By Justin Polak
Co-Founder, Ambassador of the Mushroom Kingdom
It’s been a few days since the dust settled from Sony revealing a slew of details for the forthcoming PlayStation 4. It’s been awhile since I have chimed in on anything, let alone video game industry related issues, so I figure now is a good time to poke my head out of seclusion and give a few quick thoughts. Keep in mind that what I am about to say is merely speculation…
Call it good business sense or call it Sony borrowing ideas yet again, it should come to as surprise that Sony is adding a touch screen to the DualShock 4 controller. The screen will most likely be used to interact with games/applications like you would with a smart phone or tablet. I think it would be a good idea to use it as a makeshift mouse for real time strategy games or something similar. Over the last few days, people have been worried games might rely too heavily on the touch pad, or that the feature will interfere too much traditional gameplay. All I have to say is that when the Wii controller was revealed, people fretted at the idea of seemingly waving your arm all over the place. Not only did that turn out just fine, but most popular games stuck with a control stick and button scheme for their games.
The DualShock 4 will also share traits with the Xbox 360 device, Kinect. Apparently, the controller will synch to the PlayStation 4 Eye, which has a camera that will be able to determine exactly how many people are playing, where they are in the room, multiple facial recognition features and a microphone that’s in the controller so the console can easily tell who is talking.
I was never a big fan of the Kinect, but I liked the interactivity. I always felt that if the idea has a chance to evolve more, it could be streamlined into gaming properly. While I still feel generally apathetic about Kinect and the PlayStation 4 Eye, I do feel it’s a step in the right direction. Most people forget there was a time when normal video game controllers were very awkward and there was no such thing as a D-pad. Sometimes it just takes awhile before an idea can truly evolve.
THE SOCIAL ASPECT
What seems to be getting a very mixed reaction is the social elements of the PlayStation 4. At any time, you’ll be able to post what you’re doing on sites like Facebook. Did something hilarious just happen in a multiplayer match? Good thing you can screen cap or share a video of it! Do you regularly stream games or always wanted to, but were too lazy to set up your PC to do so? Well, the PlayStation 4 has you covered there.
While some gamers are more cynical about social media and having video games being involved with it (understandably), I don’t see the big deal as long as the games don’t force you to partake in sharing what you do online. I highly doubt you’ll be locked out of a game because you didn’t let Facebook know that you earned another trophy. As a person who has dabbled in video game streaming, I like the option to invite friends to watch me horse around. Some of my fondest gaming related memories have involved hanging out with a friend or two while we all figured out how to beat a video game. Living an adult life means it’s harder to get together with friends at times, so I am stoked for the option to have another avenue to that sort of behavior.
The way I see it, online multiplayer has allowed friends to play together online when visiting each other in real life wasn’t an option. Plus, with the way the world is today, many people have friends online that they have never met in real life. This was a smart move on Sony’s part.
“I WANT TO PLAY NOW!”
Something I’m surprised that more people haven’t talked about is Sony’s emphasis on cutting down how long it takes to start playing a game from the moment you turn on your console. A gamer that is more cynical with modern games might tell you that he remembers the good old days where you slapped a power button and were playing a game in a matter of seconds. The PlayStation 4 still won’t be able to turn on from being completely off and get you right to the action right away…but that’s why it comes with a suspend feature. At any time you can press a power button on the controller instead of powering the whole system down. The PlayStation 4 will then go into a sleep state, and players can resume whenever they want.
My only concern is that modern day console hardware isn’t what it used to be. I’m hoping that using this feature often won’t produce more wear and tear on the console and cause it to break down faster. I may be cynical about this, but I find it disheartening that all of my video game hardware from the ’90s keeps on going on as if I only bought it a couple of years ago, while if I look at something modern the wrong way it will spontaneously combust.
Once again, it sppears Sony HAS been paying attention to the competition. The controller/screen hybrid Wii U pad has turned some heads ever since it was revealed. But instead of coming out with a similar device, Sony has opted to let gamers use the PlayStation Vita as another screen, so you don’t have to use your TV to play games. Didn’t get a Vita, but still want a another screen to toy around with? Sony is releasing an app for Android smartphones that will allow you to use the device as game map, or something similar. Going back to the social aspect a bit, you can also use the phone to watch people play games with this app.
While I love the Wii U game pad, I’m not too sure about Sony’s angle on using another screen. Watching someone play for even a decent amount of time will most likely drain the hell out of a phone battery. Also, the Vita hasn’t been doing too well in terms of sales, and I doubt people will rush out to get another expensive device just to play a game on a smaller screen. If you already have one, then sure, the idea can work. I just get the vibe that this idea was thrown together too quickly to compete with how the Wii U plays games.
The game line up for the PS4 seems to be pretty good already. Many familiar faces are on board, and even a couple of new ones. Again, if your a modern gaming cynic, you’ll only see the same old song and dance. But I do feel that there is already something for everyone when it comes down to the games (personally I am excited for Watch Dogs).
Backwards compatibility is nice, but the lack of it isn’t a deal breaker for me. Then again, I am the kind of person who still has every console/device I ever had lying around somewhere, so I don’t rely on new hardware too often to revisit old games. Plus, Sony did say they were working on bringing older games to the system digitally.
Most people find the lack of an actual PlayStation 4 console to be a bit odd/suspicious, but I don’t see any problem. They are most likely hashing out some minor details and all will be revealed at E3 in a few months. I remember when Nintendo did the opposite when they revealed the Wii. They released pics/specs about the hardware, but the controller was nowhere to be found. We all know how that turned out. Maybe Sony will have something up its sleeve with the actual console…
While none of the details regarding he PS4 made me bounce across the room, I don’t see a grim picture, either. I am excited for a few newer features I have enjoyed on a PC for a long while, and cautiously optimistic about other elements. I just hope that Sony doesn’t drop some crazy price point on us again like they did with the PlayStation 3. All in all, it’s nice to see that Sony could possibly get its groove back, and the only thing any of us can do now is wait.
Front page image from kotaku.com. Image 1 from bgn.com. Image 2 from gamingirresponsibly.com. Image 3 from mashable.com. Image 4 from latimes.com. Image 5 from thenextweb.com.