At the GamesBeat conference on Tuesday, former Sony Interactive Entertainment chief Andrew House spoke about the future of PlayStation and of consoles.
In his first public appearance since quitting as head of PlayStation’s global operations, he talked about the technological, business and creative opportunities for a successor to PlayStation 4, which he helped to launch.
During a talk with veteran tech analyst Mike Vorhaus, he speculated on the future of consoles, predicting that PlayStation 4 has a long life ahead.
He refused to be drawn on any speculation about PlayStation 5, the likely successor to PS4, stating that he was in no position to talk about Sony’s future plans. But he said he was “bullish” about the future of consoles and of PS4, which he predicted would not be shuffled away any time soon.
“In 2013, the vast majority of conventional wisdom was saying that consoles were dead,” House said. “The whole market was moving to mobile and there was no future for this. I remember saying to myself, to use a very English metaphor, ‘Am I going to be the last governor of Hong Kong, overseeing the end of consoles?’ Fortunately, all those impending doom mongers were all very wrong.”
Vorhaus pressed House on the likely timing of a PlayStation 5, remarking that the machine is likely in an advanced state of design right now “in laboratories.” House deflected “the specifics,” but indicated a general view among hardware manufacturers, that hardware cycles can, and ought to be, a lot longer than they were in the past.
“I’m very bullish on longer life cycles for consoles,” House said. “Consoles are so under-represented and under-penetrated in so many markets around the globe. There’s so much potential. Let’s not forget that China is still largely [untapped].”
The gap between PlayStation 2’s launch and that of PlayStation 3 was six years. The PlayStation 4 arrived seven years later. PlayStation 4 is now approaching its fifth birthday. Industry speculation generally pegs PlayStation 5 as coming in around 2020 or 2021.
House touched on the ability to upgrade consoles inside generations, such as PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One X, as reasons to believe PS4 will have a long life. He also spoke of the power of mass data collection, which hardware companies can leverage to extend the life of their products “in a safe and manageable way.”
House predicted that next-generation consoles will still likely operate with discs, rather than downloads and streams-only.
“I don’t have any firm knowledge on this, but my sense is that you will see the disc around in the industry for a while,” he said. “If you’re going to tap into some of these [developing] markets, then allowing for that more traditional physical purchase model as an option is probably no bad thing.”
House said that cloud-streaming of games will likely be a significant factor in the next generation of consoles.
“If you look back at console gaming history, there are certain inflection points that allow for the industry to be upended and for new participants to emerge,” he said. “One of those is when you have a wholesale shift in the distribution method.
“In content-based industries, that is what is creating barriers to entry for people to come in. So, other than the technical challenges, there’s no reason why game streaming can’t be present in games in the same way that we have seen in the music and film and television industries.
“The evidence I draw on was the original launch of PlayStation. That wasn’t based on 3D graphics alone. The vision was to shift from expensive cartridges to more accessible and cheaper disks. Dropping that barrier allowed developers to take more risks. Streaming could be the next inflection point. But the business model has to be thought through.”