Sony's new PlayStation TV could be the device that bridges the divide between casual and serious gamers, who have traditionally been separated by console price and processing power.
Sony Corp.’s (NYSE:SNE) video game division, Sony Computer Entertainment America, announced at E3 on June 9 that it will release a compact streaming box in the United States, Canada and Europe this fall, a year after its debut in Japan as the PS Vita TV.
Sony plans to offer streaming music and video services through the PlayStation TV, similar to those offered by Apple TV and the Roku Streaming Player. Currently, the PlayStation TV excels at making gaming more accessible to the masses.
At $99, the PlayStation TV can natively play select PS Vita games, PSP titles and PS One classic titles, along with PS3 games streamed through the PlayStation Now streaming gaming service. This is accomplished via the device's internal hardware, which is similar to the hardware in the portable PS Vita and PlayStation Now, currently in beta testing on PS4 and PS3 consoles throughout the United States.
For those who already own a Sony PlayStation 4, the PlayStation TV serves as an expansion of the console, allowing remote play of PS4 games on other television sets in the house without purchasing another $399 device.
What does it mean for the casual gamer?
The PlayStation TV significantly lowers the barrier to entry for owning a game console while providing a range of services for just about every type of gamer and entertainment consumer.
From the casual player who picks up a game once in a while to the serious player who spends entire nights advancing through game levels, users can choose from a library of nearly 1,000 games for the PS Vita, the PlayStation Store and PlayStation Now streaming titles, according to Sony. Coupled with the PS Now service, PlayStation TV owners will be able to pay a subscription fee to gain access to streaming game titles or rent them one by one.
Besides the range of titles, the PlayStation TV's price is another factor that boosts its potential to attract both casual and serious gamers. While serious players have been willing to shell out upward of $400 on the latest console, casual gamers are generally more reluctant to part with their hard-earned dollars. The opposite happened with the Nintendo Wii, which launched in 2006 and found success with the casual market. But in the process, it alienated many serious gamers as developers turned their attention to more powerful hardware like the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.
We'll have to wait and see if the PlayStation TV will be Sony’s gaming watershed moment, but it certainly is likely to introduce an increasing number of entertainment consumers to video games.