The video game and media industry is anxiously awaiting Sony's 6 pm eastern event in New York Wednesday, where it's expected to unveil its first new PlayStation since 2006. The pressure is on for Sony to deliver a console so impressive, it'll convince consumers to finally make a big investment in consoles and games again.
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In the long stretch since Sony and Microsoft debuted new consoles, casual gamers have shifted to free or cheap mobile games, and the physical packaged game business has suffered from month after month of double digit percentage declines. Now the big question is whether Sony can revive interest in packaged games beyond a few big brands, and whether Sony can build its console's role as the entertainment hub of the living room.
There are high hopes that this new console will mark the true next generation of gaming, and perhaps also the next generation of streaming content through an internet-connected box. And after Sony's new PlayStation, we expect Microsoft to debut its next generation Xbox ahead of the annual E3 video game show in LA in June.
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Nintendo recently downgraded its expectations for its new Wii U—saying that sales disappointed over the holidays: now it expects to sell just 4 million instead of 5.5 million units. So the pressure for Sony and Microsoft is on.
What can we expect? The "multi-screen" experience is expected to be front-and-center. That likely includes a touch-screen controller, similar to the one Nintendo features on its new Wii-U. But it also will mean the ability to have the PlayStation Vita, as well as tablets and smartphones work as controllers. In a move that could jumpstart game sales, we are likely to see some version of game streaming, thanks to Sony's acquisition of Gaikai, which specializes in streaming games, for $380 million last year.
The entertainment implications for the new PlayStation are huge. PlayStation 3 – as well as its Xbox rival—give access to the Netflix and various other entertainment apps like Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant. Now we have to see where Sony takes that entertainment capability next. There's some talk we could hear about DVR capability or even about an online TV service, which would put Sony into competition with the likes of Verizon, At&T and as of just last week, Intel as well. The question is whether we'll hear about a lot more exclusive content, available only to PlayStation owners.
Another area to watch is social—we can expect Sony to incorporate social gaming, and likely access to Facebook and Twitter, into the new console.
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—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin; Follow her on Twitter: