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Should Sony steer away from non-gaming features?

Submitted by on Thursday, 12 March 20095 Comments

life_with_playstationSince the PS3 was announced, Sony has continually marketed the console as a multi-media device and not just for gaming.

However the PlayStation brand is so strongly associated with gaming it is not so easy to simply shrug off this image and display a more rounded, entertainment-based persona.

This is especially troublesome when you consider that there are so many other media options out there, and people are used to purchasing PlayStation consoles for the sole purpose of gaming.

Sony wants the PS3 to appeal to more than the typical young male crowd. They want to branch out to new demographics, in a similar way to Nintendo who have successfully done so with their Wii consoles. Unlike the Wii, which focuses on gaming as the core component, Sony are looking to appeal to those consumers who want to improve their ‘living room experience’.

In a competitive market, it is more important than ever to differentiate the PlayStation 3 from the opposition. In addition, PS2 owners may feel they need another reason to justify upgrading, especially in these tough economic times.

But is it really worthwhile to put time and money into features like ‘Life with PlayStation’ and ‘Home’ over gaming-orientated features like cross-game invites and improved PSN connectivity, and is there a risk that hardcore gamers will lose interest?

Sony have released a massive number of firmware updates over the past 2 years, bringing in lots of new features. Despite this, many feel that v2.4o is the only one of those to make a true difference to your gaming experience, with the inclusion of Trophies and the much asked for In-Game XMB.

Could these gaming-related features sell more consoles than the non-gaming ones? After all, it is the hardcore crowd who follow the progress of the console market and casual gamers or non-gamers will rarely hear about the addition of new features.

We are not entirely sure if people really want to use non-gaming features such as ‘Life with PlayStation’ on their HDTVs. With applications like Google Earth that already offer far greater functionality, why would the average user choose a PS3 over a PC for that purpose?

From April 1st, Sony’s PlayStation division will include the Vaio PC department under the newly formed ‘Networked Products & Services Group’. Howard Stringer says the reshuffle will “make it possible for all of Sony’s parts to work together”. This may, of course, have an effect on how Sony develops features for the PS3.

There is risk that SCE will get further distracted from their gaming roots if they share ideas with the PC division. You could also argue that this consolidation could lead to Sony transfering their non-gaming concepts and ideas onto computers.

So the question is ‘are Sony in danger of losing touch with what gamers really want?’. With such an impressive gaming line-up this year, should they focus more on the gaming side and less on these additional features?

It is a good thing, of course, that our favourite console is different and unique; we celebrate the extra enhancements that are brought to us such as PlayStation Home (which still needs to really get going), Media Server compatibility, the Internet Browser, and the future Vidzone.

But what do you think? Should Sony focus only on gaming features in future firmware updates? Or should they continue to support and promote non-gaming applications? Our comments area awaits your thoughts…