After the immense success of the PS1 and PS2, the PS3 era was a different one for Sony. Thanks to marketing blunders, questionable decisions, and most importantly, hardware that may have been incredibly impressive but was very hard to develop for, the PS3 was a tricky system to manage for Sony in more ways than one, and though it ultimately ended up selling a whole lot of units and had an impressive library, it was responsible for nearly emptying the coffers Sony had built up with its two predecessors.
The PS4 was a very conscious about-turn for the company. Sold at a cheaper price with a much more standardized architecture that was very easy to develop for, it was a clear statement by them that they were not going to repeat their mistakes with the PS3. As we now know, it proved to be a huge success for Sony- but if it hadn’t been, it may very well have been the end of PlayStation.
Speaking in the upcoming PlayStation documentary called The PlayStation Revolution (via VGC), former PlayStation executive Shahid Ahmad – who spent a decade at Sony working on the brand – talked about the same, starting with describing the PS3 as a turning point for Sony, changing their outlook from a “hubristic” company to “a much more gritty, determined, focused entity.”
“PS3 was many things to many different people,” Ahmad said. “It was definitely a difficult period, because a lot of work had to be done to turn around the technical deficit and the monetary deficit created by the launch of this extraordinary piece of hardware.
“Because it was an extraordinary piece of hardware, but it was also extraordinarily difficult to get the best out of. And people did, and it did eventually turn into a success. but my god was that a war of attrition.”
“The PlayStation that emerged at the end of PS3 was a much more gritty, determined, focused entity – and I’m not saying this from a personal perspective, but from a corporate perspective – than the much more hubristic organisation at the beginning of the PS3 era,” he said.
Ahmad went on to add that Sony were surprised by the immense and immediate success of the PS4, further adding that if the console had proved to be a failure, it “could’ve been the end.”
“I think even we were surprised by just how rapturous the reception was for PS4, because it was a kind of redemption as well,” he said. “We’d been through the fire with PS3 and now everything was on the line. We had to get this right and if we didn’t, it could’ve been the end.
“The strategy was set, the hardware was focused and all that remained was launch and reception. Partners were there, developers were involved – even independent developers were involved in the launch of PS4. The pricing had been set. Decisions about DRM and so on, which had been so controversial in other events, had also been made.
“What we didn’t expect was that it would be such an incredible success, beyond our wildest dreams. But it was the tone with which we communicated the whole thing: ‘this is 4 the players’. The entire focus of launch was around players.”
That focus on players and ensuring that their console is built on hardware that is easy to develop for is something that Sony are carrying forward into the PS5 as well. Whether it proves to be as successful as the PS4 remains to be seen, but recent reports have suggested that Sony are expecting big things.