7.30.2011

Only Do Everything

The world of video games is evolving at a rapid pace. Where you once had three real platforms (consoles, handhelds and PCs), you now have at least five (adding smart phones and tablets as separate platforms due to their different experiences). You could say there are more than that if you choose to count each console as it's own platform, but honestly, is Call of Duty really that much different on Xbox than it is on Playstation? I don't believe it is. You will also note that I segregate handhelds and devices like smart phones or tablets from each other. Among all these devices, only one company currently sits in a position to have a toe in all five markets; Sony. All they need to do now is figure out a way to tie them all together in a logical way and I think they could easily position themselves as the unstoppable kings of digital gaming.

The first step needed for this to work is already in place. Playstation Network currently offers access to a wide variety of games including full PS3 releases down to small "Playstation Minis" which could be equated to most of the offerings on Apple's App Store in terms of scope, if not in quality (or more importantly, pricing structure). The Xperia Play is an Android based device which extends the Playstation Network to the smart phone space by allowing that phone access to Sony's line of PS1 Classics and the aforementioned minis, as well as access to games made for the Android platform. Moving up one step, the Playstation Portable (PSP) has access to full PSP games, the Minis and PS1 Classics, but not the Android games. This is logical, since PSP is not built on Android. Lording over all of Sony's gaming rigs, the PS3 has access to PS3 games, Minis and Classics, but not full PSP games or the Android games. With the Playstation Vita's arrival imminent and it's OS being Android-based, Sony's next move should be obvious to anyone, I think; Only Do Everything.

I believe the future of gaming is less dependent on consoles as a platform than it is on consoles as an access point for content. Imagine if the selling point for all of Sony's devices was simply the access that device allowed you to the Playstation Network. While I do not foresee a day when Sony allows you to play Android games on the PS3, I think everything else should be fair game, with each successive device allowing less access as it's relative power decreases, creating something of a pyramid of content that the PS3 dominates. It would go something like this:

PS3 - All digital PS3, PSP, Vita, Classics and Minis content
Vita - All the same content minus PS3 games
Xperia - All the same minus PS3 and Vita

At that point, you pick your device based on what content you want to have access to and how you want to access it. Want to play the Vita Uncharted game, but would rather play it on a big screen with a controller from your couch? Buy it on PS3. This also broadens the potential audience for developers as potential sales are no longer limited to the number of Vita units sold. On the same token, if I can buy a Vita game through PSN, play it on a PS3 and then move over to the Vita seamlessly when I want to game on the go, then buying that handheld becomes far more attractive to me.

Sony is already toying with some of this through their PSP classics releases that are coming, which will share saves between PS3 and PSP. All they need to do is refine the process and elevate it to the next level. Playstation Plus already gives it's users access to a cloud storage system. The next step would be to make the cloud system transparent, rather than requiring me to sync every time as I believe the current system does. Doing this means that if you save and turn off your PS3, you should be able to then pick up your Vita and keep going as long as you make sure you get the new save while you have internet access. I think it would also behoove Sony to get any PSN games that can be run on the Vita to do so. Again, this seems like a win-win for developers as it serves to open up their potential user base even further. How many people would buy a Vita if it meant they could play Shatter on the go?

In essence, make the Playstation Network your product and define the consoles as access points to get to your content. Do that and I think you will see that people are more willing to buy the devices and developers more willing to bring content to them. Both of those scenarios have an end result of more sales for everyone and a better experience for customers. I refuse to believe otherwise.

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