Company Analysis Essay: Sony PlayStation

Sony Entertainment has a rich legacy in the entertainment industry where the conglomerate’s products include rich offerings in film, music and gaming. Of particular interest, is the Sony PlayStation line of gaming consoles which has revolutionized the gaming industry with its progressive technology and creative product line.

Early Successes

The PlayStation line of products has always been impressive due to the high degree of innovation and technical sophistication shown in the design of Sony’s gaming consoles. Illustratively, the company’s first product, the PSX, introduced full 3D gameplay in 1994, effectively changing the word of computer games forever Harris, B. (2014). Sony’s technological expertise also allowed it to win the DVD format war that pitted the Blu-ray against the HD-DVD.  By creating a relatively low cost solution to the storage of high quality video, Sony once against demonstrated that it could combine quality with affordability in its engineering products. The PlayStation was a crucial determinant of the outcome of this technology war. This is because it was the first mainstream product that featured a Blu-ray Disc Harris, B. (2014). So successful was this product that competing consoles were forced to uptake the Blu-Ray Technology.

Design Philosophy

Sony’s engineers have also been at the forefront in creating sleek looking machines that slot right into the living room. The PlayStation has been characterized by slim and elegant designs that house an unprecedented amount of computing power. This design criterion is demonstrated by the company’s most recent offering, the PS4. This console is the most powerful gaming console ever made, yet at less than 4 Kg, it is one of the lightest. The machine design is elegant as it is futuristic. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the machine’s uptake has been almost 20% higher than that of its closest competitor.

Current Console

As the flagship 8th generation console for Sony, the PS4 is set to extend Sony’s dominance for at least another decade. This success is down to the fact that the console offers is offers unmatched gaming experience to its users. As a game developer, Sony have gone great lengths to create entertaining gaming titles that are exclusive to the PlayStation. This is especially impressive considering the fact that the Xbox had, for some time, been the industry leader in the creation of exclusive content. Sony overtook its rival by expanding its software development team by bring in a development team that catered to a wider scope of gaming genres. This has enabled the firm to churn out an increased number of exclusive title that appeal to numerous gaming tastes. Illustratively, the latest offering on the PS3 exclusives, The Last of Us won critical acclaim for its immersive gameplay and stunning graphics. This success has been replicated on the PS4 with a updated version of the game. Sony has also gone a step further to appeal to multi-platform game developer. With previous generations of gaming consoles, especially the PS3, developers faced difficulties creating software for PlayStation. This is because the company’s hardware architecture was unfriendly to game programmers. With the PS4, game developers will have the benefit of developing for a machine that is very similar to the personal computer. The vast majority of software development tools have been designed for this hardware platform. As a result, developing games for the PS4 is bound to be relatively easy. This shift in hardware designed is already benefitting gamers and developers alike. Developers report lower error count in PlayStation games. At the same time, gamers are now enjoying graphically enhanced games that show even better performance than computer and XBOX versions.

Benefits of the PS4

 

The PlayStation is more than a gaming console. It is a comprehensive home entertainment system that allows users to access multiple entertainment media from the same point. Using one services, users can access the latest TV shows, music and film releases without having to use their computer for the same. Sony have brought convenience to the living room by creating a one-stop solution for entertainment. With regards to its main purpose, Sony have designed a console with a variety of users in mind. Traditionally, the gaming industry has always been dominated by youth. The older generation and pre-teen generation, however represents a vast untapped market. Nintendo was among the first companies to recognize the vast potential of this market with its Wii console. Sony have been fast to respond. Both the PS3 and the PS4 feature motion play with family friendly games. As such the PlayStation has evolved into a gaming console for the whole family. With its wide variety of gaming features, this machine offers wholesome entertainment for virtually every age group.

In the information age, social networking has significantly changed the mode of social interactions. Many people now interact with friends and relatives over social networks as opposed to traditional mail and phone calls. The PlayStation has kept up with this trend with its own social network, The PlayStation network (PSN). This feature harnesses the interactive power of social networking to make gaming a more indulging and wholesome experience. Sony’s PSN allows users to interactively compete with one another or spectate on games across an international network of consoles. With an internet connection and affordable PSN subscription, it is now possible to engage in online completion and social interactions.  Sony has created an entirely different social network that differs fundamentally from existing PC network in excluding the PC and mobile devices but still offers the same level of user satisfaction. This feature is illustrative of the company’s revolutionary product design philosophy.

