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What does the PS4 announcement really mean ?

This post has not been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.

I’m slowly playing catch up from last night I’ll admit. Living in the UK has it’s pros and cons and as much as I love gaming, waiting for a midnight announcement on the next-gen console war from Sony is a poor substitute for a warm bed. Now I’m reading through all the posts filled with video clips, spec sheets and fanboy fever and it’s just not setting the world on fire for me.

Controller revamp is hit and miss

I own all three major formats; PS3, Xbox360, Wii. I’ve forgone the Wii U for now because I think the controller is a gimmick and sadly Sony has fallen foul of immitating this somewhat with the new DualShock. I’ll admit the Vita-like experience of a touchpanel may work better than a distracting screen but it’s still additional effort for a gamer and the DualShock just isn’t designed around the experience itself, the experience has been somewhat forced into the controller. I like the idea of using the glowing light as an in-game indicator of health/ stats but when you’re in the thick of the action I’m not sure it’s going to work well.

Then there’s the 3D camera that uses the light to track movement; why Sony, why did you insist on keeping the glowing orb alive ?! I still find the Kinect a clunky experience and it’s better suited to hacked applications to be honest so I’m still unconvinced that this whole area of immersion actually merits further investment by Microsoft and Sony but at least in Microsoft’s favour they got the tech right, Sony is still clinging to the bulbous love-child of the Wii Remote.

System shock

Now onto the rap sheet of the main system. I’ll post it at the end, it’s just another distraction. The move from proprietary to mass-market is interesting if not totally unexpected. Going to a PC-based architecture makes far more sense now for games studios who wrestled with cross-developing for the two main consoles. Whilst it means that console exclusives will still remain it will cut out the nonsense as witnessed by Bethseda and the Skyrim DLC debacle for PS3 owners, there will be no more excuses from developers not to release content at the same time. I do wish Sony would cut the whole “emotion” BS though from the PS3 heyday. What worries me though is that the system innards have become derivative, it’s both a pro and a con but will date the console quicker now, in fact by the time it’s released it may look over 2 years out of date.

It’s all about the experience

The most important aspect for everyone who wants a next-gen console is the gaming and online experience. This is really where Sony’s strategy will either succeed or flop spectacularly.

  • The launch line up looks interesting but nothing to write home about. I’m not seeing a massive leap despite the hype so again everything rests on the game studios. It always has, the console can be designed to do everything and anything but it’s those who know how to create and weave a gaming experience together that will makeor break this next-gen war.
  • The Gaikai investment is pretty key here for online. I do think as networks increase in speed we’re going to see a shift from physical media to cloud and online starting to really ramp up. It may appease those who will mourn the death of native PS3 backward compatability if those games are available (and without a further fee if you own the original!) however it seems things are not that clear cut. Second-hand games will still be playable but all your previous PSN purchases and game saves will not be available. This is a big deal but it’s all down to the change in architecture.
  • Social sharing features may sound great on paper but in reality I don’t care about sharing a video clip with others, another gimmick to me that will miss the target with a lot of people. I do expect that Little Big Planet for the PS4 will take full advantage of the new DualShock’s features in a big way though. However the ability to share recommendations/ ‘likes’ with others you’re connected to may prove popular.
  • I do like the ability to take control over someone elses experience if they’re having difficulty. It’s better than shouting down instructions via the network or FaceTime that’s for sure.
  • I expect development time for the new console to reduce dramatically and be in line with most Xbox releases. I just have this perception that release dates dragged on because the PS3 was hard to get to grips with. Again, using Bethseda as an example, treating gamers equally no matter which console they’ve decided to invest in has to become a major strategy for Sony’s dev studios now.
  • I didn’t like the Xbox360 media experience when it first came out but I’ve grown to like it more over the PS3 now, the design is spot on and really outshines PSN now and how Sony takes this forward will either make or break it as a home hub.

Missing in action

There are some other niggles. No 4K output cited for example but apparently it will output to 4K, just not the games. It’s minor and tied to yet another format war but early adopters flush with cash may expect it. Will it mean Sony plans to release basic and pro console packages ? Who knows. The other thing sitting at the back of my mind is BluRay. As a physical media it won over HD-DVD but if the PS4 flops will it take the format with it ? Again, who knows but with more content being delivered online I really don’t see a need to spin the discs in the next few years.

State of flux

I get the impression from the announcement that everything is still in flux and subject to change and confirmation as the fallout begins. Whether it was a deliberate strategy I’m not sure but Sony seems to be filling in an awful lot of blanks after the fact when people begin to speak up, and with a 10 month window before release they’ve got enough time to correct some of the more important aspects people have a bone of contention over.

For me it’s interesting times indeed. Sony has tipped it’s hand and all eyes now turn to Microsoft to see what they announce and confirm for launch. If both release their hardware in time for the holidays, and living in an economy where money is being stashed under the mattress for a rainy day, I’m not sure there’s enough love to go around to warrant buying both formats again. Someone is going to exit the hardware arena after this, that’s my prediction, they’ll do a Sega and focus on the games and IP.

Which means perhaps for the first time in a long time, there really will be a clear winner in this war. Extra life for Player One, game over for Player Two.

System Specs

Main Processor
Single-chip custom processor
CPU : x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”, 8 cores
GPU : 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD next-generation Radeon based graphics engine

Memory
GDDR5 8GB

Hard Disk Drive
Built-in

Optical Drive (read only)
BD 6xCAV
DVD 8xCAV

I/O
Super-Speed USB (USB 3.0) 、AUX
Communication Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)
IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth® 2.1 (EDR)

AV output
HDMI
Analog-AV out
Digital Output (optical)


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