The president of Sony worldwide development studios, Shuhei Yoshida, says he doesn’t think the decline of the present generation of consoles is a sign the platform itself is fading.
While many commentators point to falling retail sales, fewer publishers and studio closures as a sign that consoles are losing relevance, Yoshida told GamesIndustry International that his company thinks it’s just a generational cycle.
"It’s not the decline of consoles, it’s the decline of a generation," he said.
"This generation has been the longest on the PS3 and the Xbox, it’s the seventh year. In older times we would have launched a new system already. Really, developers hit the limits after a couple of games on the same system, typically.”
Sony thinks the next line of consoles will foster another round of innovation.
“If we didn’t believe in that we wouldn’t be in this business,” said Yoshida
"There are a few developers like Naughty Dog or Quantic Dream who are doing more, but that’s kind of the exception. After you see the sequels to the same three games people feel like they’ve seen everything before. That’s natural, but that’s nothing like the end of the consoles."
One thing that has some industry thinkers worried is the long life-cycle of modern consoles. The PS3 had a seven-year life-cycle, and the PS4 is supposed to stick around for ten years.
Despite this, Sony isn’t worried the new hardware will outstay its welcome.
“When you look at the PlayStation 3, it is way, way better than the PS3 that came out in 2007,” explained Yoshida.
“It’s a constant evolution of the system even though the hardware remains exactly the same.”
"It will be the same with the PlayStation 4. We are launching this holiday but we already have plans on the roadmap for additional features and improvements on the services side which will constantly evolve with time.”
By continuing to refine systems well after launch and future-proofing consoles with more memory than they really need at present, Sony believes it can keep consumers interested by adding features as they’re requested.
"The key to this on PS4 is we have a huge 8GB of memory,” said Yoshida.
“That’s way more than game developers need initially. At the mid-point of the PlayStation 3 lifecycle we really hit the limit of what we can add in terms of system features. The reason we couldn’t add cross-game voice chat that players wanted was we were out of memory. Because we have 8GB of RAM we can secure enough room for whatever great features developers can come up with."
The other weapon in Sony’s arsenal is its cloud support offered by Gaikai.
Though the cloud features won’t be available at launch, Sony thinks that by offering cloud servers for both the PS4 and Vita will help keep the systems relevant and offering features like backwards compatibility without undue hardware constraints.
“Cloud gaming services are launching next year in the US so PlayStation 4 and Vita users will be able to play PlayStation 3 catalogue games even though there’s no native compatibility on the system itself,” said Yoshida.
“That’s just one example of how we can improve the system.”