A major question among gamers was cleared up this week by Sony Corp. (NYSE:SNE) President and Group CEO Andrew House when he revealed why Sony wanted to announce the eighth-generation PlayStation 4 before its rival, Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT), unveiled the Xbox One last year.
In 2013, there was a lot of discussion over which multimedia powerhouse would unveil its next-generation console first; Sony took the plunge on Feb. 20 that year at an official PlayStation meeting in New York City.
"I think we were probably earlier in the announce than we have been previously, and that was very deliberate," House said at the Develop conference, which ends July 10. "I wanted to be out there first with the first announcement for this generation, so you've got an opportunity to stake the ground and hopefully take something of a leadership position. Again, we'd had the experience of launching later than our competitor, and that played very heavily to many of the thought processes and decisions made about PlayStation 4."
Though fans were excited about the announcement at the time, many were confused by the lack of any kind of prototype. House explained that he wasn’t satisfied with the initial console designs, so he asked developers to go back to the drawing board. Five sketches were presented to him, and House narrowed them down to two. Over the next week, the CEO asked several members of the Sony team for feedback. After some deliberation, House went with his “gut feeling” and chose the design for the PlayStation 4 that we know today.
"This is one where I think, honestly, we were a little caught off guard and wrong-footed," he admitted. "If you look back at our history of previous reveals, we generally always went with explaining what the concept would be, articulating what package the overall consumer experience was going to be, and then later revealing the hardware. So this felt very natural and normal to us."
Sony revealed more PS4 features later in the year at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, where Microsoft discussed the Xbox One.
"My benchmark at the end of the day was knowing I was going to get up there at E3 and have to do this," House said, raising his arms, miming holding a PS4 console above his head. "What would I be proudest holding?"
Perhaps Sony’s plan worked: The PS4 has outsold the Xbox One every month but one since November, when both consoles were launched, according to NPD. Earlier this week, Sony said the latest PlayStation has sold 9 million units so far globally, while the Xbox One sold only 5 million.
Maybe being first does matter.