Why game makers love Sony's PlayStation 4February 21, 2013: 12:52 PM ET
Sony's new PlayStation 4 game console is a Hail Mary. To win, it must lure game creators.
FORTUNE -- With gaming on smartphones and tablets growing rapidly, it's not enough for traditional hardware companies like Sony (SNE) to trot out new consoles with better technical capabilities. They have to innovate. Judging from Wednesday night's spectacle of an unveiling, the Japanese electronics company did its best, playing up new social networking features that let players share gameplay to Facebook (FB) and cloud-based technology that streams games to the home.
But is that enough? Fortune asked game makers and pundits for their thoughts.
Scott Steinberg, TechSaavy strategic innovation consultant
I applaud Sony. They had a nice coming out party. This is pretty bold for a company that's used to operating purely on selling retail software product. They realize players' habits are changing, and so they're laying groundwork for experiences that offer software in a connected world. But was there anything so wildly mind-blowing and out of left-field that the world had to stop and look? Not really. The hardware is very impressive, but hardware itself has been commoditized -- it's now about the surrounding features.
It's going to be about the software, and I'm not sure we're seeing anything that promises to reignite interest in this space. (These connected features have promise but, it's still a very nascent market.) The pricing also has to be competitive now. Households are holding on to every dollar. Price it too high, and oftentimes people will vote with their wallets. I'd like to see it at $299 in this brave new world. Hell, if I had my druthers, I'd price it at $249, but that's not going to happen.
Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft CEO
The PlayStation 4 is going to be a huge leap forward for developers like Ubisoft and for gamers. For us, PS4 will let us push past the barriers caused by the somewhat dated architecture of current consoles and develop games that are far more connected and more immersive. We're going to use the PS4 to create games like Watch Dogs that blur the lines between the real and the virtual worlds.
For gamers, PS4 is going to mean more social and more believable games. By combining better graphics, more processing power and memory, touch and motion controls, streaming and many other recent advances into a single package, the PS4 announcement yesterday really gave gamers a glimpse of what the future of play looks like.
Kevin Chou, Kabam CEO
The PS4's new hardware specifications, instant boot and Gaikai integration are promising and give gamers a significant new system to consider. But largely, it's an evolutionary upgrade seven years after the last system. Of note is third-party publishers' commitment to the system, including Activision's announcement of Diablo and [Bungie Studios's] Destiny for the system. However, I think the most remarkable news was that Sony mentioned free to play for the new console because free to play represents the biggest business disruption in the gaming industry today.
I would love to see Sony embrace free to play and provide details of how the console will embrace the dominant business model for gaming now sweeping both tablets and smartphones. Free to play enables consumers to play without making an upfront commitment before they know if they will enjoy the game. Not being fooled out of $60 because of an errant review or sizzling trailer. For the PS4 to really break through, a commitment to a business model for games that serves the consumer's best interest will be truly revolutionary in this as-yet evolutionary announcement of the next generation of hardware.