What if Sony (NYSE:SNE) threw a product launch party but the product never came?

In a surprising twist to yesterday's PlayStation 4 unveiling, Sony didn't have a new console to physically show off. Sure, Sony announced some of the specs and even demoed some of the games. However, the Japanese gaming giant didn't peel back the curtain to let gamers know what the system will look like.

It's not the only thing that's going to disappoint gamers.

The shift to traditional Advanced Micro Devices PC-like chips to fuel the gaming experience will make it easier for developers to get up to speed, but it also means that the consoles aren't likely to be compatible with earlier system releases.

That could be a deal breaker.

Forget the fact that Sony also wasn't ready to let the public know how much the console will cost when it rolls out in time for this year's holiday shopping season. Owners of PS3 systems won't be able to trade in their old consoles for credit to buy the PS4 if they ever want to play their old titles. Sony mentions cloud-based streaming of older games on the system, but that's going to make enthusiasts skeptical given Sony's spotty track record in keeping its online network humming along.

Sony has already struggled to remain relevant -- at least in this country -- during this console generation. Nintendo's (OTC:NTDOY) Wii was the early favorite, and Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox 360 has been the top seller -- month after month -- for more than two years. The PS3 has been more of an afterthought, and that's not the kind of momentum that Sony wants as we round the bend to start a new heat.

The Wii U is already off to a slow start at a $300 price point. With the PS4 likely to hit the market at a higher price and early adopters likely to be reluctant to throw money at an underdog starting from scratch, Sony doesn't have much of a chance.

Yes, the specs are cool. It's also neat that large digital games will be able to be played even as they're being downloaded. However, the lack of a physical product and pertinent details may doom the PS4 before it even has the opportunity to disappoint.

Sony can't seem to catch a break.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.