Though it had been rumored for many months, Sony officially announced this week at E3 that it is developing its first original TV series for the PlayStation console.
Based on the comic book series "Powers," the show is set to debut in December. The first episode will be free to watch on the PlayStation Network, and users will need a PlayStation Plus account to watch.
In some ways, the move to develop original content mirrors that of Microsoft's Xbox. In April, Microsoft detailed its plans for Xbox Originals, an ambitious plan to create about a dozen TV shows, documentaries and shorter video series. Those plans most notably include turning its "Halo" video game franchise into a series with Steven Spielberg as executive producer.
But in talking to John Koller, vice president of marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment America, at E3 this week, it's clear the company is also taking a very different approach toward original content.
"It's fair to say that we're taking a very deliberate approach," he said.
Which means, rather than developing a basket of shows, it's making just this one for now.
In part, that's because Sony wants to reassure core gamers that it's still primarily focused on their needs. The perception that Sony has catered to hardcore gamers more than Microsoft has with their latest consoles is one of the reasons analysts believe the PlayStation 4 has outsold the Xbox One by 7 million to 5 million since their respective launches last fall.
So Sony doesn't want to do anything that will disturb that perception. But at the same time, it wants to broaden the kind of PlayStation content in a way that excites its core audience while also helping to expand it.
Koller said after a long period of research and lots of discussions with gamers, the company felt that "Powers" was the right story.
"'Powers' was chosen because it has incredible street cred with the gaming community," Koller said. "It's a very diverse story line that appeals to gamers. We really want to focus on gamers."
The "Powers" comic books tell the story of two detectives who live in a world populated by superheroes. One of the detectives, Christian Walker, used to be a superhero, but lost his powers and then became a police officer.
"This character falls from greatness and falls to a very low level," Koller said. "There's this great tension that kind of pulls him through this series."
In taking this step, though, Koller said Sony hopes the new series will boost the visibility of the PlayStation platform, create some additional buzz around the Sony brand and provide an additional incentive for people to pay for PlayStation Plus accounts.
The series is being produced by Sony Pictures Entertainment. That might seem an obvious pairing, but in fact, as Sony Corp. has struggled overall in recent years, one criticism has been that its various parts (music, electronics, movies, etc.) have not worked well together. Indeed, some critics have called for the company to be broken up.
Instead, the company is pursuing the "One Sony" strategy laid out by its chief executive, Kaz Hirai. Koller said the development of "Powers" is a prime example of the company working more closely together.
"I would say in my time, we've never seen anything as integrated as we've seen with 'Powers,'" he said. "I hope it's really a model going forward."
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