Sony unveiled their highly anticipated and much speculated on next-generation console, the PlayStation 4 (PS4), at their PlayStation Meeting 2013, a few days ago. While the event was full of plenty of fancy lights, impressive sound queues, lavish video demonstrations and mandated jeans, the event overall was substantive. The announcement of the PS4 fed eager gamers’ desires for the eighth generation of consoles with the second of the Big Three’s offerings. Sony introduced the various exciting features of their beefed up next-gen hardware and shared their PS4 philosophy: simple, immediate, social, integrated and personalized. Not only did they show off the DualShock 4 and the revamping of their PlayStation Network, but they also delivered the meat of what anyone actually cares about with new tech: the games! Sony introduced a nice chunk of games scheduled for the PS4 to whet gamers’ appetites until the larger rollout at E3 later this year. For those that were too mesmerized by Mark Cerny’s dulcet tones or did not watch the live stream, here are some reasons why everyone should be thrilled for the PS4’s Holiday 2013 release.
Imagination! Dream it and make it so.
“…And we were able to create, in PS4, a platform by game creators for game creators,” said Mark Cerny, lead system architect of the PS4. Part of the development of Sony’s new system involved speaking to specific developers to get their opinions on what limits their potential and what they want to see implemented into the PS4. By taking these developers’ thoughts into account when designing the PS4, Sony is designing their system around an ease of development, so there will no longer be the same issues that happened with the PS3 (with developers having difficulty designing around the architecture of the system). The PS4’s architecture is much more traditional than their last offering. While they have ditched the Cell processor, it seems that the fever dream of Kutaragi might be attainable with the communication of the PS4 with external devices such as smart phones, tablets and the PlayStation Vita. Even if the PS4 is not communicating with your microwave, it will likely offer a satisfying ancillary experience. While it might seem counter intuitive that gamers should be excited about Cerny’s affirmation that the PS4 is a system by game creators for game creators, this has a net benefit for consumers. Gamers can rest easy knowing that if the design of the PS4 makes it easy for developers, then they will receive games from the wild imagination of creators that sparks their own imagination for unique gaming experiences.
Games, We Got Em (And Now With Less Waiting)!
As Mark Gonzales pointed out, while everyone was speculating about what will be inside the PS4 or next Xbox, there was nothing to be said about what games will populate these systems. Sony has changed that with their PS4 announcement. While Sony could have simply announced the system, showed the controller and played some pretty tech demos, they went a bit further by showing actual games that will be available for their powerful new system. The games that had the most polish and seemed closer to reality were Sony’s first-party offerings with Killzone: Shadow Fall, Knack, inFAMOUS: Second Son and DriveClub. The most actualized of these titles was the impressive demo for Killzone: Shadow Fall, which at first appeared to be simply another pretty cut scene, but seamlessly transitioned to real-time gameplay. Killzone: Shadow Fall’s live demo was awe inspiring and showed that the PS4 is indeed very powerful. Knack is the game Mark Cerny is currently overseeing and from the footage shown, it is utilizing properties from an underwhelming tech demo Cerny showed off in his presentation. It is hard to make out what Knack will deliver to gamers, but with a look that is similar to current DreamWorks and Pixar type animations and a plucky protagonist, this may be Sony’s next attempt at SackBoy, Jak or Ratchet. While inFAMOUS: Second Son and DriveClub were more or less tech demos to show off the graphic fidelity and pique fan interest, both games offered a promise of different types of gameplay that will be exciting to experience on the console. inFAMOUS: Second Son is the most fascinating of these titles due to its paranoid and oppressive atmosphere where authority watches all facets of life. It follows up on the dystopian motif that games like The Last of Us and WATCH_DOGS also employ. While this is only a small showing of Sony’s first-party studios (the ones not currently working on a PS3 title for 2013), there are plenty of studios to watch out for come E3 like offerings from Naughty Dog and Santa Monica Studios.
A new system is nothing without third-party support and Sony knows this well, so after their first-party presentations they brought up many figureheads from third-party developers to talk about what they will be bringing to the PS4 party (outside of jeans, of course). From the known quantities like Capcom, Square-Enix, Ubisoft and Activision to the surprises like Blizzard, all of these big names presented something, whether it was a new IP, a well-worn game engine demo or ports for the PS4. Capcom presented a new IP running on their Panta Rhei engine called deep down (working title) that showed off three different fantasy characters exploring a dank and muggy dungeon until they finally happen upon a dragon. The demo looked gorgeous and hopefully by bringing a new IP out first on the PS4, Capcom may be changing its terrible business strategy as of late. While there is little to go on with deep down, it does seem to be channeling Dragon’s Dogma, Skyrim and Dark Souls with its dark fantasy vibe. Square Enix, unfortunately did not show off an actual game or announce anything except for support. Instead opted to show their “Agni’s Philosophy” engine demo again. While the demo is impressive and the mix of modern with fantasy is compelling, since it is not an actual game, there is little to be excited for until E3 from Square. Square’s problem has never been about their games being gorgeous, it has been about turn around. So hopefully with PS4’s emphasis on ease of development, it helps them out. Ubisoft showed off another live demo of their electrifying WATCH_DOGS, which ran well and gave a small idea of how the gameplay elements will work. The protagonist Aiden chased down a criminal in a very Sleeping Dogs-esque fashion. The game looks incredible and will launch alongside the PS4, so early adapters will not have to wait for something great to play. Activision introduced Bungie (all members wore jeans and had awkward posture) who announced that their persistent world game, Destiny will be coming to the PS4. Lastly, Blizzard announced that Diablo 3 will be available on both PS3 and PS4, while not a hugely excited announcement for everyone whose already run through their PC versions. This partnership between Sony and Blizzard is promising for future Blizzard console offerings.
