Thoughts on the PlayStation 4

It’s been almost a week since the PlayStation 4 announcement. I mentioned┬áthat I wasn’t particularly excited about it, but now I’ve had a few days to think about it. It seems like time to talk about the announcement.

The PS4 is using x86 processors for faster development time.

Developers took a while to get used to developing for the Cell processors, and software wasn’t as easy to bring to the PS4 as it was to the other consoles. This means that cross-platform development will be easier. While that means the PS4 won’t have any processing advantage over the other consoles, it also means that it should be more likely that games will be brought to the PS4 and increase the speed of development time.

The PS4 doesn’t have native backwards compatibility.

This is a huge drawback to me, just like the PS3’s lack of backwards compatibility in later models severely effected my opinion of the PS3. Because of the change in CPU architecture, the PS4 won’t play PS3 games – neither disc nor PSN games. I hate this because I’ll have to keep a PS3 around (and a PS2). However, I disliked this about the PS3 as well, and it didn’t take long for me to not need to play PS2 games much. I’m sure with backwards compatibility, I would have played more PS2 games. That said, how often did I play GameCube games on my Wii? I did sometimes early in the generation, but eventually I stopped almost entirely. I just worry because consoles are becoming less and less long-lasting. Will my PS3 still operate in a decade? If not, how do I play my PS3 games?

Games can be streamed using the Gakai service.

I would always rather have games on my console than streamed, but I like the idea of having streaming as an option. Blu-rays are much better than Netflix, right? Why wouldn’t games be the same? I live with roommates who are all using the Internet most nights. On many nights that means that there are three video streams coming to our house in addition to whatever games or other Internet-usage is being consumed. I’m sick of my latency jumping half a second or worse in World of Warcraft; I don’t want to have to worry about that for my single-player console games as well! I also hope they don’t dismiss alternatives because this is present. “Who cares if they can’t play PS3 games? We could let them stream the games!” Or, “Nah, it doesn’t deserve a real release. Just let the games stream it.”

All games will be available digitally.

I have mixed feelings on this, and it’s similar to my feelings from the previous section. Look, I love Steam. Purchasing the games digitally is easier, but then we miss out on box art and other artistic parts of the culture that are already hurting. Have you seen a really good manual lately? Probably not. Regardless, I’ve fully embraced Steam. If a PC game isn’t made by Blizzard or available on Steam, I’m very unlikely to purchase it. However, PC architecture stays the same. Consoles keep changing, which means that if a game is only available digitally, I might not have access to it in a decade. That sucks.

A share button can be used to share content with friends.

I’m extremely excited about this. Sharing content is the feature that most makes me like the PS4. There’s a share button right on the controller. When it’s pressed, players can choose to upload a video of what they just did or can start a live stream. Now, I’m hoping that means that gameplay is constantly being recorded, and you can choose when to save what’s been recorded. It doesn’t have to be long – even the last 5 minutes would be decent. Hopefully it’s not just specific scenes that the developers have to choose to be auto-recorded. I don’t know if I’ll use the live streaming much, but I’d love to post videos.

A secondary processing chip handles uploads and downloads.

For sharing to work, this has to go along with it, so it’s a good idea. The PS4 features a dedicated chip that handles uploads and downloads. In other words, uploading a video won’t affect your ability to play games. Cool.

Other devices can be used as second screens.

Boo. This works with the Wii U because it’s already part of the console. I don’t want to pull out my phone and sit there using the battery the entire time I’m playing my PS4.

Games can be played from the Vita.

I fell in love with the Wii U’s ability to play games from the GamePad. If this works, I should be similarly happy. It was said that the goal was to have all games use it. This is vastly different than saying “all games can be played from the Vita,” so we’ll have to wait and see how many can do it.

The PlayStation 4 includes the PlayStation 4 Eye, uses new controller, and uses Move.

I’m happy about all of this. First, the new controller uses concave sticks instead of convex. That means my thumbs won’t slip around as much, which means I’m happier. There’s also the touchpad-like section. I don’t know what to think about that. I don’t have any Move controllers now, so I don’t really care that the PS3 ones are still compatible, but I don’t have a problem with it either. What’s great though is that the PlayStation 4 Eye, which is already better than the PS3’s, is included.

I don’t like the idea of Move. I don’t like the idea of Kinect. They seem gimmicky to me. Now I do have to admit that I’ve never used either of them (besides a minute here or there at E3), but the Wii’s motion controls were similar. Games eventually either stopped using the technology or used it too much. However, a small amount used motion to augment gameplay. Some games used buttons for everything but you might shake the remote to swing a sword. I’m okay with that. By bundling the PS4 Eye, it means that developers no longer have to choose between making a Move-enabled game and making a non-Move-enabled game. Every game could use it. For Ps3, developers might be thinking “if we decide to use Move, we better go all out to justify the gamer’s purchase.” That would be eliminated.

So, what do I think?

I’m not sure we really needed it right now. I’m fine current consoles games. In fact, many of my favorite games recently were small PC games. That said, I think everything is an improvement in the PS4. Bundling the PlayStation 4 Eye means I can actually use Move, and making it easy to share means it’ll be easy for me to blog about PS4 games. I can’t forget the better sticks on the controller either. Overall, I’m happy with the PS4 and look forward to it.

 

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