There has been a bit of confusion following Sony in the console game market lately. Between them actively stating they are committed to a 10 year plan for the PS3, to the possibility of not releasing another console after this one, I was pretty surprised to hear they were possibly unveiling a new console in a standalone press conference. But as a man who loves his Playstation, I was certainly intrigued.
The conference was certainly interesting to see, but it wasn’t mind-blowing as console announcements used to be. There definitely seems to be a shifting in philosophy here and the question I have is this is a good thing for Playstation as a whole?
One thing Andrew House and Mark Cerny hit on early in the press conference is that they want to branch out what the Playstation brand means. From what I took from the presser, it sounds like they want to be more of a multi-media machine instead of a game console.
From the presser alone they mentioned that they are collaborating with Facebook, Ustream, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon streaming. Their newly designed DualShock 4 features a touchpad for mobile connectivity and a share button which will allow players to share image and video right from their game on the controller. There also seems to be focusing a push on their Playstation Mobile platform and interconnectivity with the Vita for remote play, (its suspiciously similar to the WiiU in functionality.)
Thoughts: The throwing around of terms like “media center” always kind of irked me, because I don’t buy a PS to watch Blu-rays, browse the web, or steam Netflix. Those are bells and whistles to me. I buy them because I want to play games. That being said? These are features that are hugely popular so it seems like a natural step of evolution in the console market.
While I originally thought teaming with Ustream and having a share button is friggen stupid, I do find myself constantly saying to myself when I play and write for Rage Quitter, that I wished I had a capture card. If there is a way to stream from my console to my PC and record it while I’m doing so, then I could quickly get on board with this Idea.
The Hardware and Features
It wasn’t actually mentioned at the presser but I did some digging to learn what the PS4 is going to bring to the table. They are running a single chip customer processor, but it’s a bit of beast. A X86-64 AMD “Jaguar” processor with a monstrous 8 cores. Its GPU will be an AMD radeon based graphics drive that supports 8 gigs for memory and works at 1.84 TFLOPS.
It will have built in 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1, USB 3.0 ports, Options for optical audio, HDMI, and most surprisingly to me Legacy Analog AV hook ups. Naturally, there will be a HDD included but no amounts have been official mentioned. Its Blu-Ray drive spins at 6x and Dvds at 8x. As mentioned before, the Dual shock 4 has been redesigned with a share button the front now contains a touchpad, perhaps to enhance the Playstation Mobile features.
One of the big catches that got my attention was a variant of the sleep mode. They want to design the system so you can power it up and pick up where you left off without having to start up the system, load the disc, hit the title screen, load your save, then start playing. Just power on and pick up where you stopped in seconds.
They are focusing on a stronger network and they want to produce a free to try model with the cloud gaming aspect of it. One such perk is a streaming instant play model to you can immediately try a demo without the wait of a download, and if you choose to purchase you can actually start playing the game as you are downloading. As you pick and buy games, the system is supposed to learn what you like and make suggestions accordingly and start downloading things before you buy them to have them ready for you.
Thoughts: The biggest disappointment of this is that I had to dig up these specs in a press release. Some of them were addressed during the presser and the controller was shown off, but the console itself was suspiciously absent. That does throw me some concern about how far along in production they are and if they can meet their holiday release date. Releasing a console at Xmas is nice, but if only 500 are available for 6 months into release, it might as well not be released.
It seems like much of the focus was addressing the issues of previous Playstation console. They want to create a bigger social experience, probably to try to make a real push to fight Xbox Live. Much of the processing power is split so some is devoted to actually running the console. Downloads can actually take place while you are actually playing the game or when the system is off. This a good thing, glad it took them like 7 years to realize it.
The whole predictive purchasing are ambitious ideas but if it they work this could revolutionize console gaming. My big fear is with cloud gaming, you never own the product so the price is pretty much whatever whim they have it at. And I’m not exactly crazy about the idea of the console making my purchases for me…
The Games (Click titles for available trailers)
Killzone: Shadow Fall – Working demo, graphically it was pretty impressive. Definitely one of the mainstays of the Playstation brand now but as an FPS never really seemed to reach the popularity of the more notable shooters.
