system first, that they are beating Microsoft to the punch.  The fans also think that already too.  Now because we don’t know anything at all about what Microsoft has, Sony is left shadowboxing in the darkened corner.  This fight isn’t going to be fought with hardware, it’s going to be fought with software.  People are claiming that Sony has won this generation when we have yet to see what the next generation really is.

In my honest opinion, the next cycle isn’t going to look ages better than what we are currently experiencing.  With major third party developers starting to diminish, we are left to wonder who is going to make the games that are so graphically intense.  With EA Games firing around 10% of their staff, and seeing other studios close, we are left to wonder, will prettier graphics save the industry?  Did Sony correctly future-proof their machine to last through the years?  Let’s not forget there are new enemies coming over the horizon, and I’m not talking about Microsoft.

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