Wednesday night, Sony hosted what was reported to be a crowd of more than a thousand people at a rare, Applesque new-product demo. There it debuted the next-generation Playstation, officially dubbed the PS4. The event lasted two hours and featured some of the most accomplished game developers in the world, all on stage to promise that the PS4 was going to make gaming even more lifelike, more responsive, and more addicting than it already is.
I could have saved the company the two hours and the cost of hosting the event. Because boil Sony's announcement down to its essence, and you get these simple words: Sony believes the future will be like the past and has built the game console to prove it.
Don't get me wrong; the console is definitely next-generation (or at least, the specs are next-generation, since the console itself did not make an appearance at the event). It has stunning graphics and the kind of processing power necessary to create lifelike movement and even give game characters artificial-intelligence capabilities that should make hardcore gamers hungry with anticipation for the end of the year (the most specific Sony got about the release timeframe).
Ten years ago, the most common way to connect to the Internet at home was via a PC or a laptop. Now, connectivity at home is increasingly being supplemented by tablets, smartphones, and other media devices, although PCs/laptops still dominate. Consumer electronics device manufacturers cashing in on this shift are offering Internet-ready capabilities in many of their devices. Although the notion of “connected devices” can be quite broad, we focused specifically on game consoles, Blu-ray players, and high-definition (HD) TVs in our recently published Forrester Research Connected Devices Forecast, 2012 To 2017 (US). Here is a brief commentary on each of these device segments:
Game consoles: In 2012, the game console manufacturers experienced declining sales. Unlike in the past, when the introduction of a new console generally saw significant uptake in sales, Nintendo’s Wii U (launched in Q4 2012) is not expected to hit the peak sales of the original Wii. We believe that this trend will be seen more broadly in the game console industry. This is largely (though not exclusively) driven by the availability of low-cost/"freemium" titles on smartphones and tablets, which fulfill the gaming needs of the casual gamer — and have a negative impact on the console market. However, we still expect the console market to see moderate growth. By 2017, the majority of consoles will be “connected” to an IP connection because consoles are multi-purpose and allow users to do many activities online such as rent/buy movies and TV shows, purchase games, watch streaming videos, and listen to streaming music.
There's a lot of attention being paid to tablets cannibalizing PCs. As we've said in the past, we think PC cannibalization from tablets is overstated. But the cannibalization phenomenon is real: We wrote in a June report (The Products That Lose When Tablets Win) that we expect tablet cannibalization to accelerate in the next six to 12 months as slightly less affluent consumers buy tablets and have to make tough tradeoffs. Several predictions we made in the report are already coming true. We made the call that:
"Portable game player sales will go off a cliff. Portable game players (PGPs) like the Nintendo DS already have huge penetration, so there's a natural saturation point that PGPs are reaching anyway. That saturation combined with cannibalization from tablets and smartphones, which fulfill the same casual, on-the-go gaming scenarios but also multitask with email and other applications, spells trouble for PGPs. The Nintendo 3DS is already reporting weaker-than-expected sales, and we expect this trend to continue."
Much to Nintendo's chagrin, this prediction is proving accurate, as Nintendo reported that its 3DS sales plummeted to 710,000 units this past quarter from 3.6 million units the quarter before.
In the June report, we also wrote that game console sales would not be negatively affected by tablets and could actually see a boost from increased interest in gaming as mainstream consumers find joy in games like Words With Friends and Angry Birds.