Japanese electronics giant Sony is hoping to revive its flagging videogame business with the launch of its latest PlayStation console, which is expected to hit the shelves by the end of this year.
The PlayStation 4 will be Sony’s first home console in seven years but the group faces a tough battle in tempting users away from their smartphones and tablet computers, which already account for about 10 per cent of the $80 billion (£52bn) global gaming market.
In a bid to overcome that challenge, the firm will launch an app for Android and Apple devices that will turn them into a “second screen”, for example to display maps or let people buy games while away from home.
It also said the machine’s “deeply integrated social capabilities” would let users upload videos of their gameplay to social networking sites such as Facebook by pressing a button on the controller.
Jack Tretton, president and chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment America, said the console “really connects every device in the office and the smartphone and the tablet out there in the world”.
Almost 150 developers are working on titles for the Play-Station 4, including industry giants Capcom, Sega and Take-Two Interactive, the company behind the best-selling Grand Theft Auto series.
However, Billy Pidgeon, an analyst at Inside Network Research, said he did not expect “heavy uptake” in the immediate aftermath of the machine’s launch. He added: “It looks good and had a lot of great games but the industry is different now.”
Although the launch event in New York did not reveal the price of the new machine – or even what it will look like – Sony did show off its controller, dubbed DualShock 4, which will feature a touchpad, built-in speaker and headphone socket. Sony was a late entrant to the videogame business, introducing its first PlayStation in 1994 – four years behind the release of Nintendo’s SNES.
But the brand quickly established itself among committed gamers and the launch in 2000 of the PlayStation 2, which included a DVD player, cemented its dominance, with more than 150 million units sold before production ended last month.
Sales of the group’s handheld games, such as the PS Vita, have flagged as more people take to playing on their smartphones, and rivals such as Microsoft and Nintendo have sold considerably more home consoles in recent years, having added motion-tracking cameras and controllers to their devices.
According to analysts, sales of the PlayStation 3, which was released in 2007, are just shy of the 67 million Xbox 360 machines Microsoft has sold and well behind the 100 million Wii consoles shifted by Nintendo.
However, Nintendo recently cut its sales forecasts for its latest console, the Wii U, which has a controller with a built-in touchscreen. The firm expects to sell four million of the machines in the year to March, short of the 5.5 million target it set at the time of its launch in November.
Microsoft is expected to announce the successor to its Xbox 360 at the annual E3 games exhibition in Los Angeles this summer.