Earlier this month, Sony detailed a new sort of television service, something that essentially could turn its PlayStation consoles into cable boxes.
Many analysts and journalists saw the cloud-based television service, called PlayStation Vue, as a direct attack on cable providers. But it’s not.
Vue is just the next step in Sony’s PlayStation 4 strategy. Where Nintendo’s Wii U struggles to adapt to the changing media consumption habits of the gaming generation and Microsoft’s Xbox One eyed conquering its competitors in the media space, Sony has other plans. The company has been, since the PS4’s launch, working to collaborate with its biggest challengers.
The approach seems to be driven by the idea that by embracing some of the technology and mediums that pulls an audience away from its console, it can diffuse the competition.
And that seems to be working, at least better than Nintendo’s or Microsoft’s strategies.
Nintendo take on the television is WiiTV, what was unveiled as a sort of super television hybrid, but ended up being a glorified remote control with an in-house social service that few people seem interested in using.
Microsoft’s take was much grander, and ultimately, more spectacular when it failed.
In April, Microsoft went on a press tour of sorts with Nancy Tellem, former CBS president and then head of entertainment and digital media at Microsoft. She was there to tell everyone about what could only be seen as Xbox TV, Microsoft’s full dive into original television programming. She was there to show off a full season of television originals created by Microsoft’s internal Xbox Entertainment Studios to appeal to millennial gamers.
Adapt, collaborate, conquer
It was the end move in a years long push to finally and completely conquer the den. An Xbox One that was not just central to your entertainment habits, but that controlled them.
But before it could get off the ground it crashed. The entire studio imploding before anything of substance managed to make its way onto a Microsoft console.
Enter the Vue.
Where Microsoft’s television studio was a sort of replacement for your current viewing habits, the Vue is an adaptation of them. The service will allow you to watch many of the same shows you’re already watching, but without the need for a cable box. Instead, you just pay Sony a monthly fee. A fee paid without contract or obligation, but still, unfortunately, sold as a bundle of channels.
Vue will, according to Sony, initially offer about 75 channels per market from a host of major programmers and local broadcast stations. That includes the likes of CBS, Fox and Viacom. It includes sports, premium channels, local news.
PlayStation will have also bent cable to its will
While pricing hasn’t been announced, Sony promises it will be transparent with no extra fees and that, beyond the need for Internet and a PlayStation, won’t require equipment or equipment fees. Most importantly, you can start and stop it month to month, depending on what you want.
Eventually, the service will come to the iPad and other Sony and non-Sony devices.
It’s certainly a great way for Sony to inject a nice cash flow into the company, but more importantly, it’s another reason for someone to have a PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4 sitting next to their television.
Prior to the launch of the PlayStation 4, Sony talked about how its console would use today’s social and entertainment trends to create a new sort of gaming experience. Then they delivered on that promise, launching a system that included the ability to stream gameplay over Twitch, to Tweet and Facebook and now, to even allow a friend to play your games for free online.
In a society almost obsessed with public disclosure, the PlayStation 4 is the only console with a button designed for sharing, a clear sign of a company looking to benefit from today’s entertainment and culture, not conquer it.
If the launch of Vue next year is successful, PlayStation will have also bent cable television to its designs, while Microsoft finds itself scrambling for a new identity