Knack – Appears to be an action adventure game where you control a lil robo who can draw parts into himself to make bigger and stronger or more versatile forms. The graphics seem way too cartoony for the serious tone the story tries to portray.
Driveclub– A team based racing game. Supposed to be true first person rather than hud based. Interesting idea, but unless they slap “Gran Turismo” on the cover it will probably be playing second fiddle.
Infamous: Second Son– Trailer only. A very dystopian setting where faceless government monitors all civilians until some smug looking punk starts trashing armed cards. He can fade into smoke and blood looking fluid to teleport much like Nyx from Infamous 2. No gameplay footage but Infamous is one of the most solid games on this platform. I greatly look forward to this one.
Witness – A 3d adventure puzzler from Jonathon Blow of Braid fame. Has somewhat cartoony graphics but Braid set the bar on simple but excellent puzzling. Seems to have a very Myst-like point and click adventure feel to it.
Deep Down – Street fighter creator Yoshinori Ono introduced this title, seems to be Capcom’s take on a Dark Souls style fantasy/Action game. What impressed me about the visuals is that it was very difficult to tell what was just a CG cut scene and what was actual game play footage. I am definitely happy to see some original IPs being displayed.
Square Enix – Squenix announced that the PS4 would have a new final fantasy, and they showed an unnamed Real-Time Cinematic demo. Fairly standard Squenix fanfare: blending of fantasy and modern, over the top fight sequences, Zero game play footage. I’ll probably love what they eventually release, but they don’t get points for impressive videos with me anymore, they’ve run this shtick for 20 something years.
Watch Dogs – Another game play footage trailer from Ubisoft. Shows that it appears to be a Chicago based sandbox style game, the ability to get information and hack into devices seems just as important as when they ran their previous E3 trailer. The player foils a robbery and parkour style chase scene ensues. I am very much looking forward to this one.
Diablo 3 – Blizzard rep Chris Metzen announces that Sony and Blizzard have entered a strategic partnership and will be brining Diablo 3 to PS3 and PS4. Should be interesting to see what these two companies can cook up together.
Destiny – Members of Bungie take the stage and talk about their new space themed FPS. A persistent online community, makes me believe that this is going to be an FPS game that plays like an MMO RPG. During the breaks of speech you could hear Microsoft fanboys commit ritualistic suicide. I am no fan of halo, so I have no interest in this.
So that’s it. I don’t know when this trend of private press conferences of electronic devices started but this seems like this could have waited till the next big electronic conference. Perhaps Sony wanted to get the jump on Microsoft because they never really caught up to the 360’s head start, and this does stir up a bit of excitement, but there is one major flaw.
They didn’t have a product. Talking about what it can do was cool, showing the new controller is fine, showing me the demos people are making are good, but ultimately people tuned in because they wanted to see what the product and system actually looked liked. It kind of irritated some fans, and Major Nelson from Microsoft couldn’t wait to be the catty high school girl in retaliation for it.
Perhaps the strategy here was the wet the consumer bases palette to really beef up their E3 presentation in June. Maybe they decided to wait so they can unveil it at the same time as Microsoft plans to as well. The bottom line right now is that it’s all fluff and doesn’t matter.
I had worked at GameStop for almost 7 years and I lived by a few simple creeds when it came to video games: Graphics don’t make the game, get a system if it has 7 games you like, never play online, don’t argue with fanboys, and don’t get overly excited at conferences. Many of these apply to this conference as well..
Feel free to look forward to the games, and look forward to future announcements. The console market is about to get very interesting with new systems and new companies throwing their hat in the ring. The main thing to remember is you should be buying a system for its functionality to you, not fervent fanboyism. I like the Sony controller better and am an nonfunctioning troglodyte on PC, so I’ll probably look at PS4.
You are looking at a future game console, not a spouse or allegiance. Get one, get two, get them all, get none of them. Just do your research first and pick the stuff you like, should be an interesting summer.