FEB. 18, 2014 • DFC Intelligence analyst Jeremy Miller attended Sony Computer Entertainment of America’s 2014 Preview event in Santa Monica on February 10. Sony PlayStation vice president of marketing John Koller opened the event with updates and stats on the PlayStation business. Following these remarks Sony provided hands-on demos to upcoming PS Vita, PSN and PlayStation 4 games, as hands-on time with four games in beta slated for Sony’s upcoming PlayStation Now service.
The PS4 has sold more than 5.3 million units worldwide since the November 15 launch through February 8. The system is currently available in 53 countries with the Japan launch set for February 22. Sony is refreshing retail with new units frequently, but exactly how often and how many was not disclosed. Retail software bestsellers on PS4 have been Call of Duty Ghosts, Battlefield 4, FIFA 14 and Assassin’s Creed IV, Koller said.
While the PlayStation 3 took three years to reach a 70% online penetration rate in the U.S., Koller reported that the PS4 is already at 90% connected. That’s a big win for SCEA given that a high rate of connection is critical to their long-term strategy for the platform. Koller disclosed household data showing the PlayStation 4 is now up to an average of 34 million hours of playtime per week. Total time on PS4, when including non-gaming activities such as media viewing, is 50 million hours per week. Online gaming has totaled 172 million hours since the PS4 launch.
SCEA staffers in attendance pointed out that the PS4’s social features have clearly been embraced. So far 48 million share sessions have been captured equaling an average of 10-plus per hardware unit, with 1.7 million total hours of live streaming sessions logged.
On the digital side of the PlayStation business, Koller said that December was the biggest month for digital sales in PlayStation history. That digital success had a tangible connection to retail as PSN card sales in stores was up 120% over the prior holiday period. PS Plus subscriptions are also up by 90%. However, he did not reveal stats on how much PS4 owners were using the play as you go download service to start playing digitally purchased games before they were fully delivered, only that the feature was being embraced.
Moving onto the subject of software, Sony anticipates over 100 games to come to PS4 in 2014 alone, with most being 1080p native. Right now Sony sees Activision’s Destiny as a realistic Game of the Year candidate and has large expectations for the title later this year, although the title is not a PlayStation 4 exclusive, as is Titanfall on the Xbox One. SCEA has some major exclusives this year such as Infamous: Second Son and The Order: 1886, but those are single player experiences.
Noting the PS4 has been getting most of the attention since November, Koller was proud to reveal that 48% of all software sales on PS Vita are digital. During 2014 there will be more than 1,000 games on Vita when factoring in digital, retail, PS Now and PlayStation Remote Play. Remote Play is a particularly attractive feature as one in three Vita owners also own a PS4 and 250k PS4 users have already tried the feature with Assassin’s Creed IV, NBA 2K14 and Don’t Starve as the most common games used.
As of January this year, the original hardware design of the PS Vita, known as the PSH-1000, is no longer being manufactured. Sony is replacing it with an updated hardware version, the PSH-2000 that first released in Japan in October and is being dubbed as PS Vita Slim, which will be coming to North America for $199 this spring bundled with 2K’s Borderlands 2. The PS Vita Slim is 20% thinner and 15% lighter than the original PS Vita and ships with one gigabyte of system memory while the OLED screen has been replaced with an LCD.
Sony’s upcoming game streaming service, PS Now, is currently in closed beta testing and was available for a hands-on demo at the event. Four games were playable: The Last of Us, God of War Ascension, Beyond Two Souls and Puppeteer. The games were very playable with minimal observable latency and input lag, however the location of the server running the demo was not disclosed. At CES last month, the server used for demonstrations was on-site. No details were offered on exact rollout or business models, but Sony did say that while only 1st party games were shown, Sony is working with third-party publishers to bring additional content to the service.
Finally, Sony showed off a few upcoming AAA exclusive PlayStation 4 games for 2014: The Order 1886, Infamous: Second Son, and MLB: The Show 14. The Order 1886 from developer Ready at Dawn is a new action franchise set in an alternate version of late 19th century London expected to release later this year. Infamous Second Son from developer Sucker Punch is the third game in the Infamous series and is a sci-fi open world action game set for release March 21. Both The Order and Infamous games are single-player only. MLB The Show 14 is set for a spring release. –Jeremy Miller