Could PS4 Pro and VR help Sony dominate the cord cutting market?
Before I heard Shawn Layden speak during Sony’s press conference at E3 on Monday night, I really didn’t appreciate their standing as a media and gaming giant in 2016. Or their great advantage in the market of cord cutting.
Assuming that PlayStation VR hits the market on October 14 as announced, Sony will be in a realm that presides over three burgeoning markets: 4K gaming, virtual reality and live streaming television. Why buy individual pieces of hardware for all that when you can just buy one, or possibly two?
PlayStation VR will be priced in the U.S. at $399. Layden, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, said that the 40 million PS4 consoles that have already been sold possess the hardware necessary to play VR games. The PlayStation Neo (an upgrade of the PS4 console) will likely hit the market in 2017.
And by the way, that same PS4 console can stream live TV via PlayStation Vue. Wow. I felt pretty confident before Monday night’s press conference that Sony’s competitors for live streaming television were already boxing them in a corner. Just hours before Layden took the stage in Los Angeles, news broke about Dish Network launching its live-streaming service, Sling TV, on Apple TV boxes.
Sling TV and Apple team up to draw cord cutters
New Apple TV boxes will be priced at $89 when customers pre-pay for three months of Sling TV’s $20-per month streaming TV plan. It’s a win-win for both companies, especially for Apple given that their box usually costs $149 or more.
The deal also takes the pressure off Apple from coming up with its own live streaming TV service while getting more of their streaming boxes (loaded with revenue generating apps) into people’s homes. Before the news about Apple broke, I was sure that PlayStation Vue would add Roku to its limited roster of streaming devices. Customers have been demanding it, almost pleading Roku to make it happen for months.
At the moment, people who don’t use a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 3 need an Amazon Fire Stick or an Amazon Fire TV to stream PlayStation Vue.
More competition is coming in the live streaming TV market in 2017.
Hulu, which already boasts 12 million customers, is expected to start offering their own live streaming TV service in 2017. Knowing what I know now, Sony appears to be in the catbird seat.
What? You say I’m comparing apples to oranges by talking about gaming consoles and media streamers used for TV?
Consider this: There are an estimated 85 million PlayStation 3 units that have been sold as of about March 2016. Layden mentioned on Monday there are another 40 million PS4 units that have already been sold. Those are worldwide sales figures, but it’s safe to say the U.S. remains their largest customer base. Take a look at what statista.com has to say about the growth of the industry:
According to a 2015 forecast, worldwide video game sales have amounted to over 70 billion U.S. dollars in 2014 and are expected to grow to 89 billion by 2018, while the total number of video gamers is estimated at 1.8 billion around the world.
Sony’s massive customer base, and the vast array of upcoming games previewed for PS4 and PlayStation VR will make it the force to be reckoned with because their hardware will be able to do so much more.
What games are coming to PlayStation VR?
In case you missed it, the games previewed on Monday night was nothing short of breathtaking: God of War, Days Gone, The Last Guardian (a long-awaited game) all stood as titles that standing alone could make someone buy a new PS4 console, or a VR headset.
Farpoint, a game developed exclusively for PlayStation VR, promises to be the kind of title that creates a benchmark that others will try to reach in the years to come. Described as “an unnerving space adventure set on a hostile alien world”, the game looks like an immersive experience unmatched in current VR gaming.
PlayStation has always maintained an edge by having exclusive titles. Keeping with that tradition will likely create the kind of demand (and buzz) that no public relations campaign could dream of.
Meanwhile, Microsoft announced its counterpoint on Monday, unveiling a smaller, less expensive Xbox One, and plans for their own virtual reality games, according to The New York Times. I’m a huge Xbox fan, and still play my Xbox 360 regularly. So it’s painful for me to admit that Microsoft has left itself exposed.
Without an option for live streaming TV on par with PlayStation Vue or Sling TV, they’re giving consumers an excuse to go elsewhere and not think of their consoles as a one-size-fits-all media device that streams TV and offers high-end gaming.
The backdrop to all of this, of course, is the calendar.
Christmas is coming. And children will want the latest in gaming experiences. Parents may be looking to cut back on their cable bills (especially if they plan to pay $399 for PlayStation VR or buy a PS4 Neo). Plus, those parents might want to strap on those VR glasses and play a game too. Anyway, you cut it, those big competitors in live streaming business are suddenly looking a whole lot smaller.