Sony Is Developing Powers for PlayStation Network and That's Both Good and Bad

By Tim Surette

Mar 20, 2014

Late yesterday, Sony (the company that brought you the Walkman and a robot dog) announced that it's partnering up with Sony Pictures Television (the company that brings you Community and Justified) to bring Powers—the comic-book adaptation that was percolating at FX a few years ago—exclusively to the PlayStation Network. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the future of television in a world without cable. And possibly a world with so many different subscription-based services and required viewing devices that we'll all still be broke.

First the details, from The Wall Street Journal: Powers is based on the comic from Brian Michael Bendis about a detective who investigates crimes among superheroes. It's got elements of police procedurals, noir crime dramas, and supernatural shows, and sounds pretty nifty overall, even if the superperson genre is already overbloated. We've had our eye on Powers for a long time, and the project made it all the way to the pilot phase of development back in 2011 and got us all excited. But a rewrite and a reshoot couldn't drum up enough interest from FX, and it was quietly killed despite educated guesses from the masses believing that it would do quite well. 

Sony will produce 10 or so episodes for Powers' first season, which will supposedly be equal in quality to premium-cable networks and streamable only to PlayStations (Playstation 3? PlayStation 4? We're not sure) via the PlayStation Network. Sony has not yet said whether users will need a subscription to the premium PlayStation Plus, or whether it will be part of the cloud-based TV programming coming to PlayStations in the next year or so. 

Okay, now that we've got all that out of the way, the question is whether this news is good or bad. The TV industry as a whole has been headed away from cable dependency with the rise of online services like Netflix and Hulu, and that's been revelatory. No longer does cable seem like such a necessity (unless you're a sports fanatic or you love the local news) thanks to on-demand Monk whenever you want! Companies are drooling over the idea of becoming their own multimedia monsters with original television programing the choice du jour, and I'm hearing more and more people say that they're dropping cable and its astronomical monthly bill in favor of loading up on Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix while also "borrowing" HBO GO.

But Powers exclusively on PlayStations means you need a PlayStation in order to watch it, and PlayStations currently cost about $400. What's more, does anyone think that Powers will actually be handed out for free to PlayStation owners? I'm guessing that at best, it will be available to all users in its initial phases, but that Sony will eventually require people to pony up for PlayStation Plus, which runs about $50 a year (though you can also buy it in three-month chunks). 

In the name of providing context, consider Damages: I loved that show, but when it made the move from FX to DirecTV, there was no way I was switching my cable service to DirecTV just because it had one show. And lord knows I don't need any extra gadgets in my already crowded house. 

Xbox is doing something similar with a Halo series it has in development, but since that project was announced in May 2013, there's been no additional news and there's no guarantee it will ever see the light of day. Sony, however, is committed to Powers, a show that should resonate with the PlayStation user base but that also has the potential to draw a non-gamer crowd. Will anyone buy a PlayStation just to see it? Hopefully Sony will offer the series to buy/rent through other avenues. 

Maybe I'm way off here, seeing as how I got my business diploma from a box of Fiddle Faddle, but I'm not into the idea of every company trying to start their own cable channel. What do you think of Powers heading to PlayStation? Do you want to see it? Are you willing to pay to see it? 

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  • noelveiga Mar 22, 2014

    Sony has plenty of resources to market this effectively. They could sell the season separately and give it for free to subscribers easily, which they already do with their free games subscription right now. They're not dumb, they know they can't compete with Hulu or Netflix yet, but if they set the basis for a "pay piecemeal or subscribe to get it for free" kind of service as an alternative they may be able to get there eventually. Having a self-produced fully owned show is the first step to convince other content producers to deliver their stuff under that model, as opposed to only selling it separately, which is how they currently do it.

  • StanleyStutters Mar 21, 2014

    PS+ is great for all the free games and features it gives users. It's worth the $50 a year I pay for it already. I'm looking forward to Powers, but I can't see a ton of people buying a $400 console and spending $50 a year on PS+ for a single show (assuming PS+ is needed). Maybe down the road if they can build a strong library like Netflix, but that's years away from happening.

  • docspector Mar 21, 2014

    But maybe they can get people who already have a PS3 or 4 to shell out the extra $$ for PSN+. Or, if they offer it on PSN, they might get people who are wavering between and XBox One and a PS4 to choose Sony.

  • LeePierce Mar 21, 2014

    The show better be "Game of Thrones" quality if Sony expects it to attract users to PS+.

  • Mate Mar 21, 2014

    Actually I kind of like this idea. Sony is copying Amazon. Sony needs money other than from their PS systems. It would be smart of them to bring original content. But they are going to have to get the systems into people's hand who might not normally buy a system. That is going to be tough, that is going to take some special content that I am not sure this is. But anything that would further get people off of cable and on to something else that potentially offers enough of a viable alternative that cable is forced to rethink its screw you model of business is good.

  • CaitlinRice Mar 21, 2014

    I am signed up on a few survey sites (who can argue with free money for Amazon), and I remember a couple months back I had a survey that was asking about this very thing. They gave a lot of different options between DirectTV, Playstation, and Xbox and you would have to pick the one you would be most willing to use. A lot of them had the series available immediately to people subscribing to the PS+, etc. and available for free several months after the initial release.

    Netflix, etc. are different because I actually get use out of what I'm paying for. But I wouldn't get the full use of a premium membership on my gaming console so I wouldn't rush to pay for it.

  • udobald Mar 21, 2014

    How can anyone still complain about PS+, it's the best deal in human history.

  • dh4645 Mar 21, 2014

    you could probably watch it on PS3, PS4 and PS VIta. I have all 3 and PS+, so i'm probably good to go.

  • mrjimmyjames Mar 21, 2014

    Will Jason Patric still be involved?

  • mrjimmyjames Mar 21, 2014

    It's funny to see how both Microsoft's and Sony's gaming machines have become less and less about innovative gameplay (the graphics improve but the gameplay doesn't change) and more about trying to attach other abilities to attract consumers. And the prices continue to go through the roof; it will take years to recoup the costs, just like last generation (with the execption of Nintendo who did immediately and was innovative). Title of the article might as well be "more signs the video game market is in decline and desparate". Sure, the hardcore gamers will continue to buy them but the segment isn't going to attract anyone else.

  • Nefario114 Mar 21, 2014

    I like any content which is not modified to meet the demands of advertisers.

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