With multiple PS4s, Sony takes a page from mobile playbook
SOICHI INAI and YUJI NITTA, Nikkei staff writers
NEW YORK -- Sony announced two new versions of the PlayStation 4 on Thursday, a smaller standard model and a high-performance platform, hoping to attract a wider audience as smartphone games are eating console gaming's lunch.
Subsidiary Sony Interactive Entertainment will launch a new PS4 console Sept. 15 that is 30% more compact yet boasts nearly the same capabilities as its predecessor. The $299.99 price tag is smaller as well, $50 below the current price. This follows a $50 cut last fall, meaning the price of the standard model has dropped $100 in just a year.
The PlayStation 4 Pro, which is compatible with high-resolution 4K video, will cost $399.99. This console will roll out Nov. 10, ahead of the holiday shopping season. Some existing PS4 games will be updated with 4K graphics.
This two-tiered model lets Sony market the PS4 Pro to gamers who want to be on the cutting edge and the entry-level PS4 to customers interested in a console because they are unsatisfied with just smartphone games.
The Japanese company previously released new PlayStation models every six or seven years to give game studios time for long-term development, among other considerations. But consoles near the end of their life cycles tend to be left behind by technological progress. Many gamers have moved on from the PS4 in favor of high-end personal computer gaming.
The current PS4's global sales topped 40 million in May, a record-breaking pace following its launch in November 2013. Sony's decision to debut a higher-end version of the console just three years after the initial rollout suggests the company sees a need for a new strategy to continue growth.
Sony is following the example of the mobile device market by updating the PS4 at the faster pace that consumers want, Sony Interactive President Andrew House said. The aim is to keep the console from getting stale by releasing new models, similar to the steady stream of new smartphones entering the market.
The smartphone is growing in prominence as a gaming platform, as the success of titles such as "Pokemon Go" attests. As technology marches on, smartphones are approaching the PlayStation 3 in their capabilities as gaming devices, an industry insider said. Nintendo is expected to end production of the Wii U console.
But House dismissed past conjecture that the rise of mobile gaming will spell the end of consoles. With Sony taking lessons from the mobile space, the console wars are set to enter a new phase.