Home Editorial Playstation 4 impressions from a historically cynical gamer

I’m what you might call a late adopter. You won’t find me first in line for new software or gadgets, and I don’t typically buy into hype-fueled trailers or buzzword-laden press conferences. Typically, my eyes start rolling as soon as phrases like “epic, open world” or “interactive experiences gamers have never seen before” start being vomited onto a stage.

So when I casually flicked on Sony’s Playstation 4 announcement stream yesterday (having it running at low volume while I did things I actually wanted to focus on), it’s not an exaggeration to say I couldn’t have cared less.

Wingspantt jaded about playstation 4

But around half an hour into the Playstation 4 announcement, after the typical, masturbatory “history of our company” segment and the expected but unexciting “we still sell stuff other than Playstation bullet points,” Sony execs began talking about the actual capabilities of the Playstation 4. All of a sudden, the little gears in the interest-generating lobe of my brain (the back part) started turning. The Playstation 4 actually started sounding good. Could it be true?

No terrifying motion control gimmicks

Sony’s belly flop of a follow-up to the Wii and Kinect, the Move controller system, demonstrated that the Playstation 3 team was willing to chase after the latest gimmicks, no matter late in the game or how poorly integrated that system could be. We watched behind internet-shielded cringes as PR reps danced around with glowing orbs in their hands, continually touting the revolutionary nature of the technology they basically copied.* Sony’s Move  ultimately fell far short of the market penetration for Wii consoles and Kinect devices, but there was always the threat of another gimmick-geared comeback.

With the official reveal of the Playstation 4 controller, the ingeniously named Dual Shock 4, Sony has assuaged my fears. Yes, the Dual Shock 4 uses the Eye Motion camera to carry over 3D positioning technology pioneered with the Move, but it’s been integrated into the controller in a non-obtrusive manner. 3D movement will certainly be an option for devs, but you won’t have to whip out a colored wand in order to interact with new games in novel ways.

The rest of the controller is equally reassuring, with the solid-looking d-pad, analog sticks, and buttons we’ve come to expect since the first Playstation. A tiny touchscreen offers some of the functionality of the Wii U without becoming a needlessly all-consuming tablet, but it’s really the Share button that caught my attention.

Social sharing is a game changer

I never thought being on the supporting side of interconnect social media would be the devil’s advocate position, but by the end of Sony’s conference, sites like Reddit and Gamespot were already filled with bitter, sarcastic comments about the stupidity of the Share button.

reddit is bitter

Overreaction much? I’d like to think I’m not the only person with friends who play videogames, or that I’m not the only person who uses games as a way to catch up with people I haven’t seen in a while (separated by distance or schedules). When Sony says I can do more than just chat with friends, I can see their screen or possibly interact directly in their current game session at the touch of a button, I dunno, that sounds kind of cool. Perhaps I’m not antisocial enough to spitefully sneer at the idea of interacting with other human beings, but I like the concept of making games more interpersonal than before.

Of course, the Share button is also upping the ante in another direction – media creation. Up until now, game videos have been limited to users with high-end PC rigs or expensive, difficult-to-wire PVR capture devices. With the Playstation 4′s background capture feature and one-button recording/uploading capabilities, the internet is about to be opened up to a metric shit-ton of new gaming footage.

Will a lot of it be terrible? Sure it will. But we’re also going to discover new gaming prodigies and hilarious little moments that could never be recorded before, either because players didn’t have the money, the time, or the technological know-how to make it happen. Yes, players like RaininStormwake are good at Assassin’s Creed multiplayer, but you only know that because he’s put the energy into overcoming technological obstacles to sharing his gameplay. Once every player can upload footage, it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame.

And hey – it’s not reserved for pros. If you can quickly record a funny segment of a game and send it to a friend, all the better. It’s just another layer of social interaction that will keep the Playstation Network a more lively place.

Insane cloud computing

I won’t go into all the details, but Sony’s announcement of highly integrated, cloud-based services could be ushering in a new era of always-on gaming. The capability to auto-resume games and videos just by turning on the console is already impressive, but streaming the experience directly to the PS Vita is another. If the capability exists to then take that game on the go, outside of the home, the Wii U has just been officially trumped.

Not only that, Sony went out of its way to explain that Playstation 4 experiences will continue beyond its hardware, with Android and iOS apps (no surprise console competitor Microsoft’s Windows 8 phones are excluded) to provide additional on-the-go entertainment. Imagine playing a single player game on PS4, taking it with you on the train via your PS Vita, then managing your character’s outfits and inventory during midday downtime on your mobile phone. This is exactly the kind of all-encompassing media experience I’ve hoped for, and it looks like Sony will deliver it… they’ll try, at least.

Sony also announced that the Playstation 4 will be able to stream downloadable titles, loading necessary game files first so players can begin their adventures before the process is entirely complete. And with insinuations that the libraries of all previous Playstation games might be available for streaming play, this console could, for the first time, offer a digital library service that rivals Steam’s for versatility and speed.

The gauntlet has been thrown

I never thought I’d say this going into Sony’s conference, but Microsoft, Nintendo, and even Valve are on notice. Completely contrary to my previous, cynical expectations, Sony has revealed that it’s not just playing catch-up with shiny graphics and gimmicks, it understands what the next generation of console gaming can actually be. Gaming anywhere on the go, transferring experiences between devices and players, sharing footage and screenshots without extra hardware, and of course, impressive graphical capabilities.

Nintendo’s already played its hand with the Wii U, which is looking significantly less relevant as of right now. Microsoft has kept mum about its exact reveal window for the next Xbox, but suffice it to say, they’ve got their work cut out for them. That said, the American company has recently been on a hardware roll, with award-winning smartphones and tablets, so anything’s possible… including a now overlyoptimistic blogger being hugely let down and resuming his jaded view of the gaming world.

