Sony PlayStation 4 – A Roundtable Reaction to the PS4′s (sort of) unveiling

Posted on Feb 22 2013 - 1:00am by Jeffrey L. Wilson

  controller 06 1024x682 Sony PlayStation 4   A Roundtable Reaction to the PS4s (sort of) unveiling

 

Jeffrey L. Wilson, Founder/Editor in Chief
So, Sony invited journalists and analysts from the world over to share a few details on its upcoming PlayStation 4 console. And we got just that — a few details. Call me jaded, but I don’t expect much from video game press conferences even at E3; there’s just so much fluff and hyperbole. The PS4 event was par for the course.

Presenters showcased a handful of game demos — many of which looked like cutscenes probably because they were cutscenes — but the most interesting PS4 news was about features. 8GB of RAM opens the door to, hopefully, reduced load times and greater graphical fidelity as Sony states it will grant the system “176 GB/second of bandwidth.” The PS4′s built-in live streaming to Facebook is a pretty nifty addition, too. Speaking of streaming, the ability to play games as they’re downloading may be a killer feature as it eliminates downtime. That Gaikai purchase may be put to good use, after all.

I was mildly let down that Sony didn’t unveil the actual console build, but that’s not a huge issue. I’ve never purchased a console based on appearance. The revealed controller (pictured above and in the gallery below) looks to have a bit more heft, which I hope is the case; I’ve found the PS3 controller too lightweight and hollow for my taste.

I’m really looking forward to what PS4 software-related news (if any) comes out of GDC and, of course, how Microsoft responds to this early teaser.

Tim Torres, Senior Reviews Editor
Basically, Sony followed in the footsteps of Nintendo and its reveal of the Wii U. We don’t know what the PS4 console looks like, we don’t know the price, but we know it exists and it has a controller with a touchpad interface. As for everything else, like the ability to play used games or the rumored switch to an Xbox Live-style subscription service for online play: “No comment.” It’s safe to assume Sony’s sitting on that (bad?) news for E3. It’s also safe to assume this is the way of the console announcement from now on: a lot of sound and fury for investors and casual audiences with very little for people who actually care about video games to hold onto.

A few games were revealed, but I can’t put any stock in trailers anymore. We live in a post-Alien: Colonial Marines world, so forgive me for not drinking the Kool-Aid over these things. I don’t think every developer’s out there to get me, I just think it’s good to be way more discerning nowadays. Sony pulled the same thing with Killzone at their PlayStation 3 announcement years ago too, so, yeah, when taken with big heaps of salt David Cage’s old man render looks good (even if his film history lesson was horrendously misguided), Capcom’s version of Dark Souls looks even better and Bungie’s Destiny sounds interesting though I’m still not entirely sure what it is yet. The huge list of developers working on PS4 games (Falcom!) was the best thing about Sony’s conference even if it’s no guarantee we’ll see the fruit of all that labor. I also wonder why anyone would bother with Diablo III ever again. 

The absences, if Twitter and game forum responses are any indication, were more notable. Big Sony properties like The Last Guardian, Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy Versus XIII, rumored to make the jump to PS4, were all no-shows. Will they be at E3? Who honestly believes they exist anymore? The only thing Square Enix flew to NYC for was to show the same Agni’s Philosophy trailer they debuted last year and to announce the announcement of a Final Fantasy-related… announcement… at this year’s E3. An actual announcement, rather than a nebulous “please wait longer” would’ve elevated this event somewhat.

Other than that, Sony’s checking off all the important bullet points. Stream to Vita? Check. Touch pad interface? Yup. More polygons? Uh-huh. Social media? In spades. Connect to Facebook, stream to Facebook, share, share, share. Great for those that love that kind of stuff, but I doubt I will ever use it. I don’t know, maybe I belong in the mountains. Or maybe I don’t like using my real name to get aggressively marketed to. Perhaps it’s obvious by now, but it’s funny the two big games today, Watch Dogs and the new inFamous, vilify the always-connected world of self-surveillance that Sony’s promoting. Maybe “Super-charged Cognitive Dissonance” could also appear on the back of the PS4 box.

Eric Guzman, Features Editor
I’m looking at PlayStation 4 with optimism — for now. Yesterday’s announcement proved that Sony learned from the PlayStation 3′s failures. Gone is the gimmicky cell processing architecture, a nightmare for developers to program and source of lackluster ports early in the system’s life. Instead, Sony has built a console that works more like a PC. It’s using a standard CPU and GPU, meaning that development should be far easier than it has ever been.

Diablo III‘s announcement was my favorite event highlight. Everyone has been groaning about Blizzard’s Diablo III announcement, but you have to look at this announcement from every angle. This will probably lead to additional Blizzard titles on home consoles —  a major contrast for a developer that been PC-exclusive for a long time. We can only hope for a StarCraft: Ghost revival, but don’t hold your breath.

The new social media sharing features should prove to be interesting. We’ll surely see an increase in user-created content. From a journalistic stand point I think it’ll improve the ability to share with the public easier. That brings me to the controller. It looks too busy, and there’s also a large amount of technology going into it. You have to wonder how expensive it will be.

