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PS4 Unveiled by Sony, Reactions are Mixed

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PS4 Unveiled by Sony, Reactions are Mixed

PS4, Sony’s new console was unveiled last night, marking its first new console since 2006. Investors and geeks alike were somewhat underwhelmed by the PS4 announcement, as details were limited, no killer features were introduced, and Ps4 did not provide consumers a compelling reason to buy the console yet.

As well, for GameStop Corp. (NYSE:GME), some key details were lacking, including whether the PS4 will play used games. That uncertainty, combined with the PS4’s lack of backwards compatibility, could initially weigh on GameStop Corp. (NYSE:GME) stock, at least until we get more details from Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758) and a Microsoft announcement at E3 in June.

On the positive side: (1) PS4 will be launching for holiday 2013, which may have been anticipated, but does not appear to be reflected in Street estimates. For reference, the last three PS consoles averaged 1 million units during their first holiday. (2) Content support seemed decent, including Killzone: Shadow Fall, Drive Club, Infamous: Second, a new Final Fantasy, Watch Dogs, and Diablo III, with many moreexpected at E3 in June. (3) Graphics seemed to be well received by gamers.

However, the negative: (1) the PS4 will not play old PS3 physical games, a potential negative for console adoption given consumers’ demand for backwards compatibility, and for GameStop Corp. (NYSE:GME)’s used business. (2) Downloading functionality has improved, per Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758). (3) Streaming features will allow users to demo games before purchasing, which may raise concerns as to whether that evolves to full game streaming.

ome key questions remain: (1) What will be the pricing on hardware and games? (2) Will content be delivered primarily through discs, through downloads, or a combination, as details were vague? (3) Will the PS4 be able to play used games, as it had been believed Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758) had technology to limit the used business? (4) Innovation on the controller front?

PS4 Launch Date: Holiday 2013. No details on specific date.

PS4 Price: No details. Expectations were for ~$300-400 vs. $599 launch price of predecessor, PS3.

Backwards Compatibility: PS4 will not play PS3 discs, but over time will offer the ability to play old games through its cloud services. This was discussed in the WSJ over the weekend and to some degree has been priced into GameStop Corp. (NYSE:GME)’s stock.

Investors’ initial concern is that PS4’s lack of backwards compatibility could be a major issue for console adoption upfront. According to a recent consumer survey from Credit Suisse, 58% of gamers that expressed interest in purchasing a next-generation device noted it must play old games or they would not buy the device.

PS4 survey via Credit Suisse

Lack of backwards compatibility could also limit the used business for GameStop Corp. (NYSE:GME), as PS4 gamers will not be able to buy old PS3 games. However, Credit Suisse believes that a smaller percent of GME’s used sales are cross platform. Importantly, they believe a separate PS3 business can still exist and potentially thrive, as some gamers trade in their old PS3 products to upgrade, driving the secondary PS3 market.

A separate PS4 used business could potentially exist, although Sony did not confirm if the PS4 will play used PS4 games. PS2 had a very strong life after the PS3 was launched in 2006. Since 2006, PS2 sold 14 million units, averaging over 2 million a year.

Downloading/Games: Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758) noted it made downloading easier and will allow gamers to continue playing games will new content downloads in the background. Regarding streaming, Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758) will allow users to demo any game in its store prior to purchasing the full game. It may also allow users to stream select old PS3 titles, although details were limited.

Connectivity: The PS4 will be integrated with other Sony devices, as well as phones and tablets. PS4 will also offer remote play through the PS Vita, where users can stream their games to that mobile device.

Other PS4 features discussed: Sony discussed new social features to allow users to watch and even assist friends in gamely. There is also a heavy emphasis on personalization, where Sony Corporation (NYSE:SNE) (TYO:6758) will help predict the next game you want and will preload it. On the content side, there was some discussion of Netflix and Hulu Plus but few details so far.

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