PlayStation 4: Not Coming Anytime Soon

A couple years ago, I predicted that Sony would launch a new home video game console in 2010, with Nintendo and Microsoft to follow in 2011.

Man, I was way off.

With 2011 well underway, console makers aren't even talking about a new generation of hardware. And in an interview with PC Watch, translated by Kotaku, Sony Computer Entertainment head Kaz Hirai said the Playstation 3 is "not even at the halfway point."

"That's why," he added, "we're not deliberating on a PS4 or a next generation machine, whatever you call it."

The idea that Sony or other companies have no immediate desire to create new hardware might seem obvious now, but it wasn't always that way. Video game systems used to refresh like clockwork on five- or six-year cycles, and within a couple years, the last generation of consoles was long forgotten. (One notable exception: the Playstation 2, which continues to be a viable platform in its 11th year).

Here's what has changed:

  • Video game systems have turned into full-blown media hubs. The Xbox 360 has the Zune Marketplace, ESPN and Last.fm. The Playstation 3 has its own video store, plus Vudu, the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball. All three current-gen game consoles have Netflix. Console makers can simply tack on new media services to make their machines more desirable.
  • Sony and Microsoft, and to a lesser extent Nintendo, are building big ecosystems for downloadable games, and moving to new consoles would be really complicated. To that end, they've updated their consoles to allow bigger hard drives or external storage, so they can accommodate the boom in downloads.
  • Motion controls have given Sony and Microsoft a second wind. Kinect was a huge holiday hit, and the Playstation Move, while not selling quite as well, has earned some gamer cred with Killzone 3′s assault rifle setup.
  • In general, the need to update hardware isn't as urgent as it once was. Dead Rising had no problem fitting dozens of zombies on the screen at once. Call of Duty: Black Ops hums along at 60 frames per second. The Playstation 3 gained 3D support through a firmware update. In the past, the goal of new technology was to better convey realism, but I don't think current consoles are having problems with that now.

At this point, the only console maker who could really use a refresh is Nintendo, whose Wii is handily outperformed by the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and whose motion control now seems a bit stale. I'd make a prediction as to when we'll see the so-called Wii HD, but would you even trust me?

(PS4 concept by Tai Chiem)

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