Sony’s PlayStation Blurring Lines Between Console, PC Games

(Bloomberg) -- The PlayStation 4 revamp is a sign that gaming consoles are moving away from a six to seven-year life cycle, toward more frequent upgrades aimed at gamers seeking the flexibility offered by personal computers, the head of Sony Corp.’s game division said.

That step by the Tokyo-based electronics company follows an announcement last month that PC users will be able to play hundreds of PlayStation games through Sony’s streaming service without a console. 

Andrew House, the division chief, said the threat of gamers defecting to PCs played a part in the company’s decision to roll out PS4 Pro, an upgrade that will go on sale Nov. 10. He also indicated PlayStation Now, Sony’s streaming service, will take on an increasingly important role in the company’s games strategy, which now includes the PC.

The decision to release a more powerful PS4 was partly driven by “a sense that perhaps some of our most committed users will maybe gravitate toward the PC at some point in the life cycle because they place a great emphasis on graphics,” House said.

Sony last week announced two variants of its PlayStation 4 console: a more powerful version called PS4 Pro designed for high-quality video and VR, and a slimmer, more efficient version of the PS4 that originally went on sale in November 2013.

“This came also from conversations with our own creative partners who said that maybe the last life cycle was too long,” House said.

Sony is also pushing into virtual reality. The company’s PlayStation VR headset will go on sale within weeks, and must be paired with the company’s PS4 console to operate. The new hardware is priced at $399 in the U.S., significantly less than rival headsets from Facebook Inc. and HTC Corp. Sony has said it plans to compete in areas beyond games, including movie-related experiences, concerts, sporting events and possibly education and medicine.

Chief Executive Officer Kazuo Hirai has increasingly relied on House’s games division to turn the company around, which last fiscal year posted its biggest net income since 2008. The strong pace has continued this year, with operating income from the games unit more than doubling in the latest quarter.