 

*Don’t get me wrong – other companies were just as much at fault as Sony was, but the Japanese giant wasn’t exactly helping the situation.


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13 replies to this post
  1. Hey wing, another Nintendo Hater? Nintendo has always been about games, and less about tech? Nintendo’s solution is the cheapest, how much do you think vita + ps4 wiil be to do the same thing?

    the wii is the worst motion control tech, but the one that has been best used so far, so don’t dismiss nintendo yet

    • Nintendo has always been an innovative company. I loved the SNES, N64, and Gamecube. I love the GB, GBA, Micro, and DS. I only “hate” Nintendo in the sense that Nintendo has fought the internet tooth and nail post-Gamecube. The Wii’s online policies were bafflingly bad, and the Wii U, while an improvement, are still closed off to the world outside the Nintendo family. Do you think Nintendo would/will release apps like Xbox Smart Glass or the iOS/Android apps Sony has proposed?

      And sure, PS4 + Vita is expensive, but at least it’s possible. Where is the support for multiple Wii U controllers? And even if/when it comes out, how much will it cost? And even if/when it comes out, you can’t take the controller out of your house as a gaming device.

      Unless Wii U introduces significant innovation with the 3DS or third party mobile devices (phones/tablets) they are going to be glued to the living room.

      • The Wii U has an online community known as Miiverse; users are able to pause the game they are playing at anytime, and post comments, drawings, and screenshots on Miiverse. They are then able to comment and view other people’s posts.

        Miiverse is divided into different subcommunities for each game. People post when they are stuck and need help, and swiftly get responses.

        Nintendo are developing a Web app for Miiverse that can be viewed on any mobile device. That means you’ll be able to access the community from anywhere with an Internet connection.

        Also, the Wii U does have support for up to two gamepads. We will be seeing this more in the future. The majority of PS4 owners will not invest in a PSVita and will not be able to experience gaming on the go.

        The Wii U has 3DS connectivity. Games like the new Monster Hunter can transfer save files between the system so you can play the game on the 3DS. The next Super Smash Bros. is confirmed to utilise 3DS connectivity.

        I am an avid Nintendo and Playstation fan. I am looking forward to the PS4 and the new generation. Your snide uninformed statements about Nintendo are both unfair and wrong, and you should do better research before commenting on a company you obviously harbour contempt for.

      • Rash, I know about the Miiverse, but the Miiverse is still part of Nintendo’s insular, self-contained world. That’s basically what I was complaining about: Nintendo refuses to play nice with third party technology that is now completely pervasive. The company’s decision to wait 6+ months post launch to bring the Miiverse to the “real” internet is another sign that it is reluctant to embrace obvious digital trends.

        Yes, the Wii U technically has support for two gamepads, but only because media and investors harassed Nintendo about it during Wii U reveals ad nauseum. The problem with releasing a fix months (if not years) post launch is that developers can’t plan for it. So it will be even longer until games correctly take advantage of 2x Wii U pads, if ever.

        The Wii U’s 3DS connectivity is there, but where is the big hoopla about it? Same as with the Miiverse and the double controllers… it isn’t actually part of Nintendo’s big picture plan. Their hand is being forced, and they’ve done everything in their power to fight real cross platform integration. Maybe most PS4 owners won’t buy a Vita, but they will have smartphones that tie into the PSN.

  2. Did not expect such kind words from you Wing on this event. I guess I should have watched the end of this reveal.I also wonder if I am going to get a PS4 or the next generation of Xbox, looking forward to your input maybe in a future article.

  3. Hmm…
    Y’know, a professional reporter would’ve explained here what the Share button ACTUALLY DOES.

    But I digress, it’s all just fun and games here, right? Right. As an extremely, extremely (imagine that second one being in italics) antisocial person who sees others as tools which are too dumb to recognise the doomed world in front of them… anyhow, as such a person, I can fully understand why you would not want such a feature.

    No I do NOT want all my 3 friends to know I died, PS4, stop asking each time! Sometimes maybe I want a bit off of Failbook, like, you know, that time when I’m playing PS instead of Farmville?

    Granted, I don’t play either anymore (to clarify, I was never on FB to begin with), but still, the article makes it sound like some contact is pretty much mandatory. In a way, this sounds like it’s some sort of intrusion in privacy already by taking from the player the decision of if they want to still be in contact or maybe stop bothering (and being bothered by) their so-called friends.

    As such, I’d tend to Xbox, whose social system I personally consider far superior to PS’s. At least that lets you shut off the bloody online and play the f’ckin game that you paid for.
    Of course, there’s no telling what the next iteration of Xbox will bring, and with this announcement to the mouth-foaming Failbook crowd, it’s more than likely that Microsoft will in some way try to pull even. So you know what I’ll be playing? Notepad, mostly. But on the off times, PC. That which will never force you into contact you don’t want.

  4. I haven’t watched the entire press conference yet, only bits and pieces of it. Still, while some of the purported features like the ability to continue a game literally right where you left off are nice, I’m still worried.

    I’m not one of those fretting over a lack of seeing the actual console itself. That aspect isn’t exactly important unless it turns out to be the size of a fridge or something. Likewise with any information on the release date, it will be out when it’s out. No price point though? That worries me, greatly.

    Also, as much as it pains me to say it, I wasn’t that impressed by what little they showed games wise. The only thing that remotely interested me was Deep Down. A console can be as advanced as you can feasibly make it and have a good price point, but until there’s games that people actually want to play on it good luck getting it to move.

    Admittedly we have no idea what the actual launch lineup is going to be, but so far while I’m not hating what I saw, I’m also not really impressed either.

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