Sony Moves a Step Closer to Its Game Vision


By Ian Sherr and Daisuke Wakabayashi

More than a decade ago, the Sony Corp. executive credited as the “Father of the PlayStation” predicted that one day videogames wouldn’t require a console, because the hardware would eventually “melt” into a network that linked players together. All they would need, Ken Kutaragi said, is a display and a controller.

As Sony prepares to take the wraps off a new home console, it will take one major step closer to that vision. The Japanese electronics conglomerate’s next PlayStation will allow users to play games streamed over the Internet as well as on discs, according to people familiar with Sony’s plans.

The new feature is one of many expected on Sony’s next game machine, which is slated to be unveiled at an event in New York on Wednesday. But the addition of streaming exemplifies how the videogame industry is searching for new ideas to cope with dramatic shifts in technology and consumer behavior.

Videogame companies like Sony, Nintendo Co. and Microsoft Corp. used to depend on their twice-a-decade launches of new living room consoles to spur a new wave of spending on consoles that typically cost hundreds of dollars and games priced at about $50 or more. But the Web, mobile phones and tablets have spurred the creation of new, more convenient ways to play games free of charge or for a few dollars.

The results have been dramatic. Sales of new titles, consoles and videogame accessories at U.S. retail stores have contracted every month for more than a year, according to industry watcher NPD Group.

Though both Sony and Microsoft are expected to introduce new consoles this year, consulting and auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers expects global spending on console games will shrink nearly 1% in 2013 and rise only 3% next year—far less than the 28% growth the industry saw in 2007 after the last batch of new consoles were released.

Meanwhile, sales of smartphones and other mobile devices have exploded, creating a huge market for inexpensive game apps. Apple Inc. said in January it has sold more than 500 million iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches since 2007, eclipsing cumulative total sales for the three major home consoles combined.



To read the rest of the story, either contact me directly or read more online at the WSJ: here. (subscription required)


(Published Feb 18, 2013, in The Wall Street Journal.)

Next Sony PlayStation to Stream Games


By Ian Sherr and Daisuke Wakabayashi

Sony Corp. is planning to offer technology to stream games to its next videogame console, people familiar with the company’s plans say, alongside other enhancements to bolster its position in the market.

The new technology, to be unveiled Wednesday along with the new console, will allow users to play games delivered over the Internet, these people said. The streaming service, they added, is designed to use current PlayStation 3 titles on the new console; the new device is also expected to play new games stored on optical discs.

Sony’s plans come after it acquired Gaikai Inc. last year for $380 million. Though many companies now offer simple games over the Internet, Gaikai was one of several companies that offered online access to visually intense games, which ordinarily require specialized circuitry found on high-end personal computers and gaming consoles.

The streaming technology is one of the new features and enhancements expected to be offered with the new console, which Sony plans to unveil at an event in New York. Sony’s new PlayStation, for example, may control the action with higher fidelity cameras for its “Move” motion-sensing technology and touch-sensing pads on new controllers, according to people who have seen and been briefed on the devices.


To read the rest of the story, either contact me directly or read more online at the WSJ: here. (subscription required)


(Published Feb 15, 2013, in The Wall Street Journal.)

Sony to Unveil PS3 Successor


By Ian Sherr and Daisuke Wakabayashi

Sony Corp. is planning to unveil its next-generation home videogame console during a February event, showing off a successor to its current PlayStation 3 system.

The Japanese electronics giant Thursday unveiled plans for a special PlayStation-themed event set for Feb. 20, teasing fans to “see the future” at the event. People familiar with the matter have said the new device will make its debut there, beating Microsoft Corp. to the punch in announcing its own next-generation game machine.

Sony’s device will be released later this year, these people said, and will spar against Microsoft’s own machine, which is also expected to be released by the holidays.

Sony’s updated console’s arrival comes as the console videogame industry has entered a tailspin. Sales of new videogames, consoles and accessories at U.S. retail shops fell 22% in December when compared with the same time a year prior, according to surveys by industry watcher NPD Group.

In another sign of the difficult environment for traditional videogame machines, Nintendo Co. slashed sales forecasts for its new home console, the Wii U, earlier this week. After launching its first new home console in six years in November, Nintendo said Wii U sales disappointed during the holiday shopping season. The company is now forecasting plans to sell 4 million units versus an earlier estimate for 5.5 million units.

The videogame industry is undergoing a sea change. While videogames used to be limited to dedicated game machines and personal computers, the proliferation of smartphones and other Internet connected devices is opening the floodgates to free or inexpensive games.


To read the rest of the story, either contact me directly or read more online at the WSJ: here. (subscription required)


(Published Feb 1, 2013, in The Wall Street Journal.)