The Playstation 4 sounds amazing right? On paper Sony’s upcoming console seems like a dream come true for both gamers and developers alike. The system boasts a “Supercharged” PC architecture, high-end specs, aspirational cloud features and promises to make up for all of the PS3’s shortcomings. However, despite being a huge Playstation fan I’m still not ready to cast my PS3 aside and embrace Sony’s vision of the future and here are a few reason why;
Cloud Gaming Is Still Unproven
OnLive are arguably the pioneers of cloud-based gaming but not even they were able to make game streaming a viable alternative to downloading. Despite having super fast, fibre optic internet at home I still found OnLive to be too unreliable and thus never became invested in the platform. Connecting errors were aplenty, the video quality was often terrible and to be honest I’m just not ready to purchase content that can only be streamed. With the Playstation 4 not only do Sony have to overcome these obstacles, they have to overcome them on a much grander scale. It’s safe to say that the PS4 will sell 10’s of millions of units which means Sony will need the infrastructure to accommodate millions of people streaming games, broadcasting play sessions and playing online multiplayer all at once. After six years of dealing with the PS3’s abysmal download speeds and PSN’s lengthy downtimes, I’m not exactly confident in Sony’s ability to run a strong or reliable online network.
Of course Gaikai are the difference makers here and I’m sure Sony wouldn’t have spent $380million on this acquisition unless they were completely sure that Gaikai could handle the workload. During last week’s Playstation Meeting, Gaikai’s co-founder David Perry expressed his ambition to build the world’s fastest gaming network but that’s the problem, all it is at the moment is “ambition”. Perry’s mesmerizing speech was less about showing what the Playstation 4 can do and more about what is theoretically possible. Being able to instantly streaming games while they download sounds great but there are still many unanswered questions that prevent me from feeling truly excited about such features. How heavy will video compression be when streaming? Will certain modes or areas be locked until the full game has downloaded? What happens if my connection drops? Will there be sever queues for more-popular tiles? And most importantly, will this feature even work for the average person who has average internet speeds? Of course the experience will vary for each user but until we see Gaikai functioning in a typical home environment it’s hard to view this acquisition with anything other that cautious optimism.
Live Streaming Influx
Videogame live streaming has the potential to be a wonderful thing. I love hopping over to twitchTV and watching passionate gamers attempt speed runs or watching fighting games tournaments where the best players in the world battle for online supremacy. There are many talented gamers out there who would love the opportunity to showcase their skills to the world but right now the barrier to entry is way too high.
However thanks to the PS4’s integrated streaming functionality, Sony has the opportunity to transform game streaming from a niche hobby to a worldwide phenomenon! There are many great use cases for live streaming whether you’re in the media or just an enthusiast but my question is, will the ease of live streaming eventually because its downfall? Watching sites like The Koalition live stream a new and exciting game sounds great, but for every 1 of us there will be 100 pre-teen live streaming their lame Call Of Duty sessions. The current barrier to entry is an annoyance but at the same time it also acts as a filter that keeps those aforementioned pre-teens away. How exciting will live streaming become when even your grandmother can do it? Why would you want to watch The Koalition live stream a game when there are thousands of other people doing the exact same thing?
More Innovation, Less Gimmicks
A new console should signify a time for new IPs, new experiences and new spins on existing franchises. Sony has showcased the latter with games such as inFAMOUS: Second Son and Killzone: Shadow Fall but we’ve yet to see that one special title that proves the PS4 is more than just a PS3 with superior visuals. The new Killzone game looks great but so does Bioshock Infinite and if Sony told us that Knack was a PS3 game, no one would think otherwise. It’s understandable why Quantic Dream or Naughty Dog would be reluctant to reveal their PS4 projects while they have PS3 games currently in development but the fact that there are so many great PS3 games scheduled for 2013 will make many wonder why new consoles are even necessary.
It also seems like Sony are once again chasing unwanted gimmicks for the PS4 which deeply saddens me. Do we really need a touch pad or a glowing light on our controller? Did Sony not learn anything from the failures of the Move and the Vita’s rear touch panel? Touch and Motion controls are two features that no one asked for and that the fact that none of the games shown at the Playstation Meeting appeared to use either function suggests that developers aren’t keen on them either.
Don’t get me wrong, I am still super excited for the Playstation 4 and at this point I don’t think there is anything that could prevent me from buying a system at launch. It’s just a shame that even after a 2-hour presentation I’m left with more questions than answers. Everything that Sony has said about the PS4 sounds incredible but ultimately actions speak louder than words. If Sony can achieve every promise they made during the Playstation Meeting and follow it with an influx of quality software, there’s no doubt in my mind that they will once again become a dominant force in the gaming industry. Let the games begin!