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PlayStation 4 Announcement

I haven’t contributed to GameDrunk in a long time (unless you count encouraging Dave and Wes’ alcoholism), mainly

Sony didn't even try this hard

because I am a really lazy bastard, but in part due to life.  As the resident Sony fanboy, I decided it was time to dust off the keyboard now that Sony has “revealed” the PlayStation 4, if you can define reveal without actually showing an actual product. It’s like saying you saw a basketball game by reading the sports page. They didn’t actually show a system, not even a block of wood with a PS4 logo etched into the side.  Even cars will at least show a prototype model that may or may not bear any semblance of the final product. But no, all we got was the new controller, the car show equivalent of a steering wheel.  That isn’t to say that Sony didn’t come with a list of specs, capabilities, and news.  So, here it is from a Sony fan; The Good, The Meh, and The Ugly of the PlayStation 4.

The Good

It really says something when a lot of the good points you present aren’t actually on display, but in a specs list.  Truth be told, this part is more like a developer’s presentation, but it was enough to feed the guys who love to argue for their favorite console in the console wars.  So here it is:  The CPU is an x86-64 AMD “Jaguar” processor.  What this means is that Sony changed their architecture again, but this time they took it mainstream.  It will be much easier for developers to design for the system.  This means they will be able to get pretty much any third-party developer to work with them without having a learning curve, and it prevents the embarrassing moments of developers ranting against the PlayStation in interviews.

As a fan of the PlayStation brand I am excited to think that my go-to system will start from an even playing field when it comes to getting great third-party titles.  The benefits of this are seen already as Blizzard has announced Diablo 3 is coming and Bungie, of Halo fame, is bringing their next game to PlayStation.  But there is a negative aspect to accessibility.  Die hard Sony fans know that there is something about the first-party titles that draws them in.  There is a degree of delicacy that shows the developers have had to put in extra effort in the proprietary development structure and once they gain proficiency with it can get some fine details out of far less hardware than you will see on other systems.  To this day I could not tell someone why I love Gran Turismo like I do, but there is always just a certain feel to it that calls to me.  We could lose that uniqueness.  A PlayStation game built in a popular architecture might be the gaming equivalent of every time Budweiser tries to make a new specialty beer.  Speaking of mass produced shit, being easy to develop for is not always the best thing.  The amount of shovelware will be incredible.  Going to buy that AAA title will be like looking for your favorite import beer in a cooler full of Bud Light.

Moving beyond the CPU is the GPU.  This will be an AMD Radeon Graphics Core Next chip that they claim can do 1.84 TFLOPS.  I am still not sure when we started making up words for processing capabilities, but teraflops sounds like something a drunk Dr. Seuss, or my dad, would come up with.  Naming conventions aside, I have been around technology long enough to know that is fairly impressive in the console world.  This is even more impressive when placed with the available memory, which will be a shared 8GB of GDDR5 RAM.  This is 16 times more memory than the total that was in the PS3.  Even better, this is shared between the CPU and GPU, where the PS3 had 256MB dedicated to each.  This means that the PS4 can be weighted to focus more on processing or graphics as needed.  It will give developers more flexibility.  I have already heard comments about the PS4 being better than top end gaming PCs.  There are more powerful PCs out there now and by the time the PS4 launches near the end of this year PCs will have moved on.  So, the console war has begun with the same hyperbole we are all used to.

A lot of what this means has been shown in some previews of AAA sequels.  Most notable are Killzone: Shadow Fall and InFamous: Second Son.  This should be good news for the more traditional gamer.  What we love about our games is still there.  Besides, what would a system launch be without space marines, zombies, aliens, or Nazis?  And we get Space Nazis!!!  And if you must absolutely have aliens, they did preview new title Destiny.  It is hard to determine what any of these new titles will bring us, so what category they fall under is still to be decided on.

The final tech specs that fall under Good are a few welcome friends.  A BD/DVD optical drive, along with news that used games will still be allowed.  Wired and wireless Internet along with Bluetooth and USB connectivity.  And finally, HDMI, Analog, and Digital optical A/V connectors.  If you still have that massive 48″ rear-projection screen standard definition TV you bought off a friend upgrading to HDTV then you can still use it.  And considering the disturbingly large number of people I know still using SDTVs, that can be nothing but good.  But will Sony toss us an HDMI cable this time around or not?

The Meh

Let’s start off with the last technical specification, which isn’t really a spec but they listed it as one anyway; a hard drive.  It will have one.  A big one?  A solid state one?  Replaceable?  We don’t know.  But considering that I currently have a full 320GB drive in my PS3 I am of the opinion that anything under 1TB is inexcusable.  And for the sake of affordability I am going to guess that it will be a standard spindle-driven HDD and not solid state.  But saying they have a hard drive without any details is kind of like saying they have a PS4 without actually showing one.  I have a feeling Sony’s marketing team got ahead of their design team.  I bet an E3 reveal would have been better, but then you have to compete for the spotlight.