There are games for this thing! That is exciting, everyone is excited about these games, right? If not then get excited, right now. In addition to those shown, CD Projekt RED confirmed that their final Witcher game, The Witcher 3 will be available on the PS4. Not only are these powerhouse games going to be available on the PS4, but Sony will continue supporting indie developers. During the event, there was a mention of self-publishing for indie developers, but not much was said in detail of how this will work. However, Jonathan Blow did come out to show off the first official gameplay trailer for his lovely new game, The Witness. Blow’s new game will be available for the PS4 and from what it seems, that will be the only console offering of it. Who knows what other inventive and imaginative indie titles will be shown off for the PS4 in the next months, but just think of what thatgamecompany can do with the PS4.
Spectating and Grandstanding
Outside of the PS4 being for game developers by game developers and the opening salvo of next-gen games, there are a wide range of fascinating features that the system employs. Last year, Sony purchased the company Gaikai and their cloud computing services. At the PlayStation Meeting 2013, David Perry, CEO of Gaikai Inc. mentioned some of what this acquisition was bringing to the table with the new PlayStation Network. The new PSN will allow for seamless play where when a player starts downloading a game, they can begin playing it immediately. Due to the way the PSN will be structured, the first part of game will be downloaded first allowing the game to be player off the bat and the rest of the data will be downloaded in the background while the gamer is enjoying gameplay. That is a refreshing change of pace for gamers who are tired of going to make toast while waiting for large titles to finish downloading and installing to play them. Another promising feature David Perry mentioned is the ability to try games free. Not simply a demo, but all PS4 users will be able to click on a game in the PSN, play the first bit of it for free and then if the player truly loves the game, they can purchase it and enjoy the rest. That is a refreshing change of pace for impulsive buyers and early adopters who can’t trust reviews and need to experience something first hand. This tactic might be a way to combat used games without actually locking them out (at least on Sony’s part).
Another big part of the Gaikai acquisition dovetails into social philosophy of the PS4’s philosophy. One of the most compelling features on the DualShock 4 is the “Share” button, which quite simply allows players to upload a screenshot or a video of gameplay on the fly while playing a game. When the “Share” button is pressed, players can sift through the last few minutes of gameplay, select what they want to upload, edit it and then upload the footage in the background to their favorite social networking services. Not only will players be able to share their gameplay experience, but friends can watch each other play a game, offer advice, send helpful items or, if necessary, take control in a troubling level. PS4 will also partner with Ustream to allow users to watch famous players play games in spectacular fashion. There is a dedication to keep the player connected socially while they are enjoying the PS4 and considering that is how everyone lives anyway, that is encouraging.
I Can’t Live Without Screens, Ron!
One of the other promises of the PS4 is the commitment to a second screen, whether it be in the form of smartphones and tablets (iOS and Android) or Sony’s own PlayStation Vita. Smartphones and tablets will use the “PlayStation app” to interact with the PS4. It is a nice extension, where players can use these second screens as quick maps in a game or to purchase games on the go and have them download on their PS4 to play when they get home. There was also mention of being able to watch live footage using their tablets or smartphones, which is interesting for those that want to be a spectator on the move.
The real meat of the second screen option is the fruition of the PS Vita’s “Remote Play” promise. Remember when Sony over promised on gamers being able to play their PS3 games in bed? That was one of the laundry list of thing not to materialize at launch with the Vita, but it seems Sony is making right on that promise with the PS4. Much like the Cell processor, it seems that Sony was too eager and too early to announce a connective gaming experience; however, now with the PS4, Vita owners should be able to keep their next-gen experience going even when they don’t have access to a TV. The PS Vita will be able to remote play PS4 games using its impressive specs over a wi-fi network (sorry for those without it or with data limits). At the PlayStation Meeting, Mark Cerny was shown playing Knack on a Vita, so there is some evidence that this will not be another pipe dream. Sony’s goal with the PS4 is to make every game “Remote Playable” and to make the Vita the ultimate second screen for the system. If even a quarter of the games on the PS4 can be remote played using the Vita then that is a victory. Anything more and gamers will have no reason to buy a PS Vita come the PS4 release.
Everyone is Wearing Jeans, Right?
There are plenty of reasons to be excited for the PS4. For those that want emotional and heartfelt experiences then David Cage will make those tear ducts work overtime and then suck up those tears for sustenance. Those who are more into creation, Media Molecule is trying to re-invent the Move and give gamers tools to bring dreams and fanciful experiences to life. For gamers who want immersive and expansive experiences, there will be plenty of first-party and third-party games to fill that gap. Those that want a gaming experience where they are not cut off from the world will find plenty to sate their appetites with excellent share functions, ubiquitous screens and connectivity. On top of all of that, the PS4, unlike other home consoles, will feature a suspend feature like the PS Vita, where gamers can put it in a low-powered mode while they head off to work, school or errands and resume where they left off with the push of a button. No longer will game experiences be hampered by all the interferences of the past, now gamers can pick up a controller and play while staying connected. The only limits are their imaginations (and not wearing jeans).