PlayStation 4 Unveiling: What Would Sony Gain By Being the First To Show Off Next-Gen Consoles?

Here in early 2013, we find ourselves in a uniquely interesting place in the gaming world. Technology is rapidly evolving, video games continue to become an ever-dominant part of entertainment in our culture, and we’re in the midst of the twilight of the current console generation.

As such, it’s no surprise that speculation surrounding the next generation of consoles has circulated the internet for years now. Leaks, rumors, supposed images, and testimonies from trusted “sources” have all surfaced, giving rise to the hopes and wishes of gaming fans around the world as we enter a new dawn in gaming.

Rumors and speculation of late have reached something of a fever pitch, with news reports and industry expert inklings coming in from all sides. Will Microsoft announce in a pre-E3 conference? Will Sony let them go first? What will Nintendo do to keep the Wii U in the front of people’s minds as the next generation rolls around?

Yesterday, the fine folks at Sony threw the first bone to fans by releasing a teaser trailer announcing a “See the Future” event coming later this month on the 20th.

Sources report that this is the event that will see the official unveiling of the proverbial PlayStation 4 (codenamed “Orbis”), the successor to the PlayStation 3 and the next building block in Sony’s iconic brand.

Among others, experts expect the company to give specifics about the PlayStation 4’s official name, release window, and some of the details behind how the system will enhance the social gaming experience and make for a more user-friendly machine. It’s also expected that the system will have a newly re-designed controller featuring touch pad integration, although we’re not exactly sure in what way.

Interestingly enough, this news piggybacks on the previously hinted-at idea that Sony would allow Microsoft to make their next-gen announcement first. But barring an out-of-the-blue move from Microsoft, it appears that the exact opposite is the case. So then, the real question is this: exactly why would Sony want to make their next-gen announcement first?

Going first carries with it a lot of pressure. There are high expectations riding along with the announcement of new consoles, and failing to meet some of the demands of fans could spell disastrous for the console maker. With the likes of the PSN hack controversy, lukewarm Vita reception, and the PlayStation 3’s initial mistake of a $599.99 price point, there’s a lot the manufacturer needs to do in order to gain the confidence of its dedicated audience.

However, for all the pressure riding along with it, there’s an equal amount of reward. By going first, they beat Microsoft to the punch and force the Xbox juggernaut on the defensive, having to prove themselves against the PlayStation 4 rather than being the entity that set the expectations for fans of next-gen consoles. It’s harder to upstage a good performance, and if Sony manages to hit the PlayStation 4 announcement out of the park on February 20th, Microsoft might find itself in a tough position when they roll out the next Xbox.

On top of that, Sony’s early announcement gives them a good time frame to start drumming up excitement leading up to the PS4’s release. After February, there are only a few months until E3, then Gamescom, then Tokyo Game Show, and then the holiday season is practically upon us. Within that time frame, they can show off the console and give us some of the basics of its functionality and what makes it unique, then steadily roll out the launch lineup and give us an idea of what we can expect to see from the console at its release. Timing things just right will keep them in the front of people’s minds, and this will be a crucial part of success heading in to next-gen.

Furthermore, it allows them the opportunity to react to Microsoft’s announcement in a fairly offensive manner. Should the next Xbox be priced competitively, they might be able to announce a new deal or bundle that will entice buyers over to their side instead. It puts them in front rather than behind, and in a generation where they’ve had to do a fair amount of catch-up, it’s a refreshing chance for them to set the pace rather than try to maintain it.

Can Sony be successful with an early announcement? Absolutely. Of all the console manufacturers, Sony is the one who is constantly churning out both new IPs and sequels to their flagship franchises. They both embrace innovation and welcome familiarity, and they would do well to continue doing so heading into the next generation. Things like Vita integration and the PlayStation Plus program have given them the image of being a company for the players in this generation, and if they get their timing right, an early announcement could be a much-needed precursor to the success of the PlayStation 4.

Of course, only time will tell. But this definitely seems like a win for the company as a whole.