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The secret strategy behind Sony's PlayStation 4 'no show'

Monday Muse: This week we discuss Sony's poker strategy - and why Xbox needs to return to its roots

How enormously smart of Sony to seize the moment and "go first" without actually going first.

[PlayStation 4 - All the news | All the facts | Every video of all the games | Official pictures | PS4 Specs]

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What we saw on that electrifying Wednesday evening was merely a concept of a console, flatteringly portrayed by Sony executives and yet invisible to the scrutiny of critics. We heard of a "super-charged PC" ready for developers to exploit, an operating system as slick and baggage-free as an iPhone, a console sentient enough to predict what its owners want.

What we didn't see, of course, is how exactly Sony is going to achieve this. Let's not forget that Sony initially said the PS3 was an immensely powerful system that could change the colour of the sun whilst checking your emails, and look what happened to that.

So it's completely understandable that there are tough questions about Sony's grand promises (example; David Perry's ambition to stream every single previous PlayStation game would require an astronomical effort to untangle twenty years of old licensing agreements).

But as the Redmond-heads at Xbox mock their closest rival for not showing that sparkly box (in a sort of passive-aggressive Twitterism), they may not have noticed just how expertly Sony has played its hand.

The market has been desperate for new consoles for more than two years, and Sony has placed itself at the centre of that frenzy for next-gen. It puts pressure on Microsoft to respond, and gives the Xbox team a benchmark to meet. Yet PlayStation 4 is only a philosophy right now - there's not much of the console that Microsoft can measure, let alone leapfrog.

Yes, the mass-media may be a tad grumpy about being flown to New York just to see a logo, but this time Sony is shrewdly showing just some of its cards. The world is thrilled that PlayStation 4 is no longer speculation, and yet all the secrets of the machine won't be revealed until the second half of the year - by then the Next Xbox will be too close to the manufacturing phase for Microsoft to take into account the key features of its rival.

Maybe Kaz Hirai was actually onto something when he said in January: "Why go first when your competitors can look at your specifications and come up with something better?"


Xbox marks the spot

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Word is that Microsoft will respond in April (I've been told by someone I trust that it's April 26th, though we'll need to double-source this before we can publish it as a news piece on CVG).

It's quite obvious that the event will be glitzier than the PlayStation Meeting. Microsoft is financially far healthier than Sony and it will no doubt pay the big bucks for timed-exclusive DLC or any advantage it can get its hands on.

There are some doubts I have - particularly with Microsoft's underperforming internal studio network - but I wouldn't be surprised if the Xbox team had secured another exorbitant Rockstar deal, or a major agreement with Bungie, or even a monstrous Call of Duty partnership.

Whatever the Microsoft team cares to throw its money at, the emphasis must be on games this time. For too long the message about Xbox is how it has become an extended lifestyle brand: incorporating software for music and movies and so on.

Credit where it's due. Microsoft has pushed an eight year-old console into the living-room and across a range of demographics. But there hasn't been a landmark exclusive Xbox game for years, and it's been several years since Microsoft directly addressed its core gamer market. Let's hope the team remember how it's done.


Team CVG delivers

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I just wanted to take a moment to praise the incredible work the CVG team has done in the past several weeks. We've published some fantastic features that have been well received, along with huge scoops republished and read around the world. We've had a great mix of written and video content, plus a successful debut into the berserk world of Live Streaming.

It all cumulated last Wednesday, when the site hit a new traffic record and (smug apology) caused the website to crash twice. Our tech teams were on the case and immediately remedied the situation, so thanks to them and thanks to all our readers for their support and feedback.

This week kicks off with a big one: The Tomb Raider review is set to go live at 3pm GMT. Later this week we'll publish more interesting PS4 interviews, and something else that we're not allowed to talk about just yet...

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