PS4 Launch Roundup: My Take

and-another-thing
‘And Another Thing’ is a semi-regular look at key events or issues in the gaming industry. Written by Flash Point podcast co-host, dedicated tweeter and all round good guy Simon Potter – drop him a line if you want to suggest future columns.

After a two hour media spectacular in New York which brought parts of the internet to a standstill, Sony have begun the next phase of the Console Wars and announced the PS4.

What will it look like? We don’t know yet. How much will it cost? Again, they haven’t said. What we do know is that it will hit shops Christmas 2013 and that E3 is going to be Sony’s next media blitzkrieg.

The good news is Sony learnt their lesson from the Cell processor and the Emotion engine. Based on the x86 architecture, this machine is going to be a comparative breeze to code for (we saw it running Unreal 4), which eats into one of XBox’s big advantages. The upshot is the PS4 has an army of game developers behind it (‘a console designed by game developers for game developers’).

Obviously it’s easy to get swept away in the reality distortion bubble that these things create, but you are still left with an overwhelming sense that devs are genuinely excited about the new platform, and that means games. Lots of games.

So what about those games? Usually you only see tech demos at such hype-fests but we did get to see some real gameplay this time, specifically Killzone Shadow Fall. Not only did it look startling, even through an overloaded video stream, it also gave some solid evidence of the investment and momentum already in the industry. All the big players were there, MediaMolecule, Activision and their subs Blizzard (Diablo III) and Bungie (Destiny… squeeee!), Sucker Punch, Capcom, Square Enix and others. It really felt like an abundance of riches, just like they wanted it to.

Some interesting facts revealed:

  • You can suspend gameplay then jump back in later without reloading
  • A secondary chip allows background downloads, even when the console is off.
  • Heavy social integration – spectator mode and ‘share’ button.
  • With built in Gaikai tech, the PS4 becomes a games server to your Vita (and potentially other hardware, like mobiles and tablets)
  • Play a game while you download it from the PSN – no more demo downloads to try.
  • PS3 games not natively supported or emulated.
  • Current project to allow you to play PS3, 2 and 1 games on the PS4 or any other hardware through Gaikai tech (how that works with preowned is anyone’s guess).
  • Predictive game downloads (the PS4 knows what new games you’d like before you do)
  • The Dualshock 4 and stereoscopic camera, although whether this is the final look, is uncertain (PS3 boomerang)
Things not revealed
  • Whether online gaming will remain free or be folded into PS+
  • If a pre-owned market for PS4 titles can exist
  • Cost and appearance

 
It’s hard to say whether Microsoft’s job is made easier by Sony announcing first, but if I had to guess I’d say harder. As was pointed out by the founder of the original Xbox project  in his blog Stupid, Stupid, xBox!!, MS have been laser fixed on integrating their ecosystem across multiple devices. In doing that they’ve made the Xbox into a media/advertising hub. In other words they’ve de-emphasised the games.

What wonders Xbox 720 has in store is a mystery for the moment, but if Redmond isn’t feeling a little nervous right now, they’re not paying attention.

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