The competition

The PlayStation’s competitors have mainly been technology firms Microsoft and Nintendo. Both firms have their own gaming consoles; the Xbox and the Nintendo. With each of these consoles designed to dominate the gaming industry, Sony has faced stiff competition for gamers. Starting in the 1990s, the then new PlayStation faced tough competition from the already established Nintendo.  Sony’s smart engineering solutions enabled it to win a sizeable chunk of the gaming market, illustratively, while Nintendo consoles used low capacity cartridges for storage, the PlayStation introduced the use of compact discs. These offered a high capacity storage solutions to the storage of games and entertainment media.  The company also instituted strict approval criteria for game developers to ensure development of strong gaming tiles that could compete with those of Nintendo. This strategy worked, with the company winning the hearts of gamers using its strong product offering. By the end of 1999, Sony PlayStation consoles were had taken over 50% of the USA’s gaming market. Nintendo lagged behind at 30%.

In addition to quality gaming design, Sony also established dominance over the gaming industry by offering enticing features with its gaming consoles. This strategy is best illustrated by the success of the PS2. Upon its October 2000 launch, this console quickly dominated the home entertainment industry because of its DVD playback feature. By the time the console was launching DVD players were a luxury in American homes, with only 11% of US families owning a DVD player. Sony’s gaming console offered the DVD playback feature as an extra feature of its gaming console. This enabled the company to retain its strong market presence. With internet connectivity now becoming widely accessible, the next realm of gaming console wars now shifted to online gaming. In this respect, Microsoft’s Xbox Live posed a serious threat to Sony’s dominance. PlayStation Network, however, allowed the company to maintain its grip on the gaming market. As the gaming industry moved into 7th generation gaming, competition between Sony and Microsoft became even more intense. Microsoft’s flagship console for the generation, the XBOX 360, launched almost a year before the PS3. This gave it a significant head start over the competition and once again, Sony had to play catch up with its competitors. When it finally launched, the PS3 impressed gamers with its high computing power and all-in-one entertainment offerings. Once again, Sony relied on strong gaming titles to capture the market form competitors. By the time the PS4 launched, PS3 market share had matched that of the XBOX 360.

Current improvements

With its latest console, Sony has shown a willingness to learn from past mistakes. The company sought to avoid the pitfalls of a late launch by débuting the console a moth before Microsoft presented its corresponding 8th generation console (Gilbert, 2013). Consequently, Sony reasserted itself as the market leader. It maintained the strong game title offering that characterized previous consoles while appealing to hardcore gamers with a game-focused console design. Sony also showed a willingness to fully exploit the capability of online gaming by introducing revolutionary online sharing capabilities. Using the PS4, players can now upload clips to popular social networking sites such as Facebook and twitter. These features are absent on all competing consoles, once again demonstrating Sony’s knack for thinking ahead of the competition. The new console is sleekly designed and extremely powerful, even for an 8th generation console. This gives the company a significant advantage even over PC gamers who have traditionally posed a threat to console gaming with high end gaming computers.

The PS4 also appeals to gamers because of its permissive gaming policy. Prior to the launch of both the PS4 and the Xbox One, Microsoft announced a number of restrictive policies that would make gaming on their 8th generation console both expensive and inconvenient. The firm announced that gamers would not be allowed to use copies of gaming discs on more than one machine. They also announced that internet connectivity was mandatory to all XBOX users. Sony’s PlayStation team, on the contrary, announced that gamers would be allowed to share discs. They also made it clear that internet connection was not mandatory for PlayStation users. This contrast in policy highlights Sony’s willingness to compromise profit for consumer benefit. The sharing of game copies is bound to eat into the company’s game sales. Nevertheless, by instituting a permissive gaming policy, Sony appeals to an increased number of gamers. Indeed, the Xbox has since realized the folly of its gaming policy and reversed a majority of these rules. The fact that Sony made not such mistakes shows that it has its customer’s welfare as a chief determinant of company policy. This considerate strategy has allowed the firm to steer clear of profit oriented policies that drive away potential clients.

Another significant benefit enjoyed by PlayStation users is the strong design philosophy that guides Sony’s console development. The uncompromising quality of PlayStation design is especially evident in the PS3 and PS4 design history. Upon the launch of 7th generation consoles PS3 and XBOX 360, Sony’s superior quality became evident to gamers around the world. While up to 24% of Microsoft’s console reported hardware failures, less than 10% of PS3s reported hardware problems. Sony realized design because it relied on established development and devoted a significant amount of resources to ensuring that PlayStation technology was both mature and reliable. Illustratively, the PS3’s processor was a joint development of Sony, IBM and Toshiba that consumed close to $400 million over 4 years. That PlayStation dedicated such a huge amount of resources to the development of just one component of a console shows the company’s commitment to quality. The company continued its strong research and development agenda with the PS4. This was made clear by announcement that the company was already developing a next generation console just three months after the PS3’s launch (Gilbert, 2013). The enabled the company to develop, test and launch the most powerful gaming console in less than 7 years. With the PS4, gamers have access to unmatched graphics and next generation computing without the glitches that characterize many flagship devices. Sony’s dedication to quality has seen it procure the services of established computer engineers and software developers that guarantee the best results. This strong design philosophy allows gamers to use the PlayStation with confidence. It permits greater user satisfaction and ensures strong brand following.

