PlayStation 4 and the Invisible Reveal
I'm back in the UK after a fortnight in Japan. I'll be writing something about our trip in the next few days, which will include some holiday snaps, but for now there are more important things to discuss.
I had so many questions heading into last night's PlayStation 4 extravaganza. What does the hardware look like and what games will I be playing on it? How many jobs will I need to afford one at launch, and when exactly is launch? Will it stand horizontally or vertically? How many times can poorly dressed men say "social" in the space of two hours? Ridge Racer, Ridge Racer, Ridge Racer? Some of these questions were answered, others remain.
To Sony's credit, they didn't beat around the bush, referring directly to their next home console within the first five minutes. Although there was lots of speculation and company waffle, Sony wasn't afraid to show off the controller along with some trailers and live demos. We did not see the actual hardware, but instead the new controller took centre stage and the hosts were very forthcoming regarding early games. Although I would like to have seen the black box that will soon replace the other black box under my TV, I'd much rather learn about games than gawp at a slab of plastic for an entire conference.
Lead architecture designer for the PS4, Mark Cerny, came prepared with technical details and introduced the new stereo camera and DualShock 4, which looked a bit too third-party knock-off for my liking. However, the new features should make up for its unappealing design. There was confirmation of a PC GPU, 8GB of unified memory and lots of other specs that have made many a developer very happy, at least if talking-heads are to be believed. The ability to play games as they download is very welcome and will be a god send if PSN remains as excruciatingly slow as it is on PS3. It was suggested after the presentation that the PS4 will not block used games.
Gaikai's Dave Perry set the bar rather high for the Sony Network and cloud. There was much talk of social functions and how it will be near impossible to avoid your friends, who will have all sorts of new ways to bother you online. The share button, direct interaction and the ability to watch your friend's game were all discussed. As expected, the PS4 will not be backward compatible, though Dave was hopeful that the entire PlayStation back catalogue will eventually be available via streaming, so we can pay for our old favourites all over again. The Vita was mentioned a number of times, and there was talk of its potential being unlocked later in the year as the "ultra companion piece for the PS4". Remote play will be a key feature, as PS4 games will be playable on the portable. This sounds very promising, but it makes you wonder why this hasn't been done for the PS3.
If a screen full of logos is anything to go by, everyone except Microsoft and Nintendo is developing for the PS4. Killzone Shadow Fall looked impressive, Drive Club is very vehicular and Knack was an odd choice for the first software reveal. Sucker Punch are looking to get more mileage out of InFamous with Second Son, which suits me just fine, and Blanka wants you to play Capcom's Deep Down. Jonathan Blow and Media Molecule had projects to talk about but Square Enix might as well have stayed at home. Watch Dogs and Bungie's Destiny will both appear on the PS4, and Diablo 3 is coming to PlayStation. To be honest, none of these games really excite me, but I'm expecting a lot more in the next nine months that will. Holiday 2013 is the current US launch date, and rumours persist that Europe may have to wait a little longer.
Sony revealed quite a lot of information for an initial announcement, while being careful not to give everything away; this is exactly what they should be doing at this early juncture. Microsoft will be talking about the next Xbox shortly and Sony needs to keep plenty in reserve to counter whatever they have in store. Aside from seeing the hardware, I'm looking forward to learning more about the evolution of PSN and would like to know whether or not the PS4 will be region free. E3 will be vital, as both companies jockey for position, and I imagine Sony will hold something significant back for Tokyo Game Show, possibly the price point. Hopefully, we'll get confirmation of a next gen Last Guardian and maybe even a launch-window Uncharted.
I was neither overly impressed nor disappointed by last night's showing. I was, however, satisfied that Sony is moving in the right direction. If they are approaching this correctly, last night should be the first stage in a gradual roll-out, part of a prolonged tug of war where every Microsoft announcement must be met with another Sony reveal. The next nine months are going to be very interesting indeed and Christmas is shaping up to be more expensive than ever.