Sony’s Jim Ryan explains the strategy behind its slim PS4 and PS4 Pro

Christopher Dring
Sony’s Jim Ryan explains the strategy behind its slim PS4 and PS4 Pro

Last week, Sony finally revealed its new PS4 consoles – a slimmer version and a 4K super-powered edition.

We ask global head of marketing and sales Jim Ryan about the strategy behind the new machines

What's the target audience for the PS4 Slim?

This is a path pretty well trodden by PlayStation to introduce, in the middle part of the cycle, a model that is typically smaller and cheaper. It's part of a number of initiatives to try and take PlayStation to a broader audience. Obviously one of the ways by which to do that is through an increased affordability.

What else are you doing in-order to go broader?

We want to get a range of gaming experiences that appeal to broader audiences beyond the core gamers, and also proliferate, whenever we can, the non-game services that are available to us on the PlayStation 4.

In terms of the PS4 Pro, you've decided against including a 4K Blu-ray player. Are 4K Blu-rays low in demand?

One of the reasons behind Pro is for us to future proof ourselves in terms of the PS4 life cycle. Our audience is increasingly enjoying its video content through streaming services. We announced 4K initiatives with YouTube and Netflix, and obviously other conversations are on-going. In light of the future, we definitely see streaming as the way forward in terms of video.

The 4K TV market is relatively small. Do you anticipate significant growth?

Well, it depends what you mean by ‘relatively small'. Based on the data we're looking at, the size of the market is in excess of 50m units this year alone, with an estimated growth of over 100m units per annum by 2020. That growth is very considerable.

It's hard to show people the benefits of 4K without them owning a 4K screen. How will you look to promote PS4 Pro?

Yeah, we're doing something that we've never done before with this mid-cycle offering. It is new and different, and therefore by definition it brings in the dependent challenges. I think the reaction that we got at the show, from those that were lucky enough to sit there, was unanimous that the games looked fantastic. The world is now a pretty efficient place in terms of disseminating news like that. The word will get around pretty quickly. It's also why we have marketing departments.

You occasionally hear of gamers suffering mid-cycle fatigue and moving to other platforms. Is PS4 Pro intended to prevent that?

We anticipate this will lead to a more protracted engagement with the platform from those who perhaps bought PS4 in 2013. As you presume, they might be starting to suffer from mid-cycle fatigue, which could manifest itself with a migration to PC or something else – you know, that's kind of anecdotal. But the notion of securing on-going engagement with our platform through its entire lifecycle is a very valid one, and indeed one of the reasons behind PlayStation 4 Pro.

Is PS4 Pro more for existing users then?

Yes and no. There will be those early adopters who simply want the latest and best from PlayStation, and it's an opportunity to enjoy an enhanced gaming experience. But equally, there are 50m people who'll be acquiring 4K televisions in 2016. A significant amount of the PS4 Pro user-base will come from those people, and they may or may not be existing PS4 owners.

For those buying PlayStation VR, should they be looking at the Pro?

The position on this was subject to very careful thought. An enhanced VR experience will be possible through PS4 Pro. But we absolutely maintain the primary platform for PlayStation VR is the standard PS4. All 40m of them are capable of a great VR experience. It's very important that people are clear about that.

How are we looking in terms of PS4 Pro stock?

I've been told, just before we had this conversation, that pre-orders in the UK are looking pretty good. I can't give you the numbers yet, but I'm pleasantly surprised. We will have a significant amount of stock at launch and then through Christmas. I can't tell you whether that's enough, but I remember we had a similar conversation about PlayStation VR, and I couldn't answer that one either.

With Xbox launching an even more powerful machine next year, can we expect some form of tech arms race, with the two of you releasing more powerful machines continually?

Well, they haven't launch yet. We will do our thing independent to anything that anyone else does. We react to what's going on in the market, rather than looking at our competitors and matching the things that they do. From our perspective, we're just doing what's right for PlayStation.

PS4 Pro
Out: November 10th, 2016
Priced: 349

What is it: PS4 Pro is a more powerful console and will allow owners to experience most PS4 software with a higher degree of graphical detail. It supports 4K TVs for 4K gaming and video via streaming services such as Netflix and YouTube. It does not include a 4K Blu-ray player. It's not just 4K TV owners that will benefit, as PS4 Pro delivers 1080p resolution for all PS4 games and better frame rates for some titles. PS4 will also support HDR technology, which ‘realises a much wider range of colours'. In other words, games are going to look very pretty.

PlayStation 4
Out: Now (from September 15th)
Price: 259

What is it: A slimmer, lighter version of the existing PS4 hardware, with a lower price tag. The machine is 30 per cent smaller compared with previous models, and up to 25 per cent lighter. It's also more energy efficient, with power consumption reduced by around 30 per cent. The new PS4 system – as well as previous models – will support HDR (High Dynamic Range), which improves the range of colours available to those with HDR-compatible TVs.

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