The gaming industry is characterized by the ability of companies to offer cheap hardware and then recoup potential losses though software sales. Console sales are mainly aimed at dominating the game software market. Sony has been quick to take advantage of this strategy. The company made $8 profit on each PS3 console. With the PS4, this profit margin is even narrower. The company has moved quickly to rectify these low profit margins with an attractive but pricey software products. The company has acquired exclusive ownership of several game developer firms, allowing it to dominate software sales and enhance the console’s appeal. With a strong lineup of exclusive titles, PlayStation offers unmatched gaming experiences and allows the company to continue offering cheap hardware without compromising its profitability.

As a living room entertainment product, a gaming console needs to employ trendy design. Sony have demonstrated that they are aware of the need to create impressive hardware designs that blend into the living room. This is one of the feature that comes across as most impressive to me. Combining power and beauty is not a mean feat, yet Son have done it repeatedly with each one of their consoles. With each launch, PlayStation users get a console that is trendy, compact and in line with modern living room aesthetics. The current console is an embodiment of Sony’s beautiful designs. Despite being an extremely powerful computer, the console is sleek and light. The console combines a matte and shiny finish that is easy to clean and easy on the eye. The slanting design of the console body makes the machine look both futuristic and trendy. The machine is also compact, with Sony having managed to retain the power supply within the console. With this machine, users get a smart looking machine that complements the modern living room and provides unmatched entertainment experience.

Another significant benefit available to PlayStation users is the affordability of Sony’s console. The PS4 costs just $399. A personal computer of equivalent computing power would not cost less than $800 costs (Yamamoto, 2014). Even then, such a computer would not have the same level of graphical and computing output as the PlayStation. The Xbox One costs users $100 more than the PS4. This is significantly pricier, especially considering that the console is not as powerful as the PS4. Further, Sony’s game developers are now enjoying reduced development costs (Yamamoto, 2014). These benefits have been expended to users, with next-generation titles costing no more than their equivalents on competing consoled. The PlayStation development team is clearly considerate of customers’ economic welfare. This is a major reason why the company is a leader in the gaming industry.

As a gaming device, the PS4 now offers enjoyable gaming experience because of a number of innovative design tweaks that make the PS4 gaming experience one unlike any other The new console’s controller has 16 buttons and a touchpad. These facilities gives users the power to perform numerous tasks during gaming and alternative console use. For example, users can now update Facebook statues at the flick of a button (Gilbert, 2013). The controller also allows users to plug in a headphone jack. For a living room user of the device, this is very convenient. Users can use the machine in relative privacy without sacrificing their mobility. The console also allows users to use virtual reality gadgets.  This enables a new genre of gaming experiences for users. With this machine, Sony also allows users to access the machine from smartphones. Indeed, users can play games on from remote devices. This is a huge benefit, considering the fact that up to 90% of gamers own smartphones. Illustratively, the PlayStation’s features are of great benefit to users.

Conclusion

All rounded entertainment on the PS4 is ensure by Sony’s music, video and TV applications. This consoles provides virtually all of the modern living room’s entertainment needs. Users can stream music from Sony’s Music Unlimited, watch TV shows on Netflix and play 3D Blu-ray movies on the device. Further, users can surf the internet and keep tabs on recent gaming developments using the device’s internet applications. Sony has promised to introduce even more capabilities in future software patches. The PlayStation development team is clearly intent on catering to all entertainment needs using an all-in-one solution. In my opinion, any modern home would benefit from PS4 ownership.

The evolution of PlayStation shows a willingness to learn and innovate by Sony. With each successive console, Sony has managed to outwit the competition using a combination of smart market moves, futuristic designs and strong product offerings.  The company’s strong brand following has been established though years of quality-oriented research that prioritizes client satisfaction. As a result, when it comes to providing comprehensive home entertainment at affordable rates, the PlayStation is a clear winner. This is a major reason why the company is set to dominate the gaming industry over the coming decade.

 

 

References

Gilbert, B. (2013). Sony unveils its next game console, the PlayStation 4. Engadget (AOL). Retrieved 21 November 2014 from http://www.engadget.com/2013/02/20/sony-ps4-announcement/

Harris, B. (2014). Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation. New York, NY: It Books.

Yamamoto, J. (2014). The Black Art of Multiplatform Game Programming. New York: Cengage Learning.

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