NEW YORK (Bloomberg) — Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4, its first video-game console in seven years, introducing new cloud and social-media features as CEO Kazuo Hirai seeks to reignite sales.
Andrew House, CEO of Sony’s PlayStation unit, announced the product Wednesday at an event in New York. Consumers will be able to stream some older titles online, see what friends are doing and take over games in progress from others. The company didn’t disclose prices or say when the machine will go on sale.
The PlayStation 4 makes its debut amid an industry shift toward mobile play on smartphones and tablets, raising the question of whether gamers will shell out several hundred dollars for a new device. The console will allow self- publishing, mimicking the open architecture of smartphones that encourages smaller developers to create and sell titles to the growing ranks of casual players.
“It’s unlikely that PS4 will boost Sony’s sales and profit in the long term, although in the short term its share price may go up,” said Mitsushige Akino, chief fund officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management, which oversees about $356 million. “Only core gamers buy game consoles like the PS4. Killer content that everyone wants to buy is essential.”
Sony is working to combat mobile devices with hardware and software that will make games available to play or share at the press of a button on a console, PlayStation Vita portable or even a smartphone.
The new product will include social-gaming features that let players tag and share videos, and watch what others are doing at the same time, according to Mark Cerny, the lead architect, who demonstrated the new controller, the DualShock 4, that includes a touchpad and “share” button.
“We’ve taken a deeply consumer focused and developer centric approach to the PlayStation 4,” Cerny said from the stage.
Personalization will be a compelling feature, Cerny said. The system is designed to learn players’ likes and dislikes. Based on those it will make recommendations, have potential purchases ready and let customers begin playing new titles before they are fully downloaded to the machine’s hard drive.
The PlayStation 4 service will offer both free games and episodic titles, the company said. Gamers will be able to broadcast their play to friends.
“What we’re creating is the fastest, most powerful network for gaming in the world,” said David Perry, CEO of Sony’s Gaikai online game service.
Mobile games and those downloaded to computers are taking a bigger portion of sales at the expense of traditional gear. U.S. revenue from those titles rose 16 percent last year to $5.9 billion, according to Port Washington, N.Y.-based researcher NPD Group. Sales of the $60 packaged titles for consoles fell 21 percent to $8.9 billion.
Nintendo, which released the Wii U late last year, cut its sales forecast for the console in January as it struggles to compete with Apple and Samsung Electronics tablets.
Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., plans to begin selling a new Xbox by the end of 2013 that includes more processing power and more home-entertainment features, people with knowledge of the situation said last year.
The PlayStation, once a profit center for Sony consumer electronics, lost its lead in the last generation of consoles, while remaining an important launchpad for Tokyo-based Sony’s new technologies and services, including DVD and Blu-ray players and its online video and music stores.
Sony’s PlayStation 3 fell to third place. Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 vied for dominance in the living room, while Sony lost money on the PlayStation 3 for its first four years. PlayStation, through three console iterations, has sold about 332 million units, said Dan Race, a spokesman.
One long-term goal with the new PlayStation is to tie Sony’s hardware together to let consumers pick up games or movies on one device that they’ve started on another. Perry introduced features that let customers switch back and forth between the console and the PlayStation Vita.
As Hirai divests ancillary businesses, such as chemicals and display-making, he aims to generate 70 percent of revenue and 85 percent of operating profit in Sony’s electronics from games, digital imaging and mobile devices by March 2015.
The company’s troubled TV business is being squeezed between Samsung Electronics’ efficient manufacturing processes and Chinese set-makers’ bargain-bin pricing.
The company projects a 20 billion-yen profit ($214 million) this year after selling its New York headquarters for $1.1 billion. Sony shares are up 41 percent to 1,355 yen in Tokyo this year. The U.S. traded shares fell 1.2 percent to $14.47 Wednesday in New York.