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When Sony's "PlayStation Meeting 2013" goes live today at 3:00 PST/6:00 EST there will be a single question in my mind that will influence my opinion of their next-gen console more than any other. Issues such as the controller, used games, online services, game streaming, the "Share" button, hardware specifications and price will all prove significant, of course, but there's something more pressing in my mind. Don't get me wrong, what I'm thinking of isn't some convoluted theory or baseless assumptions -- in fact, it's quite dumb. I have a single dumb question that I want to be clearly addressed.
Sony could step up and answer my question in the first thirty second of their presentation. Like I said, it's nothing complicated. It's primarily focused on Sony's attitude going into the development of the next PlayStation and then what that means going forward. As such, it may not be a simple answer, but instead a theme that's pervasive throughout the entire event. In fact, they may never address it, but nevertheless my big dumb questions will have its answer whether Sony refers to it or not.
My stupid question is: Is the PlayStation 4 going to be a video game console? I know! Totally freaking idiotic, right? There's really no other way to put it. Still, there's more to the question than whether or not it'll play games. Clearly the thing will play games, Sony isn't just throwing it's future into the ocean here. Nevertheless, the question is hugely important, because the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii in recent years have evolved in a direction where it's difficult to discern whether being a video game console is their primary focus anymore. They are consoles that play video games, but perhaps they're focus isn't on being video game consoles anymore. Freaking nonsense, right?
Let me at least clarify my idiocy. In recent years, say the last three or four, Netflix and social media usage on consoles has skyrocketed. Sony knows this more than others, as they overtook the Wii as the leading streaming platform/gaming console out there. Another fact, Xbox 360 owners play online games more than twice as often as PlayStation 3 owners -- perhaps even worse, PlayStation 3 gamers are playing less online games and spending more time streaming media. In other words, Sony's market growth is perhaps greatest in the direction of streaming services and as a Blu-ray player.
Here comes the PlayStation 4 announcement and it appears as if Sony is at a potential crossroads. Does Jack Tretton take the stage today and say, "Here's the PlayStation 4, a video game console that will deliver the best gaming experiences for the next decade," or, "Here's the PlayStation 4, the next-generation centerpiece of the living room, fully equipped to deliver the best online streaming and social media environment of any next-gen console and also the great Sony games our fans have come to expect."
It's just a simple shift in attitude and marketing, but for gamers it might make all the difference. Look at the Wii U, who took the latter route and is now floundering without a significant game release in months. They've got a pretty exciting social hub and interesting community features, though!
There is a war approaching between Microsoft and Sony for which will be the appropriate choice for people who buy consoles to play games, but it may not even be the front-lines this time around.
Yes, it's a dumb question, "Is the PlayStation 4 going to be a video game console?" It's dumb, but it's quite honestly the most important question to me and for a majority of you, too. I want Jack Tretton to walk on stage, point at the screen and say, "I want you on team PlayStation, let's talk about video games." The degree to which Sony confirms my question will make all the difference.
Follow Rory on Twitter @bluexy or read his news, reviews and features every day here at Neoseeker.