It happened. There was speculation over what could or would be announced, but the majority of you guys were correct in the assumption that the PlayStation 4 would be announced February 20, 2013. I'm still not exactly sure how to feel at this point. So much of what was said during the PlayStation 2013 event was intriguing, but it's still too early for me to make judgement calls or speculate on what's to come. Especially when we have no sweet clue what the system actually looks like or how much it will cost.
Going into the PlayStation 2013 event, I figured we'd get a fair amount of detail on the product's tech specs and see very few games. The opposite was actually the case. To that extent, I personally found the night to be a little wanting. In fact, if you were to view my twitter feed you would likely find more negativity and pessimism than I'm currently comfortable with. However, that's not to say that this wasn't the biggest piece of industry news we have seen this year. In honor of such, this issue of Currents is completely dedicated to the industry announcements of the PlayStation 2013 event. That said, there's always room for a little bit of Nintendo/Old Spice nonsense:
Enough smelly, dementia-induced goodness. Industry coverage awaits!
Part of me still feels like it would have been a cooler news story if Sony had failed to announce the PlayStation 4, thereby enraging hoards of rampant fanboys, but the entertainment giant did in fact host a grand entrance for their next it girl at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York's Manhattan Center.
It's been almost seven years since the extremely expensive and ultimately disappointing PlayStation 3 first arrived. If analysts are correct, the next extremely gorgeous and expensive era of gaming is almost here. Unfortunately, this generational leap unsurprisingly represents more of an incremental improvement than a legitimate innovation.
The PlayStation 4, which will officially be arriving "Holiday 2013," bears a remarkable resemblance to many modern gaming PCs in terms of technical specifications. At this point, we know that the system features an X86 processor, an 8-core combined CPU/GPU, a local HDD, and 8 GB of unified GDDR5 memory (sixteen times that of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360). The console also features a secondary chip for uploading and downloading in the background, allowing digital games to be played as they are being downloaded. According to Mark Cerny, the lead system architect on the PlayStation 4, "the development of a next-gen platform started about five years ago" and that the overall intent was "freeing developers from technological barriers." Which is fancy way of admitting that PC developers don't like developing for the PS3 because it is underpowered and overcomplicated — two things that could hypothetically be rectified with the PS4.
While these technological upgrades could lead to more PC-to-PlayStation ports, it's hard not to be a little concerned at the system's trajectory. The great thing about PCs when compared to consoles are that they can provide strong gaming experiences at a budget price while still being upgradable. The PlayStation 4 may look attractive to developers now, but will it be a worthwhile platform in six years? To the same extent, should we really be this focused on graphics and features over interesting and innovative gameplay experiences? Sony may see the PlayStation 4 as a huge leap forward, but really it's just more of the same.
Sony's Dual Shock 4 has officially been revealed and it won't be winning any beauty pageants in the near future. Similar in several ways to last week's leaked prototype PlayStation 4 controller, this model is a little bit more polished and wireless, though still lacking in the aesthetics department. Mark Cerny showed the Dual Shock 4 during the PlayStation 2013 event and provided just a bit of insight on both compatibility and design.
The belly-button analog sticks have been recessed, supposedly to give a tighter sense of control, and a PS Vita-like touchscreen has been added to the top middle of the controller. A share button for gameplay videos and headphone jack have also been added, but the biggest surprise was the inclusion of a light bar (similar to the Wii sensor bar) and on-controller sensor to track movement. While this could mean an increased focus on PlayStation Move in the future, I have the nagging feeling that, much like the Sixaxis, this is a feature that will eventually fall by the wayside.
Of course, we're still only just getting to know the PlayStation 4. There could be several aesthetic changes to this build before the official release this holiday season. Personally, Iím hoping that this controller mock-up goes the same route as the PlayStation 3 boomerang controller.
If you were paying attention to the stream of comments occurring both on twitter and the many internet live blogs, you might have noticed a string of comments on the same subject: real gameplay footage versus tech demo CGI. It's unfortunate, but since Killzone 2's infamous E3 2005 "Actual Gameplay" trailer, people have been cautious in where they place their faith during these types of events.
Throughout the night, we saw trailers of multiple PlayStation 4 titles that looked suspiciously like they had been developed by Pixar or Dreamworks and featured fake UI overlays placed on top of prerendered footage. Killzone: Shadow Fall looked pretty, but if you were to watch the trailer again you'd probably notice some inconsistencies in the screen placement of the UI over the course of the video. Capcom's Deep Down would certainly look interesting to the fans of Dragon's Dogma, but I would bet money that not a single second of that footage was in-game. inFamous: Second Son's trailer was a breath of fresh air, after having to sit through a melodramatic Big Brother speech from Sucker Punch's Nate Fox, but I question the claim that it was running all in-game footage.