DualShock 4

Now for something we did see. The Dualshock 4 wireless controller. The form factor is similar to the DS3, but now there is a capacitive touch pad, stereo headset jack, and a light bar. Touch is the new motion this generation. To be honest, I don’t care. I fear this will lead to a lot of mobile game ports. But as anyone who has tried using a touch pad on a Windows 8 laptop can tell you, a touch pad is not a touch screen. It works differently, and that will mean a bit of getting used to. Then there is the light bar, which will interact with the new camera, much like the Move light. So it is a Sixaxis Move with touch capabilities. I’m not sure this is a good thing. As it is now, standard controllers have 14 buttons (counting the D-Pad and R3 and L3 buttons). Very few games utilized the Sixaxis with the full range of buttons. Where adding Move and touch controls will improve games I don’t know. I see the benefit to not needing to buy tons of peripherals, but I can see nightmarish control schemes being created.

As for the headset jack, Sony confirmed we will have cross-game chat. Glad to see they got right on top of that, seven years after Microsoft. Ultimately, I don’t use a lot of chatting in games that don’t use team strategy. But this will likely play a role in the rest of the features. Sony is going social. You can share your gameplay and even let a friend take over to help you. My problem is that I never have any games share my latest achievement on Facebook or Twitter. In fact, aside from a few people I want to block, I don’t see most people do it. But when you combine a touch pad and this, I see a lot of FarmVille style games and my message inbox being loaded up with requests to harvest something or give a gift. It is all the reasons I avoided social games until I could put them on my phone and turn off the social aspects.

All this online capability will go even further. You can rent games via streaming and try them before buying them. Similarly you can play PS1,PS2, and PS3 games via streaming. You can also begin playing a game before it finishes downloading. My initial reaction was that this seemed awesome.  But the more I thought about the more I kept thinking about OnLive. Most people who game online in the US have the Internet speed to play online multiplayer, but do we have what we need to do lag-free cloud gaming?  To add to that, I know of a number of people in parts of Europe and Australia who still have monthly data caps. There are also talks of cable companies considering tiered data packages, like wireless companies have. There is a very real possibility that, despite the bandwidth, streaming games won’t be a feasible plan. As for the backward compatible via streaming:

The Ugly

There will be no physical media backward compatibility and your PSN purchases won’t transfer. The issue is that now that Sony finally decided to use a traditional hardware architecture it would be difficult to make it work. I’ll be honest,

Seems about right

the lack of backward compatibility isn’t a huge shock. I suspected it would happen. I didn’t think Sony would actually be dumb enough to do it after the kerfuffle that happened with the loss of PS2 backward compatibility and the removal of OtherOS on the PS3, but I also know that Sony has a way of just kicking their customers in the balls against all reason, and then acting like we are the assholes for complaining. But PSN purchases?  The biggest selling point of digital media is that it is available to you anytime, anywhere, on any related device. Sony is making the largest case against digital media that they can with the PS4 by doing this, but on a system that they are touting cloud/streaming gaming as a main selling point. Oh, I can “own” a game on the cloud?  When will you stop supporting that?  Fuck you, Sony.

Let me break it down like this. In my house we have two iPhone 4s, an iPhone 5, and an iPad. All four devices use the same iTunes account and any apps or in-app purchases that have been bought are available to all devices.  In fact, the only compatibility issues on smart devices occur when an app is designed specifically for new hardware that older devices lack, but no one expects forward compatibility to continue on indefinitely. So, every iOS and Android user knows how this should work. If you buy something, you own it and get to keep it. Even if an app is taken off the store you can back it up on your PC. But Sony doesn’t understand that concept.

This is the point when we should all ask Sony why we should purchase any digital media from them. The issue that is being overlooked is that as soon as they take down the PS3 servers in three years or so (ten-year lifespan, remember?) your PSN purchases will only last as long as they stay on a working PS3’s hard drive, unless it has an online-only DRM scheme (Looking at you Capcom). The real kick to the nuts will come to PlayStation Plus users who have been promised that they will get to keep their free content as long as they have a PlayStation Plus subscription. That will now mean only until the PlayStation 3 servers quit running or the PS3’s Plus program is ended.

Sony, let’s talk. I’m a fan of your stuff. I love LBP, GoW, GT, MGS, and many of your other exclusive titles. But this is inexcusable. I want to give you my money. I want to play your games. But I expect a little good faith in return. Those streaming backward compatible titles had better be free for anything I own. I bought the entire MGS saga, twice.  I also bought the God of War HD collection. I have every Gran Turismo and a cockpit setup to match. Hell, I paid the $100 for the GT5 Collector’s Edition and even went out of my way to meet Lucas Ordonez (The first GT Academy winner) at a Le Mans race. I am a PS+ subscriber. And as I said before, I have a 320 GB HDD in my PS3 that is full of games and add-ons. My Rock Band song list is competing with iTunes right now. Explain to people like me why you didn’t make getting at least some of this stuff transferred over a priority in development. I honestly cannot say if even Gran Turismo (the reason why the PlayStation has always been my primary gaming console) will lure me in to buying a PS4.

Ultimately, what I have learned from the Playstation 4 announcement is that we, as consumers, have no reason to trust Sony going forward unless there are a lot changes before launch (and history says it will). Apple and Google have shown a proper understanding of the customer/business relationship when it comes to digital downloads and they are each rumored to be getting into the console business. Sony just convinced me that I should see what those two might give us before buying a Playstation 4.

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One Comment

  1. avatar Dave says:

    At this point nearly all third-party games end up on all systems. It all just depends one which controller/interface you prefer.

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