Sony's mistake: it announced the generic next gen, not the PS4

I've been thinking further about why the Sony announcement fell so flat for many people, despite some interesting moments, and I think it's related to the failure to actually show the PlayStation 4 unit.

What Sony actually showed off was a hardware architecture, a revamped PlayStation Network service, a couple of exclusives and a bunch of games that will be multi-platform.

What Sony did not show off was anything we can really latch onto as being PlayStation.

The architecture is supposedly nearly identical to what's going into the next Xbox, save a few rumoured advantages in Sony's design. So it doesn't really tell us anything unique about the console – and this ties into most of the game announcements. Watch Dogs; Final Fantasy; The Witness; Destiny – none of these will be totally exclusive (The Witness will also be PC/iOS, and FF will probably get an Xbox release).

Announcing all these doesn't herald the future of PlayStation, but the entire next-gen. Hell, some of them are even coming to the current gen, and Watch Dogs was announced for Wii U just after Sony's event.

And the exclusives didn't help. Killzone really couldn't look much more generic – until the appearance of a Helghast at the end, it could've been a Halo game, a futuristic CoD game, anything. InFamous was never unique, having launched with Crackdown and Prototype. I'm not sure if DriveClub is actually exclusive, but it again could be almost any racing game, even I do think its first-person gimmick is really nice.

And the PlayStation Network stuff is a feature, not a product. It's an adjunct to the core experience, not the what drives someone to the console in the first place. And its features – social, streaming, recommendation engines – aren't unique either; they're just being brought together really well.

Where was all the stuff that gets you excited for a new PlayStation?

A Gran Turismo reveal would have given Polyphony the chance to talk about the ludicrous physics detail that goes into the game – an infamous level of meticulousness we associate with that brand, and to its ties to the PlayStation. A Naughty Dog appearance could have given them the chance to talk more about the story-telling possibilities they see in the new hardware, with a level of sheen that we associate with the Uncharted series, and subsequently with the PlayStation. And bringing out Ueda and The Last Guardian would've… well, solved everything, really.

Even the promise of an indie-friendly store is hollow with a Papo & Yo or similar to exemplify it, and Media Molecule's charming demos on the ways Move can be used struck me as ideas that could equally apply to Kinect.

It might be a small thing, even insignificant in the grand scheme of the larger announcement, but showing off the actual console would have given us a glimpse at this particular slice of the next gen. The closest we can get to a tangible representation at this point.

Without that focus, Sony failed to make its PlayStation 4 launch about its own console. It was about the hardware we'll see across the industry. It was about the shifts to indies and alternative control schemes that are happening everywhere. It was about cross-platform games. It was not about the PlayStation.