It's a weird phenomenon for sure. I wanted to see console tech specs, but was treated to mostly game videos. That said, I don't think most of those videos used actual footage. Companies like Quantic Dream and Square Enix were smart enough to say that their tech demos represented the presentation quality they were aiming for with the PlayStation 4, but I honestly don't know how the rest of the pack will succeed after releasing this "footage." The only presentations I can point to as actually having in-game footage are Blow's low-rez puzzler The Witness and Ubisoft's Watch Dogs, the later featuring visible screen tearing from the graphical processors buckling under the pressure.
During the PlayStation 2013 event, Sony and Gaikai officials officially announced PS Vita to PlayStation 4 remote play as "a huge part of the PlayStation 4 ecosystem," seemingly in an attempt to go head-to-head with the capabilities of the Wii U. According to Gaikai founder Dave Perry, the PS Vita is being positioned to become the next generation console's ultimate companion device.
Sony revealed that the aim was to make PlayStation 4 more accessible on the go. The company is aiming to make every PlayStation 4 game playable remotely on the PS Vita and potentially even other devices (likely Android tablets and smartphones). Not sure what that will mean for backwards compatible games, but the technical process is actually kind of neat. The PlayStation 4 acts as a game server to the device, which becomes a client. A live demonstration was shown using the newly announced PlayStation 4 title KNACK.
This is another announcement that has left me feeling both excited and doubtful. The concept of this kind of playstyle is interesting, but requires a lot of developer investment to make viable. I can't see every PlayStation 4 game capable of doing this right out of the gate and whether it will be a system selling point in the future is dependant on whether the PS Vita starts to gain some traction. That said, if Sony is seriously thinking of using this feature to compete against the Wii U and its Gamepad, I'd argue that they're dreaming in technicolor. The Wii U is dedicated to tablet gaming and comes packaged with a tablet controller; to assume that PlayStation 4 gamers will immediately drop $300 for a PS Vita with the intent of using it as a PS4 controller is nonsense.
Let's be frank: for all the capabilities the PlayStation 3 had going for it, one of the clear deficiencies was backwards compatibility. The revised PS3's inability to play PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games made wide library of games suddenly became unplayable as a result, and the lucky few to buy a PlayStation 3 capable of running these titles had to deal with overheating problems and fans that made the system sound like a helicopter. During the PlayStation 2013 event, the only thing I had hoped for was some good news about backwards compatibility.
As we now know, the PlayStation 4 will not support native backwards compatibility out of box. This means that your PlayStation, PS2, and PS3 disks will collect dust in the future. However, Gaikai is developing a cloud service that could offer those same games on the new console without the built-in hardware compatibility. According to Gakai's CEO David Perry, "the technology is so advanced that some day we could easily stream PS1, PS2, PS3, and the PS mobile games on any device, including the PlayStation 4."
For the uninitiated, Gaikai is a cloud-based gaming service that was sold to Sony a while back for $380 million. There had been speculation as to why this purchase went down, but it does indeed look like the cloud will be an important part of the PlayStation 4 ecosystem. I know some gamers, specifically collectors, are a little cheesed at the concept of having to play classic titles off the cloud, but I think this could be a move in the right direction for Sony. My only concern is how fast they can get previous titles up and running, as I'd love to replay Final Fantasy XII on an HDTV.
PlayStation: The Social Network
As a part of the PlayStation 4 reveal, Mark Cerny also discussed a few of the social features of the new platform. It's clear, based on the inclusion of a dedicated "share" button, that Sony aims to make sharing video as easy as possible with their new console, but the show didnít stop there. The PS4 can supposedly allow friends to browse live video of other gamer's sessions and allowing those spectators to reach out, take control, and lend help from a distance. Interestingly enough, the system also wants their community to become more of a social experience as well, with smartphone, tablet, and web platform integration. This could very well be the evolution of online video game experience.
Download Play 2.0
What is personally my favourite reveal of the night is the PlayStation 4's new focus on background downloading. Through some work of witchcraft, the PlayStation 4 will actually allow you to play PlayStation Network games as they download. Apparently, the games will be ready for you to start playing before you even choose to buy them, with the system learning and adapting to your likes and dislikes in order to predict what you want. Not only does this feature sound totally badass, but it also represents a spark of efficiency that I honestly didn't think Sony had.
That's it for this issue of Currents. Hopefully you and yours had a fantastic Valentine's Day this year. I spent it playing The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and drinking wine until it tasted like my tears. I joke, of course, but it was indeed a solo experience for me.
The PlayStation 2013 event certainly offered a lot of interesting content, but I really want to know what you guys think of the announcements. Are you planning on picking up a PlayStation 4 this holiday 2013? Was there a game you really wanted to see, but were left blue balled at the end of the night? Who had the worst presentation? Hit me up with some responses!