My biggest concern is the side-by-side support Sony plans on giving PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. I’m glad the PlayStation 3 will still receive games, but doesn’t this show us how marginal the hardware improvements may be if the PlayStation 3 can run these games? It will be crucial to see  comparison shots of Watch Dogs running on a PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. The differences and improvements will be vital if Sony wants people to purchase a PlayStation 4 to play these games. Why would anyone bother buying an expensive console if the one they currently have works fine?

As a gamer I’m always happy to see new hardware and technology, but I’ve been around long enough to know not to become infatuated without reason. For now the PlayStation 4 looks like a step in the right direction.

Tatjana Vejnovic, Managing Editor
This was Sony’s biggest announcement in years — and it was mediocre at best. I was really hoping for Uncharted 4, but hey, I like to dream. Instead, Square Enix hyped a year old video, Capcom’s engine name sounds like some sort of bacterial disease, and all David Cage had to show was some old dude’s face. Learning that Watch Dogs is still in development was a big surprise, though. I’m glad it was saved for the next generation. It has lots of potential.

Onto the revamped controller. Sony has kept the Dualshock design the same for the last fifteen years. That’s right, fifteen years. That’s the majority of my lifetime. So, why fix what’s not broken? The Dualshock controller to me is perfect. It fits great in the hands, has smooth joysticks, and the greatest d-pad of all time. So, let’s put a…touchpad on it? And why the hell is there a sensor bar? These appear ploys to court casuals.

Sure, we didn’t see the console, but, honestly, I didn’t think we would. The game showcase was decent. I was surprisingly impressed by the Killzone demo. At first I was convinced it was all CGI, but once the explosions kicked in, it was clear: the goal of the PlayStation 4 is to make explosions look awesome. I mean, c’mon, what else are you going to do with 8GB of GDDR5 RAM? Explosions is the only answer.

Do I think the PS4 having no native backwards compatibility is a smart idea? No. I think it’s actually an incredibly stupid idea. I get that Sony is looking forward to the next generation (and possibly save money), but PS3 powers have spent countless amounts of money on our consoles and games. Although I doubt it’s possible, I do hope Sony rethinks this decision and gives us native PS3 compatibility — I’m not completely sold on the Gaikai streaming idea.

Overall, I’m not very impressed. Yet.

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Jeffrey L. Wilson is the former Big Boss of 2D-X.com. Now retired, he spends his days as a man of leisure. Kinda.

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4 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Eric Guzman February 22, 2013 at 11:24 AM - Reply

    Tats, but do you really think PS3 backwards compatibility is an issue. I mean most people that will buy a PS4 will probably have a PS3. I’ve never understood the backwards compatibility gripe many gamers share, so I’m interested as to why its so important to gamers.

    • Terry Torres February 22, 2013 at 5:49 PM - Reply

      I think it’s a considered a reward for loyalty. I mean, that’s how it was for me, going from the PS1 to PS2.

      But everything can be digitized and stored now. Those are games that can be RESOLD on the PS4. Backwards compatibility was a selling point 10 years ago, but it’s a liability now.

    • Tim February 23, 2013 at 3:32 PM - Reply

      It was a foregone conclusion for a while. PS2 did it, DS did it, Wii did it, PS3 did it… for a while before it was taken away. It was a great idea. A lot of added value there. Old hardware doesn’t last forever either, *especially* Sony hardware. I can’t remember how many failed disc drives in PS1s and PS2s we went through. Not only that, consumers used to be able to sell or trade in their old hardware for the new and still be able to play their old game collection. It’s frustrating to go BACK to these dusty old paradigms like lack of backwards compatibility and region-locked systems (the 3DS) instead of the convenient, pro-consumer ways we got used to in that tiny interim. Plus, nobody wants to re-buy games they ALREADY own like Sony now insists we do with the move from PSP to Vita and now PS3 to PS4. It’s frustrating.

    • MattK February 23, 2013 at 5:06 PM - Reply

      I can appreciate what you guys are saying, but I agree with Eric here: I don’t really see backwards compatibility as a long-term issue. There are two obstacles that are keeping Sony from implementing backwards compatibility in the PS4, and neither one has to do with intentionally offending its fanbase: 1. BC was an expensive proposition for PS3, which first had to incorporate the entire PS2 chipset in the 20 and 60GB models and then an expensive, power-hungry emulation in the second generation PS3s before Sony eliminated it altogether. It made the PS3 an even more expensive console than it would have been as a young Blu-ray player (which by itself was incredibly expensive tech six years ago), and therefore the PS3 lagged in sales. You could guess why they wouldn’t want to repeat this with the PS4. 2. On a related note, it would be very difficult to incorporate the Cell architecture or power-intensive emulation into the PS4 just for the sake of pleasing PS3 owners who don’t want hardware clutter.

      What I *do* think Sony should do is be more humble and upfront about why they’re ditching non-streaming (and there’s really no guarantee that streaming will ever be an effective work-around) BC. They should tell their customers, “Look, we screwed up when we designed the Cell for PS3. It was a mess, we made things too hard for developers, and we’re going with something better now. Unfortunately, that will require a completely clean slate and there will be some growing pains as a result. Part of that will be the loss of backwards compatibility, at least for a few years. But we’ll continue to support the PS3, just as we did the PS2 for its long lifespan.”

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