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Video Games: Sony Plans to Extend Console Lifecycle

2 Apr, 2004 By: David Ward

Signaling that it won't be in a hurry to bring out a new game console, Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) used the Game Developers Conference in San Jose, Calif., late last month to showcase its new portable PSP device and talk of extending the lifecycles of game devices.

Noting that the original PlayStation is still a solid seller even as it begins its 10th year on the global market, SCEA EVP Andrew House said, “We've extended lifecycles, which we think is key to counter-balancing the higher investments that's required of developers. No longer are we faced with five- to six-year technology cycles, where we then throw away the old platform.”

House said Sony is already hard at work on its new CELL technology-based next generation game console, which it is co-developing with IBM and Toshiba. But he stressed the company will not be rushed into bringing it out. “Competitive movements will not be a factor in determining our launch release plans,” he said.

Sony's PlayStation 2 ($179.95) dominates the North American market, but is facing some additional pressure now that Microsoft has dropped the price of the Xbox to $149.94. House refused to comment on whether Sony is planning a price cut of its own, although analysts have noted that because of Japanese accounting rules relating to the March 31 end of Sony's fiscal year, the company may have to wait weeks before even considering it.

House also provided a glimpse of Sony's portable PSP game system, set to debut in North America in early 2005. He didn't say what it might cost, but predicted that the PSP's 3-D graphics, 16x9 aspect ratio and wireless connectivity could give it a sales trajectory better than the PS2.

Microsoft execs were also at the conference, hinting that a successor to the Xbox is in the works. SVP Robbie Bach said more powerful game consoles may result in development costs for console games soaring above the current $5 million-$10 million range if developers aren't careful, but warned that consumers simply won't pay more than $50 for a title, even as they increasingly demand better games.

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