Nintendo's Wii U was one of the biggest unveils at E3 this year, but neither Sony nor Microsoft is going to be goaded into tipping their hands. Sony is apparently annoyed with certain game developers, some of whom have implied that the PS4 is none too far away. Jack Tretton, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, told Forbes the following:
"PlayStation 3 is really just hitting its stride. Technologically, I don’t think it’s possible to provide any advancement beyond what we have. What we’ve seen from the competition is trying to add features that already exist in PlayStation 3. We invested heavily in that, we rolled a very heavy rock up a steep hill, through the launch period. But now I think that all pays off, and we’ve got a long run way behind it. So, I wouldn’t look for any discussion of a next generation PlayStation for quite some time."
Read literally, Tretton's implication regarding the PS3's position at the top of the theoretical technology heap is laughable--but we don't think that's what Tretton meant. Sony is perfectly aware that advances in manufacturing technology have cut the system's manufacturing cost, simplified the design, and cut power consumption. Rather, we suspect Tretton is referring to the enormous cost (and difficulty) of shifting from one system to another. When Sony shifted from the PS2 to the PS3, it had to develop programming tools, license whatever third-party technologies it deemed necessary, design an entire marketing initiative around the new product, fund software development, and spend months hammering out exactly what sort of system it wanted to build.
The PlayStation Vita
The CEO's characterization of the PS3 as only now coming into its full strength makes sense if we consider the PlayStation ecosystem rather than focusing on any single device. The PlayStation Move offers game developers the chance to design new PS3 games with very different control interfaces, the PlayStation Vita is set to suceed the PSP-3K as the company's traditional handheld platform, while the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play will blend gaming and smartphone capabilities. The company has already building a software framework that'll allow developers to target multiple devices at the same time; supporting devices will carry the moniker "PlayStation Certified." At present, that list includes the Xperia Play smartphone, and Sony's S1/S2 tablets; the PlayStation Vita will have access to the PlayStation Suite and is presumedly included as well.
With so many cards in play, it's critical that sony keep its developer communities focused. The Move, Vita, and Xperia Play all offer distinct, cross-platform experiences; learning how to best take advantage of these new capabilities will take time. Talking up a new console now would be an incredibly bad move. It would distract game developers and fans alike, and perversely encourage the company's faithful *not* to spend money on current titles in favor of waiting for the next generation of products.
The electronics firm probably has done some work on the PS4, but it's one thing to make a list of the capabilities and qualities it wants the next PS4 to offer and something altogether different to start shopping for components. Rumors that the company doesn't want to spend as much this time around are unremarkable. Given the cost associated with developing and launching Blu-ray, we'd be surprised if the PS4 (whenever it shows up) managed to exceed the PS3's development costs.