Out of idle interest, and not serious intent, I decided to sit through the two hour Playstation 4 announcement last night. Having recently become a PS3 owner, and despite it having cemented my overall preference for Xbox, I was still curious to see what the upcoming generation would bring for Sony.
The PS4 announcement seems to have hit on three key talking points: social interactivity, predictive insta-downloads and improved graphic capabilities. Of these three, only the last is of interest to me, and only barely, at that.
I believe that graphic enhancements are a bit premature at this point in time. This generation of consoles is doing just fine in the graphics department, and while discussing the extra 10k polygons that could potentially be rendered is appealing on some level, it alone does not justify a new console. Seven years out from the launch of the PS3 and Xbox 360, while there is a marked improvement in what current hardware can render, this alone is not enough.
The other two hallmarks of the new console hardly do more to justify its existence. It seems to me that the PS4’s emphasis will be on connectivity, an area in which, compared to the Xbox, the PS3 fails drastically. Sure, Xbox may charge you to play online with your friends, but your engagement with them is placed front and center on that console, whereas it’s almost treated as an afterthought on the PS3.
Now, with the PS4, Sony seems to be moving in a drastically opposite direction, a decidedly risky move. With a “share” button built directly on the controller, and a partnership with Facebook, posting screenshots and videos will be instantaneous. That in itself sounds fine, but it was what followed that gave me pause. It appears that the new emphasis on connectivity will allow you to invite friends to jump in and monitor your gameplaying, in order to, say, help you through a tough part, and they can even give you items as you play through to make it a bit easier. I may not be on Facebook, but I know that “your friend has given you carrot seeds to help your garden grow, why not give them some?” has helped cheapen both the way we understand games and the way we interact.
Sony seems to want to fold this idea into their on-demand gaming improvements as well. Now, the system will suggest games that will interest you specifically (based, from what I could tell, on past preference as well as the preference of your friends… connectivity!), and allow you to instantly start playing them. Your friend will be able to invite you to play a game you don’t yet have, you press the button, buy it, and as the game boots for you, and you start playing, it will continue to download in the background. This, I think, might end up being the strongest selling point of this console to most other people, but as someone living in a world of download caps, with a preference for late sales cycle purchases, this just doesn’t make sense for me.
I also found it interesting that Sony seems to be sticking by the Move, and while the augmented reality demo they showed last night was very interesting, it remains nowhere near as full of potential as the Kinect. While I am likely to eventually dip my toes in the new Xbox (once the price suits me), for Kinect capabilities alone, I believe that the strongest contender for my next generation console will be the Steam Box, download caps be damned.
Independent of all this, last night’s reveal was lackluster at best and foolhardy at worst, and cemented my belief that the world does not need nor want a new console generation yet.. This article sums up the problems with their approach most concisely, and is worth reading if you missed the broadcast.