On the surface, the PlayStation 4 unveiling seemed very unlike Sony’s previous console announcements. There were no overexcited suits making mockeries of themselves on stage, no arrogant price points and a distinct lack of exotic, proprietary tech that serves nothing more than to bump up the price to the end user.
It would seem that Sony got it right. You wouldn’t be wrong for thinking so. The PlayStation 4 is brimming with competent tech. There’s 8GB of unified memory, a x86 CPU, 8 CPU cores, 2 teraflops computational performance, and a “Supercharged PC architecture” which essentially means it should be easier for developers to churn out gorgeous next-gen graphical goodness like a new Gran Turismo or Uncharted with ease and hopefully, less soul-crushing, last minute delays that have plagued this generation aplenty.
And speaking of games, there was a lot on display. Be it Killzone Shadow Fall, the latest entry in the sci-fi first person shooter franchise which looked stunning or quirky Knack which had more in common with a Pixar flick than a video game. It was refreshing to see a healthy number of titles showcased and that too from third-party publishers as well, notably Ubisoft with Orwellian open world adventure Watch_Dogs and Resident Evil maker Capcom’s medieval fantasy Deep Down.
All this would be useless without the right controls and that’s where Sony delivered another ace, the Dual Shock 4. It looks like the offspring the Dual Shock 3, the PS Move controller and the rear touch pad of the PS Vita having a threeway, which isn’t really a bad thing. There’s a share button which could, among other things, let you multicast your real time gameplay performance to your friends or invite them in to help you out. I guess this is where Sony’s investment in Gakai paid off.
But Gakai isn’t around just to let you be more (relevantly) social with your friends, you’ll be able to play a game you purchase online the moment you begin downloading it, sure PC gamers have had that advantage with Blizzard’s titles such as World of WarCraft and StarCraft supporting it but it’s nice to see some of the more convenient aspects of PC gaming making it into the living room. Oh, and Sony have confirmed that used games will work too.
Now before you start rushing out to sell your kidneys, become a sperm donor or renting your womb out for money to obtain this slick piece of tech, do keep in mind that there were some glaring faults in this unveiling that struck me as odd.
For starters, used games. While Sony has said they would work, they haven’t mentioned if you’d have to pony up a token fee to have them working fully. Something which is in the realm of possibility what with online passes needed to access the multiplayer component of most games.
In addition to this, while it was the announcement of the PS4, we never got to see what it actually looks like. Neither do we know what the price would be. While it is rumoured to be priced around the $400-450 mark, there’s no telling what Sony would finally price it at. Also, they haven’t specified availability either. Well, nothing more than the a vague “Holiday 2013” at least. Sure these tricks worked back in the day with next to no competition but in a post-iPhone era where such details are paramount, holding them back just seems odd and lacking in confidence.
Furthermore, you can’t play your PS3 games on the PS4. It’s understandable since they’re both radically different machines due to their architecture, but try telling that to someone who would like to enjoy their last generation back catalogue without having to keep another console. It doesn’t stop here, digital content, be it PS1, PS2, PS3, PS Minis or indie games will not be playable on the PS4. This means, if you, like me have spent over $500 over the years on games via the PlayStation Network storefront would have to hold on to your PS3s till this issue is resolved.
And it just gets better, any resolution would most probably involve the use of Gakai’s cloud streaming clout. Although this would be perfect for users in the US, Japan and most of Europe, our bandwidth capabilities aren’t the greatest or anywhere close. Even if Sony were to have a streaming solution for you to play your PlayStation Network content you’d still need a really good internet connection (at least 5mbps) and hope Gakai have servers in your country. Heck, even to make full use of the robust, video-rich social features that the PS4 is crammed with, you’d be out of luck without blazing fast connectivity.
So yes, from the outset, it would seem that Sony have done a bang-up job with the PS4. However, as it stands it’s not exactly the most friendly of first impressions for those of us in the purported third world.