To say that Sony (SNE) has a lot riding on the PlayStation 4 is a significant understatement. The company is finally seeing daylight after a decade of misery. Its recovery is being led by Kazuo Hira, who made his name at Sony by turning around the struggling PlayStation 3 console — which launched disastrously while costing Sony a loss of over $300 for each box, but has since gone on to sell 80 million units.
With a CEO who knows video game consoles, SNE watchers and video game fans have waited anxiously through 2013 as the PS4 was revealed, one glimpse at a time.
Sony has stuck with less exotic hardware this time around. As a result, the PlayStation4 launched at $100 less than the PS3 did seven years ago. And at $399, it also beats Microsoft’s (MSFT) next-gen entry — the Xbox One — by $100. It has solid developer support, recent data shows the PlayStation 4 is outselling the Xbox One almost 2-to-1 so far, and PS4 review feedback has been excellent.
Gamers like the console, video game developers like the console and if the first month of PlayStation 4 sales and PS4 review results are any indication, Sony has a hit on its hands.
If you have a gamer in the house and you’re stumped for a last minute holiday gift, the Playstation 4 looks like the one to beat when it comes to next-generation video game consoles.
PS4 Power – Next Generation Power, Graphics
When Sony released the PS3 in 2006, it used an exotic cell processor that was very powerful, but difficult to program. With the PS4, Sony is still going for power — in fact it’s becoming increasingly apparent in PlayStation 4 reviews vs. Xbox One reviews by game developers that the PS4 is significantly more powerful than the competition from Microsoft. But this time around it’s sticking with x86 architecture to make things easier.
The PS4 isn’t just about silicon. Sony radically redesigned the Playstation’s DualShock controllers. The DualShock 4 controllers incorporate a capacitative touch pad, a speaker, a “share” button to upload game footage to social media sites like Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) and improved triggers, analog sticks and D-Pad.
Hardcore gamers want to know about graphics and the PS4’s AMD (AMD) graphic processor is a monster with nearly double the number of graphic cores of the Xbox One.
What this translates to onscreen is illustrated in virtually every PS4 review: full 1080p high definition games with high frame rates and incredible shading and lighting detail (where some are only running at 720p on the Xbox One). If visuals are important to you, the PlayStation 4 has the edge.
PS4 Power – Launch Titles
As previously mentioned, Sony decided to avoid the fiasco where it took game developers years to figure out how to wring the most out of the Playstation 3. The PS4 hardware makes it much easier for developers to work with and according to SNE executives, porting a PC title to the PS4 takes only one to three months.
In its PS4 review of available game titles, game website Kotaku details each of the 24 titles offered for the Playstation 4 at launch. That compares to 22 for the Xbox One, a surprising 32 launch titles in 2012 for Nintendo’s (NTDOY) poorly performing Wii U and only 12 launch titles for the PS3.
This time around, Sony has a far deeper launch library than it did with the PS3, although the Xbox One has the lead in exclusive titles.
According to PS4 review sites, the best launch games for the Playstation 4 include Battlefield 4 published by Electronic Arts (EA), Call of Duty: Ghosts by Activision (ATVI) and Warner Brothers (TWX) Lego Marvel Superheroes. In fact Call of Duty: Ghosts was a genuine blockbuster of a game with stores stocking over $1 billion in copies (for all platforms) in anticipation of record launch sales.
Microsoft has a lead in online multiplayer games thanks to its excellent Xbox Live service, but SNE seems determined to catch up this round with its (now) paid PSN online service.
Launch titles are the first crop of games for any new console and they only get better as developers become accustomed to the new hardware. The PS4 has a respectable launch library with games that should please fans of any genre and based on these first offerings, 2014 should be a good year for PlayStation 4 owners.
PS4 Power – Specs
Note: Although SNE is offering an upgraded Playstation Eye motion tracking camera, unlike the Xbox One Kinect, the PS4 Eye is an optional accessory. Therefore it is not accounted for in a typical PS4 review (which will focus on standard hardware).
- 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU running at 1.6 GHz
- 8 GB DDR5 RAM
- AMD Radeon-based GPU at 800 MHz with 1152 GPU cores, 1.84 Teraflops peak throughput
- 500 GB user removable hard drive
- Blu-ray drive
- 2 x USB 3.0 ports
- Gigabit ethernet port
- Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 2.1
- HDMI output, digital optical out port
- Includes one Dualshock 4 wireless controller
- 10.8 x 2.1 x 12.0 inches, weighs 6.2 lb
- MSRP $399
PS4 Power – Conclusion
Sony has been marketing the PS4 as the console for hardcore gamers, taking advantage of Microsoft’s early Xbox One missteps (like leaked plans to block use of used games) and Nintendo’s squandered Wii U head start.
That’s a good thing for SNE, because the next round of the battle for the living room may just be starting. Apple (AAPL) — the company whose iPhone and iPad have disrupted the mobile gaming market — appears to be assembling the pieces needed to transform its Apple TV streaming box into a video game console. Google (GOOG) and Amazon (AMZN) are reportedly at work on their own set-top gaming boxes. Then there’s Valve’s Steam Box initiative, aimed at getting PC games on TVs.
Whatever happens in 2014, if you happen to be a gamer or you’re looking for a last minute gift for the gamer in your life, any PS4 review will confirm that buying Sony’s next-gen video game console will not disappoint. It also enjoys a $100 price advantage over the Xbox One — enough savings to pick up a game or two.
We don’t know if Sony will sell 80 million PS4 units, but no matter what happens in the video game console space, it’s on track to sell a lot. That means many more high definition games to come and any PlayStation 4 owner is going to be more than happy to have that Sony logo under their TV.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not own a position in any of the stocks named here.