WSJ: Sony Rejected Download-Only Next-Generation Console


Ian Sherr and Daisuke Wakabayashi:

Sony Corp. considered but ultimately rejected a download-only scheme for its next videogame console, people familiar with the matter said, opting to include optical disk drives rather than break with a decades-old model in the industry.

[…] Sony is targeting a 2013 release for the successor of its PlayStation 3 console, people familiar with the matter said.

As much as I’d love for the future wave of consoles to be online-only, such a decision would utterly undercut the presence of any forthcoming PlayStation in enormous marketplaces across the world.

Although many urban centers are gaining increasingly fast connections, such locales are far outnumbered by debilitatingly slow connection counterparts. Given Sony’s already established relationship with Blu-Ray for game distribution, developers would likely come up against a regression in terms of compression and breadth of content.

Thus, for the immediate future — particularly if the console is slated for a 2013 release — Sony’s decision is framed well within the bounds of reason. On the other hand, as is evidenced by the current crop of home consoles, such devices are designed to remain present on the market for years longer than their predecessors. Accordingly, for the sake of future-proofing the console, I’d suggest that Sony should not entirely abandon such an online-centric plan, nor cut it out of their forthcoming console. Rather, optical discs should be kept as a means for sustaining the relevance of such a console in non-broadband equipped locations, and an Internet-centric model should be used for the optional transportation of games and media.

Sony need not build toward an all-Internet solution, but should certainly not abandon such a strategy altogether. The key to the video gaming market will lie somewhere in the middleground — preying upon the tenets of ubiquitous access, media versatility, and robust capabilities for entertainment consumption in both the digital and physical realms.