Sony: Console business "pretty solid," virtual reality could be a big deal

PS4 lead system architect says Sony proved the analysts wrong with new system; virtual reality has potential to be major player in the next decade.


Is this the final traditional console generation? According to PlayStation 4 lead system architect Mark Cerny, consoles may go away at some point, but it's not happening yet. The traditional hardware-based console business is looking "pretty solid," Cerny said today during a D.I.C.E. presentation in Las Vegas when asked to give his prediction for the future of the industry.

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Two years ago some analysts predicted that Sony, the "dinosaur," would have no shot at succeeding if it were to introduce a new system, Cerny recalled. And even after Sony's high-profile February 2013 announcement of the PS4, he remembers the analyst consensus being split 50/50 over the viability of the platform.

But this all changed during Sony's E3 2013 showing in June of that year, Cerny said. "The audience had spoken."

When asked if consoles were on the way out, Cerny joked about having to make a prediction about where Sony's business might be in 6 or 8 years, considering the PS4 has only been on shelves for two months, but he agreed to answer all the same. "Going forward, [the console business] looks pretty solid. There are all these synergies that are coming into play." He said you can look to a breadth of experiences, ranging from Call of Duty to Ridiculous Fishing, as evidence of the vitality of the industry.

But what about the rise in smartphone and tablet gaming. Is it eating away at Sony's hardware business? Not so, Cerny said, though he admitted that on a marketshare basis, mobile games have a much wider audience. "Over a billion people play smartphone games and a couple hundred million people play console games. But if you look at the console business itself, and the hundreds of millions of fans who enjoy playing that, it looks very solid."

Cerny was joined on stage by Defender designer Eugene Jarvis, who challenged Cerny and wondered if Sony's gaming initiatives in the future would be fully cloud-based. Cerny responded by saying cloud gaming won't spell the immediate end of traditional hardware. "Cloud gaming is a lot of things," Cerny said. "Cloud gaming is a spectrum."

Cerny pointed out that cloud gaming could mean everything from playing a full game through the cloud to trying out a quick demo. Advances to cloud gaming can work in concert with traditional hardware, Cerny argued. This has already come to fruition, at least in part, through Sony's newly announced PlayStation Now streaming service, which is currently in beta and will launch in full this summer in the US.

Finally, Cerny was asked to offer up a prediction about what types of technologies are going to be dominant in the next decade. "The impact of virtual reality technologies could be pretty significant going forward in that time frame," he said. This is notable considering Sony is reportedly working on its own gaming-focused virtual reality device for the PS4, though this has not been confirmed.

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