PS4: The response in Japan

Sony's PlayStation 4 unveiling on Feb. 20 generated, shall we say, a lot of online discussion around the world. Japan was no exception, and this week's issue of Famitsu includes a roundup of takes from gamers, industry people, and even SCE Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida.

In a poll posted on Famitsu.com in late February, 49.4 percent of responders indicated they were either "excited" or "very excited" after the PS4 press conference. 32 percent expressed the opposite, while the rest weren't sure either way.

"I felt the touch pad on the controller is an evolution that goes with the times," wrote one 34-year-old in his reply form. "I'm looking forward to hearing about the price [in Japan]." Others were a lot more brief in their appraisal ("It depends on the software," said one), while another took a more balanced approach: "There wasn't the impact of the PS2 and PS3 announcements, but in the modern era, things like ease of use and online services may be more important anyway. Currently there's too much we don't know, so I can't give an opinion either way."

"One of the most important points with the PS4 is how easy we can have it be to develop for," Worldwide Studios head Yoshida told Famitsu. "Technology is always advancing, but we had the choice of a hardware design that used a specialized system for peak performance, or something that you could make games on using the tools and dev environments that many people already use. The PS4 went for the latter approach."

This point didn't go unnoticed by Eiji Maeda, senior analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities and a guy Famitsu likes to talk to whenever they need a game-analyst quote. "There were some surprises, like the DualShock 4 and Blizzard Entertainment's entry," he said, "but otherwise the rest was all predictable or leaked out to the media beforehand. However, the system seems more than capable hardware-wise, and the videos shown were beautiful enough to really feel like the 'next generation.' They also made a point of explaining how easy the PS4 is to develop for, which is key considering all the developers avoiding console titles due to sales not keeping up with costs."

Maeda, however, was not completely sold on the PS4's future fortunes. "My main concern is price," he said. "From what I understand speaking with our technical analysts here, putting together a desktop PC with equivalent capabilities would take around 100,000 yen (about $1073). Unlike when the PS3 was unveiled, we now have lots of devices capable of playing games. If the PS4 costs over 50,000 yen, that's a detriment to its competitiveness."

Hisako Akitani, manager of Akihabara-based store Games Maya, also expressed concern about the PS4's lack of marketability for brick-and-mortar shops like hers. "The lack of compatibility with the PS3 was a disappointment," she said. "A new game in a series helps sell previous games as well, so not having compatibility makes it tougher for me. They also said that all PS4 software could be streamed online, and so I had one customer actually say to me 'Do you think you'll be all right?'"

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