Sony's PS4 is a win - with reservations

February 21, 2013: 10:51 AM ET

Sony's high-octane presentation of its next-generation PlayStation 4 gaming system mostly impressed observers.

130220220209-t-ts-sony-playstation-4-ps4-00003202-340xaFORTUNE -- On Wednesday night, Sony launched the latest version of the Playstation to thumping music, lasers, and a giant screen that wrapped around the audience. The company hopes the super-charged PS4 will help it retake the top spot among console makers and prove its relevance in the changing games market. The games maker touted slick graphics and new features such as the ability to share videos and photos of gameplay on the web.

What do analysts think? Many were impressed with Sony's (SNE) presentation, but overall it's a mixed bag. The lack of price -- not to mention an actual look at the box -- leave a lot to speculation. Here's a summary:

Streaming games have plusses and minuses.

Seth Sigman, Credit Suisse
The negative: (1) the PS4 will not play old PS3 physical games, a potential negative for console adoption given consumers' demand for backwards compatibility. (2) Downloading functionality has improved, per Sony. (3) Streaming features will allow users to demo games before purchasing, which may raise concerns as to whether that evolves to full game streaming.

Shiro Mikoshiba, Nomura Equity Research
Although the PS4 is primarily targeted at heavy gamers, the company also sees a role for it as a home server, sharing music and video data with a wide range of other devices. Seamless sharing of data with smartphones and tablets would be a positive step forward for Sony's network strategy, in our view.

The price -- and the cost of setting up infrastructure to support all its new network features -- will matter a lot.

Yasuo Nakane, Deutsche Bank
We will be watching for 1) the price announcement (possibly around $450 to avoid per-unit losses), 2) how it will utilize existing models such as the PS3, 3) the emergence of synergy effects with other products including TVs, VAIO, and DSCs, and 4) expenditure on servers and software to beef up its network services.

Kota Ezawa and Takahide Kasai, Citi Research
We expect concern over the use of a CPU and laser diodes that cost several hundred dollars, and the high power consumption that dogged the PS3 will unlikely be an issue for the PS4. We expect modest initial losses on hardware, and substantial profits on the software side. If the shelf price is around $300, we would expect the PS4 to incur operating losses of ¥20bn in FY3/14 and ¥57bn in FY3/15.

MORE: Tech is destroying the line between manufacturing and services

The games looked great.

Macquarie Research

The PS4 event impressed us, though post the flurry of pre-event speculation, there were few surprises. The biggest one for us was the announcement that Bungie's Destiny would be coming to the PS4; our U.S. colleagues Ben Schachter and John Merrick note that Activision played a surprisingly large role in wrapping up Sony's presentation.

Eiichi Katayama, Bank of America
Just about all PS4 games will be playable on the PS Vita, and we think this is epoch-making. In the future it will also be possible to reissue PS1-3 software. However, this concept involves playing games in the cloud, supported by PS4, so theoretically it should be possible to play PS4 on smartphones as well.

Michael Pachter, Wedbush Securities analyst
The presentation was well-paced, lots of info, and the games looked great for the most part.  I think that they were a little sketchy on details, but there was a lot to digest.  The box clearly has an optical drive and a hard drive, and the processing power looks pretty impressive. I'm not sure that gamers will discern a lot of difference in games between PS3 and PS4, but suffice it to say that PS4 games will consistently look great. The other features, particularly the social and streaming features, make the console a must have.  I'm curious to see if Microsoft can match most of these, and suspect that they will.

The biggest surprise? The PS4 is a (really) good thing for AMD.

Srini Pajjuri and Ryan Goodman, CLSA Credit Agricole Securities
Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4, and it is now confirmed that AMD (AMD) has won the integrated CPU+GPU socket. AMD's design win is somewhat expected, but the announcement is still a positive development and could contribute ~$250m in revenues in 2013.

Joseph Moore, Morgan Stanley
We forecast small profitability in 4Q13 and a breakeven 2014. However, revenues from consoles will be front-end loaded, and could be a fairly temporary respite from challenges within PCs.

Join the Conversation
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.