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Sound Off Vol. 5 – Sony announcement

Sony

Welcome back, dear readers, to the resurrection of our Sound Off feature. In the past there have been discussions involving robotic jumping bunnies, Hershey bars, and a time-travelling Lee Harvey Oswald (wielding Master Chief’s pistol, naturally). For this reboot we’ll be narrowing the focus onto what the industry is currently in heated levels of conversation about. Up for discussion this time: Sony’s PS4 announcement.

Shane Ryan: Sony made the official announcement of the PlayStation 4 on February 20th in the US and we’ve had a few weeks to let this news settle. What excited you the most from Sony’s reveal?

Matt Sawrey: The possibility that I may no longer have to wait half a day to download an 8 gigabyte game. Sony’s implementation of Gaikai’s streaming technology sounds great. I just hope it wasn’t an embellishment of the truth, because they did paint a pretty ambitious picture of its capabilities.

I also like that fact that so many developers seem to be singing the console’s technical praises as a powerful, development friendly environment. That means a lot after the PS3’s difficult architecture and can only be a good thing for game quality.

Calvin Kemph: Bungie’s Destiny. PS4 getting third party exclusive content of this quality upfront is huge news. It was the primary difference maker in the last generation as console perceptions were shifted from ‘which one has the best exclusives’ to ‘which has the best gaming experience in total’. As an enthusiastic Marathon & Halo fan, having the best Bungie experience available is enough to sell a console. They are a top notch console developer and having their support upfront is invaluable. They’re a difference maker and perhaps the only reason Microsoft’s still relevant to gaming.

And some of the promises of PSN. All of the new additions are smart and the potential of resuming friends’ games is incredibly novel and innovative. My only sore point, and it’s a biggie, is no backwards compatibility. Launching against Microsoft, the choice between resuming my full XBLA library or starting cold with PSN will be an easy one. Consumers shouldn’t have to wonder whether their games transfer on next gen tech, not in an era where our smartphones already outmatch them with an effortless solution.

Matt: David Perry did say that they were working on streaming backwards compatibility for Playstation one, two and three. Granted it was the most half-arsed announcement of the night, and it sounds like there is still a lot of uncertainty there. But if that technology was solidified, and we knew it was coming down the line, would that draw you over to the blue side Calvin?

Calvin: If it’s digital, no preference on whether it’s streamed or on my console. Only significant if it transfers my purchases.

Michael Ormonde: The console’s integrated streaming capabilities excite me. There is a huge opportunity for streaming gameplay (looking at the success of twitch, ustream etc), and the current solutions need either a powerful PC with a capture card or an external box, like the Rovio Game Capture, which is very restrictive in terms of quality. Having this available right out of the box should make this a definite plus in the PlayStation column.

Shane: The streaming and cloud services definitely have peoples’ interest (putting aside the huge technical hurdles for this to be stable). This makes sense too. The games displayed were less than inspiring; no matter how pretty. In an age where mobile and ‘casual’ gaming is constantly rising, and console retail failing, coming out with a bunch of sequels and a graphics crunching racer isn’t enough. We already have Gran Turismo – where does Drive Club leave that? – and Forza. And Mario Kart is the best selling racing game; which is as far from simulation as it currently gets. Killzone’s opening in-game cutscene looked pretty and soon turned to brown scenery and ironsights once the current generational attitudes to the first-person shooter kicked in. From a purely business perspective it’s no wonder Sony’s stocks fell a couple of percent after the announcement. Though, to give perspective, this is a common occurrence with hardware announcements, and the reveal appeared to be more focused towards developers and their core audience. What Sony needs to do is move away from ‘look at these new generation games that play exactly like current ones’ to encourage further interest. Streaming, video and the ‘cloud’ are services that can do this. However, we should expect that these services will either be unavailable or limited at launch.

Michael: I think those new experiences will come with time. The first batches of games of any new console generation usually take a tonne of inspiration from their predecessors. Thinking back to the PS3 launch, their line-up was filled with annual sports titles, racing games and shooters. I think the second batch of titles will see more originality. Development teams are more open to putting out new IPs at the start of a console life cycle (think Gears of War or Assassin’s Creed), hoping it will gain traction throughout the generation.

Shane: I hope so. On the flip-side, the notion of a more ‘open’ platform could be a wonderful thing for both indie developers and Sony. The recent announcement that Hotline Miami and The Room will be coming to PS3/Vita is a possible sign of things to come. It makes long term business sense too; smaller developers are more likely to attach to the companies that supported them early on. Whether there is to be a complementary ‘app’ store to PSN as we know it will be interesting to see. Once they name the new network it should give us more of an insight into what to expect. And move that damn left analogue stick.

Stuart Edwards: I’m most impressed by Sony’s tenacity to take a risk and launch the PS4 in 2013. The global economy will fail to pick up any serious traction in the next twelve months, which is inevitably going to make consumers more hesitant over a £300+ price tag. The Wii U and Vita are testament to people’s hesitancy to make larger, long-term investments in periods of austerity. Furthermore, Sony are continuously vocal over their ten-year life-cycle policy. The PS3 will be seven years old by Q4, but due to its lack of dominance, I would be very surprised to see sufficient support once Christmas 2014 arrives. Either way, the PS4 and Nextbox’s fates will surely be similar – console wars are now fighting a wider battle.

The author of this fine article

is the Deputy Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in December 2010. Get in touch on Twitter @shaneryantb.

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