John Riccitiello on how Sony and Microsoft can revitalise the console industry

The four pitfalls the PS4 and next Xbox must avoid

Next-gen consoles must be connected experiences, priced competitively, made readily available and have a core focus on games, says former EA CEO John Riccitiello.

In an editorial on Kotaku, Riccitiello outlined four potential pitfalls Sony and Microsoft could fall into with the next Xbox and PS4 if not played right.

He explained that if not done properly, the next generation of consoles would be met with a yawn rather than a cheer.

The first issue manufacturers must look out for is making sure the hardware is focused mainly on games.

He said although there was an obvious temptation to promote the next Xbox and PS4 as entertainment experiences, Sony and Microsoft should be careful not to confuse their core market.

Riccitiello went on to state that going too strongly for entertainment could result in a UI design catered for too many audiences, meaning no one particular aspect would stand out, and could also lead to consumers mull over buying other entertainment devices, such as an Apple TV, instead.

“The first and most obvious of these pitfalls is if Sony or Microsoft forgets who brought them to the dance in the first place. Gamers,” he said.

“I certainly see the temptation to emphasise all sorts of experiences that these boxes might bring to the living room. These new machines can do a lot. The risk is that either or both of the new platforms emphasise these ‘value-add’ experiences too much, both in the user interface on the consoles themselves, or in the story they tell consumers when they unleash their avalanche of advertising. To paraphrase a political slogan, it’s about the games, stupid.”

The second pitfall highlighted was that of hardware supply. He warned that Microsoft and Sony needed to make sure there were enough consoles on the market to meet demand, particularly in an age where consumers are use to getting what they want immediately.

Thirdly, he cautioned manufacturers on pricing the PS4 and next Xbox too highly, and said it wouldn’t make sense for Microsoft and Sony to charge to much for hardware if they manage to fix the previously stated problem of supply.

“Last time out, Sony priced their fully-featured PS3 at $599," said Riccitiello.

"This made some sense with a launch hampered by a lack of supply. It won’t make sense, either for Sony or Microsoft. Not if they decide to invest in enough supply to really compete for consumer attention in a world used to new hot products from companies like Apple and Samsung selling 5 and 10 million in the first month. Getting the price right is a very important part of the equation. The stakes are enormous.”

Lastly, he said Microsoft and Sony must make sure to handle sensitive topics such as always-on and DRM carefully, or risk being scorned by the gaming community. He added that the perception must be of open platforms rather than a walled gardens.

If Sony and Microsoft can get this right with the PS4 and next Xbox, Riccitiello said he believed they could bring the focus back on console gaming, “in a way that it has not been for some years”.

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