Sony Computer Entertainment Japan and Asia is going to hold a press conference on Monday at 3 PM Japan time. During the conference they’re expected to announce the release date of the PS4 in the Asian region, but there’s probably more to it than meets the eye.
The local release date of the PS4 is definitely relevant news, but it’s definitely something pretty much limited to local relevance. Despite the importance of the juicy Japanese market, most western gamers would simply shrug and move on when told the street date of a console in nations that have nothing to do with them.
Yet, Sony is not only livestreaming the conference on the PlayStation Blog, but it’s also providing a translation in English. That’s a very interesting fact, especially if you consider that the west already had three relevant conferences focused on the PS4 this year: the PlayStation Meeting in February, Sony’s keynote at E3 and the presser at Gamescom.
In addition to that, the timing is also relevant. 3 PM on a Monday means that a whole lot of the Japanese gamers that should be the primary target of that conference will be at work or in their classroom at school. On the other hand 3 PM in Japan translates to 2 AM on the east coast of the United States, 11 PM on the west coast, 7 AM in the UK and 8 AM in Central Europe. It’s basically the best compromise Sony could make in order to have the biggest global audience possible.
This can mean only one thing: While Japan is probably going to finally know when it’ll receive the most anticipated (at least locally) new console, there has to be more, and it has to be big enough to persuade Sony not only to broadcast the conference internationally, but also to translate it simultaneously and to compromise on the timing to accommodate every region.
Whoever organized an event of this kind knows that simultaneous translation in itself is normally considered a rather sizable liability, as it forces the hosts to follow the script more strictly in order to facilitate the translation itself, and not only limits the room for improvisation, but also for recovering if everything doesn’t go as planned. And the E3 conferences proved to the whole world that when you depend on technology and streaming, things do happen to go wrong from time to time.
Ultimately broadcasting the conference to the whole world in a language that the whole world can understand would be a very big marketing faux pas if international viewers were exposed to a string of content that doesn’t touch them directly and that they’ll very possibly never be able to play.
Some could think that it’s to give international viewers a chance to check out new trailers of games that will be released internationally, but you don’t need to understand the language in order to enjoy trailers, so simultaneous translation would not be needed.
If we consider all the elements listed above, it’s most probable that Sony plans to actually announce something that not only will be very relevant in itself, but that will also be relevant to international users. Since I don’t hold Michael Pachter’s Crystal Ball of Prophecy +5, I can’t really predict what that “something” will be specifically, but it has to be something big enough to require a live announcement made with all the fanfare and frills instead of a simple official blog post or press release.
As a partly related side note, today Yakuza producer Toshihiro Nagoshi announced that we’ll know more about the upcoming Yakuza Ishin on the same day as the conference. It’s almost safe to assume that it’ll be at the conference. Most think that we’ll never see that game in the west, but I’d wait before counting it out. Unlike the main chapters of the Yakuza franchise, Ishin will be self-contained, so it won’t require playing Yakuza 5, that unfortunately has never been localized and will probably never be.
In addition to that, Sony isn’t new to pushing the localization of games that wouldn’t otherwise ever be localized in order to beef up the early line-up of a new console. Remember Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire for the PS3?
While this most probably isn’t big enough to warrant the international broadcasting and simultaneous translation of the conference, the possibility of it making it westwards does exist.
In the end, we’ll have to wait and see what Sony Computer Entertainment has in store for us all, but unless someone had way too much sake before taking the decision, all the elements laid before us point to the possibility that on Monday we’re going to hear something relevant enough to make someone at Sony think that we have to hear it, live, in a language we all can understand.