Yesterday, a couple of Invisible Gamers had a tête-à-tête over Sony’s reveal of their new home gaming platform, the PlayStation 4. Today, we reveal the secret, shocking truths contained within that conversation…hold on to your butts!
MICHAEL: Well, let’s get this started. What’d you think?
BRIEN: Between the interactivity options, the social experience, and the lineup of games they introduced, there’s a lot to look forward to! We still need to know about form factor, price, and online, but so far I’m very excited.
MICHAEL: Listen, we’re obviously in opposite corners here, but I wasn’t impressed. Not that what they showed wasn’t interesting from a conceptual standpoint – there just weren’t any games shown that had me more excited than what’s already available (or has been previously announced) for PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U.
Also, as a handheld guy, It was great to see they’re improving the Vita cross-play experience for PS4, but there was no mention of any new Vita games, no Vita price drop, and just just nothing to convince me they’re thinking of the platform as anything more than a Wii U Gamepad for PS4.
BRIEN: I think Andrew House was smart to get out of the way early in the presentation that this was not a PlayStation 3 event, this was not a PlayStation Vita event, this was a PlayStation 4 event. I can understand your frustration, but this wasn’t the time or place to announce anything other than “here is PlayStation 4” and “it’s coming this year.” For what was a two-hour presentation, adding a focus on Vita would have made it overly long and take attention away from what they were trying to unveil. I’d like to see a clear and concise vision for the handheld’s future, but they had a message to drive home in New York: the PS4 is the future of not just your living room, but your social life.
That’s obviously in contrast to what you see at a venue like E3 where the show is beholden to more than one platform. But the things they mentioned for both PS3 and Vita were intriguing; Diablo and Destiny coming to the former, and massive integration into PS4 for the latter.
MICHAEL: Actually, they billed this event as “The Future of PlayStation.” I assumed Vita was part of that future, not just as a footnote. Remember when they billed the Vita as the future of your social life, but then all of that fancy technology and confusing social integration just gave way to another (admittedly awesome) way to play games? At least the social functions for PS4 seemed interesting – as someone who checks Miiverse regularly even though there isn’t always a game to play in the system, I’m certainly glad they’ve chosen to focus on offering services that will augment the experience and joy of playing games, versus giving out esoteric “game goods”. I still have no idea what to do with those on my Vita, and they pop up all the time.
As for the length of the presentation: it was already overly long, even with the focus staying on PS4. Maybe we follow a different group of people on Twitter, but my feed was full of people (figuratively) throwing their hands up in exasperation over the length of the game demos, recycled tech demos from last E3, and clever concepts that looked suspiciously like failed experiments from last-gen consoles (hello, Wii Music!). It was interesting to see some of the luminaries from my youth spitting out words like “teraflops” like it was 1999 again, but I think they needed to focus on games and why those games were inherently better than anything I can already play on existing platforms. And they failed to do that.
BRIEN: Here’s what Sony needed to do yesterday: they needed to come out of the gate and say “we have a new console, it’s the PlayStation 4, and it’s coming this year.” And they did that. They needed to say “we know that developers didn’t like making games for PS3, so we’ve made it easier for them with PS4. And this is the system they want to be on.” And they did that. And they needed to get out in front of the competition and say “we’re here, now what do you have?” And they did that.
Anyone who’s working on a next-gen title can now say ‘yes, it’s for PlayStation 4’ (like we saw this morning with The Witcher 3), which gives Sony the brief, but powerful advantage of saying that their system is the only next gen-system (all due respect to Wii U) that these games have been announced for.
Also, don’t overlook the importance of Jonathan Blow and Bungie coming out on stage. These are developers who, whether through contract or circumstance, have been essentially nonexistent on the PlayStation platform. And they were on stage and announcing timed exclusivity and exclusive content for the PS4. This kind of thing is normally in the realm of Microsoft, but Sony took a page from their competitor’s playbook, got out in front of things, and put themselves in a remarkably strong position.
MICHAEL: I agree with a lot of what you said, though I think it’s ludicrous to call PS4 the first next-gen system when so much of what makes the system “next-gen” has been lifted either in theory from the Wii U playbook or from hardware or services that have been available on PC for years. Also, having Jonathan Blow representing your brand isn’t a selling point, from my perspective. Braid was fun, sure, but far from deserving of the praise it received, and worse than that, this is a developer who publicly shits on practically every game everybody else has released in the past few years. Apparently if you’re not ripping off Myst, you’re not making a good game.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m far more likely to pick up a PS4 at this point than whatever Microsoft has up its sleeves. Vita integration is a key selling point for me – off-TV play has been a HUGE part of the Wii U experience for me – and Sony’s got a fantastic back catalog that I hope will be better represented through Gaikai than its current implementation on the PSN (though I’m really curious to see whether licensing and streaming issues have a negative effect on the new service.) But this presentation bored me. I wanted to see games, and there was nothing from Naughty Dog, thatgamecompany, or any other developer whose games I actually care about (except Watch Dogs, which I’ll be playing on Wii U.) I know that stuff will come. It just wasn’t there in New York.
BRIEN: Yeah, it’s definitely important to show what Gaikai could be. While not every aspect of that service will be rolled out immediately (hello, TVii), the fact that they’re so hopeful on the future of that experience is important. Whether or not it ultimately succeeds, just being able to look at the future and say “this is what we want to do, and we think we can do it” is a good step to take.
MICHAEL: Okay, let’s wrap this up. Final thoughts on the PS4 reveal?
BRIEN: All in all, I was encouraged by it. Did they show everything that everyone wanted? Of course not. We’re a long way from Holiday 2013 – in the next four months we have GDC, PAX East, E3, Gamescom, SDCC, and TGS for Sony to hone the PS4’s image. But did they hit a “solid triple,” as Jeff Gertsmann said on Revision3’s post-show wrap? I think so. This was the reveal they needed to position themselves as the “first” next-gen console, all due respect to Nintendo. There’s a lot more to be said, and plenty of time to discern where this generation will eventually lead, but overall I was happy with the announcement, and I’m looking forward to the months to come. It’s exciting times.
MICHAEL: Definitely. Despite what you might think from my reactions so far, I’m really excited to see where Sony can go with the PS4. I don’t agree that anything the PS4 offers is any more next-gen than Wii U – it’s been years since we’ve been past the point of computational power and improved graphics processing adding anything inherently new to the gaming experience – but it’s definitely looking like the most viable platform for non-Nintendo gamers outside of PC. Time will tell if the platform or the console experience in general can continue to remain relevant in the face of things like Steam and the iPad, but if anyone can make this generation of gaming the best ever, it’s Sony with their stable of exclusive content.