Sony Ericsson releases Android powered phone … then I end up talking about PS3

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10

Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10


Two days ago I posted about Android catching up to the iPhone
and wished for an Android powered PSP. I wrote about this before here and here. Well it does not seem far fetched now with the new Android-powered Sony Ericsson XPERIA X10. Engadget has more on the pre-production model here and GIZMODO here. Looks like Sony still has some few hurdles to overcome to deliver on this phone. However, poking around online, I found the following piece:


Sony Ericsson’s head of portfolio planning, Steve Walker, said that this is just the start, and that in future we’ll see closer integration with other Sony products, though he wouldn’t comment as to whether the PS3 was a possibility, via Remote Play like the Sony Ericsson Aino.

Given that Sony barely released the PSP GO recently, I don’t see them investing in a new handheld console-phone combo platform right now. Coupled with the upcoming PSP versions of LittleBigPlanet, Assassin’s Creed and Rock Band, the PSP is getting back some attention that has been focused on the PS3 for the past couple of years.

Lets look at some numbers. According to Joystiq here, Sony has lost close to $4.7 Billion dollars on the PS3 so far. Also according to VGChartz, Sony has sold 25.74Million PS3 units so far compared to 52.31Million PSP units. The Xbox360 launched a year earlier than the PS3 and their total sales so far is 32.78Million units. That’s not too bad. By end of April next year, I think we will have a good idea of the PS3’s overall performance in this generation. It seems to me that by April 2010, Sony will have shown most of their cards for the PS3. I say April 2010, because FF XIII, God Of War III, and Gran Turismo 5 will all be out by then (MAG, Heavy Rain, and The Last Guardian may all be out by then too). These titles should enable Sony to capture a lot of the PS2 users back to their side. Knowing that the PS2 sold over 138 million units as of August 18, 2009, the potential to sell more PS3s is huge.

If this generation cycle manages to stay for 10 years, there is a big chance for Sony to recoup its losses on the PS3. I got to all these numbers just to see if its feasible financially to create a PSP phone.

Sony!!! Should I buy their stock?

Before I left the US, I had a good chat with several friends including Mark Deloura about the future of Sony and their potential next steps and where their market is headed. Now that I’m in Tokyo, I got to attend the Sony Developer Conference and saw up close and personal some of their efforts from their mother land office.

Here some interesting evidence that Sony is heading the right direction:
– More PSN offerings including
– PS1 and PS2 games
– General media content including first party exclusive programming like Qore and many other media offerings from 3rd parties
– Enhanced PS1 and PS3 re-releases on Blu-Ray. For example the God Of War 1&2 games for the PS3(announced here)
– PS3 price cut and large hard drive capacity along with a slimmer (and faster model)

– A great line up of exclusive and non-exclusive games scheduled for 2009 and 2010 including: Heavy Rain (exclusive), Final Fantasy XIII (exclusive to Sony in Japan), Final Fantasy Vs XIII (exclusive to Sony everywhere), The Agency, God Of War III (exclusive), Uncharted 2(exclusive), Assassin’s Creed 2(non-exclusive) and Assassin’s Creed PSP(exclusive obviously)
– Sony is investing in new technologies like Facial and photo recognition (announced here) also as we know they have demonstrated the Sony motion controller

– Potential PS Phone (check here and here)
– Sony will introduce 3D LCDs by 2010 (check here)

Well after all that, I still have not answered the question. Is it a good time to buy Sony stock? I think the answer is yes. Its based on evidence that Sony has been trying to cut a lot of fat and increase their PS3 sales. Now the issue is that Sony is a huge company and their gaming sector is only a portion of their business so if they do well in games, that does not mean that the company will do well overall. I would like to add more analysis here but I gotta head to CEDEC tomorrow. So what do you think?

InFomous & Prototype reviews

In May I posted about two upcoming open world games. InFamous & Prototype. A lot of people actually confused the two games because they shared so many of the same features.

InFamous is a PS3 exclusive and Sucker Punch’s first game on the PS3 has gotten overall good reviews. An average score of 85 on Metacritic which is lower than what I expected when I first saw the previews of the game. Anyway, here is the Gametrailers review video:

Prototype is a game developed by Radical Entertainment on the PS3, PC, and Xbox360. Prototype has an average score of 84 on Metacritic which is lower than what I expected too. Here is the IGN review video:

Two great looking open world games coming soon

Prototype is an open world action game developed by Radical Entertainment (an Activision studio). Release Date is 6/9/2009 coming out on the PS3, Xbox360, and PC. Check out this missions video to see what it offers:

InFamous is another open world action game developed by Sucker Punch and published by Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA). I see a lot of similar and dissimilar elements to Prototype. Release Date is 5/26/2009 coming out exclusively on the PS3.

Check out this developer video to see more about InFamous:

Both games offer a range of techniques and more freedom to the player to explore how to accomplish tasks.

The next Gen of Gaming Consoles!

Next Xbox Consoleplaystation4psp2small

Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are considering their options for the timing and features of their next generation consoles. In recent news we have heard several announcements about potential designs and human interaction technologies from several companies.

For example, Microsoft announced here that it will introduce a full body motion controller.

Sony registered a PS Cloud trademark here. Also Sony is speculated to announce a new motion sensing controller at E3 this year.

In GDC 2009, OnLive announced the first Cloud based Micro console for TVs which can also be accessed from any Win-based or Mac computer.

A startup company called Canesta specializes in electronic perception technology that enables products to sense, perceive, interact with, and understand the world around them has been gaining grounds in the consumer electronic market.

