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Sony’s PlayStation 4 could lose to the next Xbox before it’s even released

Published Dec 14th, 2012 2:28PM EST

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I love all game consoles equally. My Xbox 360 is used equally as much as my PlayStation 3. The Wii — oh, I’ll just leave it at that. The current generation of consoles is all but over — 10-year life cycle be damned — and new consoles are rumored to be coming next fall. If not next fall, then in 2014. Whatever is the case, Sony (SNE) can’t afford to lag in third place again. Sure, the Xbox 360 and PS3 are neck-in-neck in global lifetime sales, and the Xbox 360 did have a one year head start, but coming off the disappointing PS Vita, “confidence is less high” that Sony will deliver a console next year in time to compete with Microsoft (MSFT), according to Kotaku.

I want a new console just as much as any other gamer. There’s a reason people are still pouncing on those Wii U consoles and flipping them on eBay. Six years is unusually long for a console to still be kicking around.

According to the well-informed Stephen Totilo, Editor-in-Chief of Kotaku, the game blog that first broke news on the next-gen Xbox, Microsoft’s “Durango” is “on the mark” and “Sony appears to inspire less confidence…due to the on-and-off troubles of the PlayStation 3 and the struggles of the Vita vs. how much lost confidence is due to any problems looming for PS4.”

Totilo says “confidence is high that the next Xbox will be out in time for next Christmas” and confidence is low that the PS4 will be right there on store shelves next to it.

The “on-and-off troubles of the PlayStation 3” Totilo is referring to is the anchor that’s weighed the console down since launch: tougher development due to the Cell processor and less available RAM – 256MB vs. 512MB in the Xbox 360.

In the months before the PS3’s launch in 2006, Sony said the console would be the most powerful console ever created, and here we are six years later and multi-platform games on the console consistently end up being buggier and uglier than on the Xbox 360 in many cases. Cases in point: Skyrim, Mass Effect 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II.

Sony’s in a rut right now. It has the chops to build beautiful and powerful hardware that’s a developer’s dream (ex: PS Vita), but at the same time, it’s always launching after the competition nowadays.

If Sony’s learned any lessons in the last half a decade, it better apply them to the PS4. The console needs to offer next-level processing and graphics. It needs to be backward-compatible with PS3 games and play Blu-ray discs. It should be small and quiet. It should have a strong online platform, support a greater array of apps and most importantly be easy for developers to program for.

Game exclusives will always be important, but now that games are million-dollar productions, multi-platform will be where developers hope to reap back their costs.

With Microsoft said to be preparing an “Xbox 720” and an “Xbox Lite,” Sony can’t make the mistake of launching late or pricing the console too high. A launch in spring of 2014 would mean Sony will miss Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the two biggest shopping days of the year that bring in massive sales.  Ceding sales and market share to Microsoft and Nintendo by launching late would be disastrous.

The PS3 screwed up too many times. At this point, the PS4 needs to be perfect out of the door.

Raymond Wong is a technology reporter with a passion for cutting-edge gadgets and clean design. His writing has appeared on DVICE, Ubergizmo, G4TV, Yahoo News, NBC blogs. You might even have seen his videos on Xbox LIVE.