Friday, February 22, 2013
Five quick thoughts on the PlayStation 4
The PlayStation 4 was revealed this week. Sort of. The clouds didn’t part and the system didn’t descend from the heavens promising to cure cancer and end war. Sony did show the new philosophy and some features behind the system. There was a new controller, the DualShock 4, and the most important thing of all games, games, games.
Of course, there were a few disappointments with the news conference. For one, Sony didn’t actually show what the PlayStation 4 would look like. We also don’t know how much it will cost or what the new PlayStation Network may look like. Those details will likely be unveiled at E3, but still, I do need to know if I should start saving up money or consider having a child so I can sell my first-born for a system. I kid. I kid. Besides, I don’t think a baby will come in time for the PlayStation 4′s holiday 2013 launch date.
But joking aside, here are the five big takeaways from the news conference:
1) The biggest change in the upcoming PlayStation 4 is a new developer-friendly architecture.
With a more PC-like backbone, it’s likely that Sony’s system will be easier to program for. Ideally, it means that games will be easier to port over and perhaps more titles will look as good as its rivals. This also opens up the system to indie developers, which will be an even bigger force in this upcoming generation. If you want the next Minecraftto be on your system, having familiar architecture to work with would be a huge help.
I’m just curious about how open the system will be. Having a supercharged PC is excellent and all, but if you want all types of developers drawing on your canvas, it should be accessible and flexible. It’s what Penny Arcade’s Ben Kuchera calls the Minecraft problem. I’m curious to hear about this and Sony’s effort to make a superfast network. The online component in the PlayStation 3 was lacking compared to the Xbox 360 in this generation.
2) One of the most annoying parts of owning a PlayStation 3 was the constant updates that went on before starting a game.
If that wasn’t bad enough, there was the need to install some games to the hard drive. The enthusiasm for ripping into a release was replaced with staring at progress bar for about 10 minutes after you ate made yourself a sandwich. Sony looks to fix this with hardware that lets games download while you play them. They even extended that feature over to demos that should start seamlessly with a press of button.
Interestingly enough, demos have become a big part of selling a game this generation and indispensable for consumers. It helps buyers decide if a title that’s costlier at $60 is worth the pickup. What used to come on a disc has no moved to downloads. With the ability to stream a short portion of the game, it makes trying out upcoming titles even easier.
I need a keypad. I know there is a touchpad in the center. I know it has a speaker. There’s even a Move-like glowy thingy that will make it easier to identify players (though I suspect it will make the controller more motion-control friendly with the new Stereoscopic PlayStation Eye). If the PlayStation 4 is going to be a social machine and one that I assume will have some sort of Web browsing, content streaming and social networking capabilities, it should have a keypad that lets players message each other back and forth. That’s hard to do henpecking an onscreen keyboard.
I was really hoping for a touch-screen similar to the Wii U GamePad that will make the controller instantly recognizable to tablet users. The DualShock 4 seems like a half-step in the evolution of the controller. I suppose I can dream and wait for touch-screen controller hybride or hope that the PlayStation Vita is integrated more with the system aside from the Remote Play, which is another excellent feature. I do like the virtual keyboard on that handheld.
This is rampant speculation but perhaps this isn’t what the final DualShock 4 will look like at launch. Remember the Batarang controller originally announced with PS3?