The layout of the industry keeps changing in light of new technologies and new offerings. The following factors have to be taken into consideration when designing and planning any new hand-held, home based, or even cloud based console (I will be adding more to this list):

  • People are open to trying new paradigms of interaction such as the WiiMote and the Apple iPhone touch screen interface. To differentiate your offering, you must come up with an immersive interactive input device
  • The Apple iPhone has proven itself as a viable gaming platform. The iTunes App Store just passed a billion downloads. Apple’s investment in creating more robust Apps has paid off big time not only for Apple but for Indie developers as well
  • Indie developers and user generated content have to be taken seriously
  • The ability to quickly test and iterate the game on the target hardware is crucial. The Hardware can deviate from proven working paradigms (that developers are familiar with) only if it offers something that can’t be achieved otherwise. If you require people to learn something new, it has to achieve something that they could not do before
  • The big players know that its all about content, ensure that great content will be available on your hardware and people are likely to buy it and developers are likely to spend more time developing for it
  • Publishers would rather use digital distribution rather than physical mediums. Piracy has been increasing and affecting software sales of many consoles
  • Price does matter. Offering a premium price will significantly narrow down your user base
  • The Wii has expanded the market and performed much better than the powerful PS3 and Xbox 360
  • Cloud based computing is getting more popular. It is still unproven for Games and only OnLive seems to have solved the problem. If you plan to make a console that competes against Cloud gaming, it must offer more than just gaming. More about this in the Sony section below
  • You can’t expect people in the Middle East and China to pay $60 for a game. The only reason the PS2 sold so well there is that the software was pirated and games sold for $1/game
  • Study the numbers (based on http://vgchartz.com/):

Apple reported that it sold more than 30M iPhone and iPod Touch devices by the end of 2008

More than a billion downloads from the App store has been reported

Sony

Sony plays a major role in the Gaming Industry. It owns many of the best studios in the world and used to have exclusive content agreements with many publishers (namely Square Enix, Konami, & Capcom).

The PS2 did great, the PS3 is still trying to gain more grounds. The PSP has a unique position in the market (more on this below). Sony has always been trying to push the technology forward with innovations outside of the gaming domain; such as DVD capability in the PS2, Blu Ray in the PS3, movies/music/images/web in the PSP and PS3.

Now that the layout of the market is changing with new potential competitors entering the field such as OnLive, Sony’s offering has to adapt. Sony’s vision to rule the living room is still valid. I use my PS3 to store all my music, digital movies, pictures, and games (obviously). I bought a Tera Byte USB drive that connects to my PS3 and it acts my home desktop. I use my laptop for everything else and my home desktop has not been turned on for months. I heard that some people installed Linux on the PS3 and they use it as a DVR.

To compete against cloud based gaming like OnLive, Sony and even Microsoft need to enrich the experience surrounding their consoles. That applies to hand held devices as well.

The PSP is the only high end hand held gaming device available. The Nintendo DS is great but you can’t play a 3D GTA on the DS. There has been rumors about the PSP 2 (check here as well)which is likely to include a touch screen and a sliding game pad.

For casual gamers, the iPhone games are good enough. But if you want more console quality games in a hand held device, right now your only choice is the PSP. Even though the PSP is filling the serious hand held gaming device niche, it has not been the dominant device in the market.

My dream PSP would be an iPhone with the gaming capability of the PSP. Are there enough people like me who want a high end gaming experience on a mobile device that is more than just a hand held console?

I was thinking about the Amazon Kindle and how it uses the mobile network to access books. What if my Mobile device accesses a cloud computer so I don’t even have to run the game on my device locally. The video is transmitted to me in real time on the network and here you go. I get to play a game like Crysis on my cell phone. That would be cool!! hmmm sounds too ambitious. I wonder if there are tricks that can be applied so that the Cloud does not need to stream all the video frames to me.

I intend to write more about this topic in more detail. There are a lot of hot issues related to this. For example, the battle between Rasterization and Ray Tracing. Which will win in the next gen of consoles? What do these terms mean and what does that mean for the consumer?

What about Nintendo and Microsoft? Is OnLive going to deliver on its big launch during GDC? I guess many of these questions will have answers (at least partially) at E3 this year. I would love to hear what people think about this.

Sony takes a major Stock hit

Check here

Bloomberg reports that Sony’s shares fell to their lowest point all week following Credit Suisse’s investment rating cut, dropping 5.9 percent to close at 1,825 yen ($20.32).

Sony …. sighs … the PS3 has not done as well as they expected. Little Big Planet did not sell much more units and Microsoft stole the exclusivity of Final Fantasy. Can it get any worse? Sure … Metal Gear Solid 4 on the Xbox360, that would be a huge hit. Look at the following images:
Sales Rates Nov 2007 - Nov 2008
Sales of Current Gen consoles
Wii and PS3 sales relative to Xbox360 install base (2nd year)
Top shooters on all platforms
Top 20 Software by Unit Sales

All the figures show that the PS3 is significantly is under performing. Sony has invested huge amounts of money in the Cell technology which has been painful for developers to say the least. Only if they had made it a shared memory architecture. Now Sony is laying off people left and right and major restructure is expected.

Plagued by what analysts say are problems with its operating structure and high costs, Sony recently said it would cut 8,000 employees — about 4 percent of its workforce — with the aim of saving $1.1 billion dollars. The company suggested at the time that it might “carefully review and make structural changes” surrounding the PlayStation business.

I think Sony has learned a tough lesson in this console generation and I’m still a firm believe in their ability to turn it around (maybe not so much for the PS3), but definitely for the PS4. They will have to move to a platform architecture that is really easy to develop for and innovate on a couple of things to add something new. The reason I wrote all this is to say, that Sony stock will probably go down further and then it will be a good time to buy.