PlayStation TV to Take On Set-Top Boxes Like Apple TV and Roku

Source: thinkstock

Source: thinkstock

These days there are dozens of options if you want an Internet-connected device to plug into your television. You’ve got the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) TV, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) Fire TV, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Chromecast, and Roku — and that’s not even taking into consideration game consoles like the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. At this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, Sony (NYSE:SNE) announced that it is preparing to release a set-top box of its own, called the PlayStation TV. The device will be available this fall for $100.

Already released in Asia under the name Vita TV, the PlayStation TV is essentially a PS Vita in a new package. Just like the handheld gaming device, the PlayStation TV will be able to play video and audio content from the PlayStation Store, and if Sony gets its way, services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Go, and Hulu. Those third-party apps haven’t been confirmed yet, but Sony says it is working with streaming service companies that have apps on other PlayStation devices.

The chief differentiator between the PlayStation TV and its similarly-priced competition is its gaming capabilities. While you can play a small number of casual video games on some of the competing devices, the PlayStation TV will be a relative gaming powerhouse, with over 1,000 compatible games at launch. Using various methods, the PlayStation TV will be able to play games originally made for PlayStation One, PlayStation 3, and PS Vita. It can even stream some games from a nearby PlayStation 4 console, if you have one.

One other advantage the PlayStation TV will have over its competitors is Sony Entertainment’s vast amount of content, which the company may be able to use to the device’s advantage. In addition, Sony has already lined up exclusive new content, like a TV show based on the comic book series Powers.

It will be interesting to see how much of a difference the PlayStation TV’s gaming capabilities make in terms of sales against other set-top boxes. The $400 PlayStation 4 is already the leading game console in the current market. On a fundamental level, the PlayStation TV actually is a PS Vita; the only difference is that you plug it into your television instead of playing on a built-in screen. Unfortunately for Sony, the PS Vita has been doing decidedly poorly in terms of sales, lagging behind the Nintendo 3DS by a wide margin.

Also, playing games on the device requires a PlayStation 3 controller, which doesn’t come with the $100 version. Sony plans to release a $140 bundle that includes a PlayStation TV, a PS3 controller, an 8GB memory card, an HDMI cable, and a voucher to download The Lego Movie Video Game.

So what customers is Sony targeting with the PlayStation TV? “We’re really going after this new audience of families with kids that can play [PlayStation TV] together, with games that are accessible,” said Sharon Kapitula, the platform planning manager for PlayStation. “[We] feel like that’s the easiest and most accessible [way] for people just coming into the PlayStation ecosystem.”

Whether that tactic will prove effective remains to be seen. The set-top box market is a crowded space, so it’s difficult for newcomers to find traction. On the plus side, the PlayStation TV far outstrips the competition when it comes to games. The question is, with so much of the casual gaming market being covered by smartphones and tablets, will anybody care?

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