Sony dangled the possibility of the imminent announcement of its next-generation PlayStation 4 console on Friday, sending out invitations to journalists for a 20 February press conference on “the future of PlayStation”.
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Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbuch Securities, said in a tweet that “Sony is inviting investors and media to the Feb 20 event; that means console announcement. I’m genuinely excited”.
The company declined to say whether it will actually release a new product at the event in New York. “We will be talking about the PlayStation business,” a spokesman told the Reuters news agency.
Sony executives have said that the PS3 is now a profitable business after some years of losses – typical for a games console. Expectation that Sony will unveil the specifications, if not the shape, of a PS4 console have been growing since it emerged that the company has stopped making its iconic PlayStation 2 console, and with the release by Nintendo of its new Wii U console before Christmas and the anticipated launch this year by Microsoft of a next-generation Xbox.
Sony has previously used meetings such as the New York one to show off prototypes or detail specifications: in January 2011 it displayed a version of its handheld PS Vita console, and early in 2005 revealed a concept version of the PlayStation 3. Similarly, the PS2’s first public showing came at a 1999 meeting. But the Vita is seen as being in trouble, with sales slowing down and being outstripped by those of Nintendo’s handheld devices, and by other handheld devices such as Apple’s iPod Touch.
The PS3 was launched in Japan in November 2006, but not in European markets until 2007 – meaning it missed the important Christmas sales. That gave Nintendo a key opening, leaving the Wii profitable and far ahead in sales. The PS3, which has sold about 70m consoles worldwide, has been seen as a disappointment compared to the wildly popular PS2. But the shape of the games console market has also changed dramatically since the PS3 was launched, with the rise of smartphones and tablets meaning people can now play games more cheaply and on the move. Nintendo said on Wednesday it was cutting forecasts for sales of the Wii U.