(USA TODAY) - Sony is widely expected to unveil its next home video game console at an event in New York on Wednesday, as the Japanese electronics maker tries to reclaim its status atop the industry.
The company has yet to reveal any information about the device, other than a brief announcement encouraging video game players to "see the future" of PlayStation.
Speculation swirls around what features the next PlayStation might wield. Several industry analysts, including Inside Network's Billy Pidgeon, expect Sony to continue pressing forward with enhancements to the online PlayStation network and increased digital content options. "We've been seeing a trend toward offering (retail) games on the same day as downloadable games," he says. "That will likely continue."
Sony's upcoming console will also likely see an uptick in technical power. Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter says the console "is certainly going to be faster," but warns the jump might not seem as vast as previous generations. "I think we're getting to the point where games look almost real, (but) you're just not going to want to look more than real," he says.
The event arrives as Sony pushes to recapture some of its mojo in the video game hardware business. Its PlayStation 2, which launched in 2001, dominated its era and remains the most popular home console, with more than 155 million sold worldwide.
The PlayStation 3 has not fared as well, says P.J. McNealy, CEO of Digital World Research. The console sold more than 70 million units globally since its 2006 release. By comparison, the Xbox 360 - which launched a year earlier - has topped 76 million, while Nintendo Wii worldwide sales are above 95 million.
"The PS3 was a pretty big stumble," McNealy says. "It was too complex to develop for and ... as a result, it was too expensive, and developers had a hard time making games for it."
But Pachter notes the PlayStation brand is still "super strong," and carries several advantages over competitors including an impressive stable of franchises, including the LittleBigPlanet creative action series and the Indiana Jones-inspired adventure Uncharted. "They still have compelling first-party content," he says.
Along with serving as dedicated video game devices, the PlayStation 3 and rivals Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii have established themselves as home entertainment centers with apps such as Netflix, Hulu and YouTube, a trend anticipated to expand. However, Greg Miller, IGN's PlayStation executive editor notes it will require more than that to sell video game players on fresh hardware.
"You can't come out and say it's an entertainment hub," says Miller. "Microsoft has already proven that, and so has PlayStation 3. People are already playing games in HD. They're already getting these streaming services. What's the next step?"
(EDITOR'S NOTE: USA TODAY's Brett Molina will post live updates off Sony's event in New York starting at 6 p.m. ET. Check back at www.gaming.usatoday.com for Sony's announcement.)