Surprise, it’s the PlayStation 4! OK, no one is surprised, but there was a lot we didn’t expect to hear, see, and get out of the conference, including the actual length of it. Here is my rundown of the good, the bad, and some questions from the “Future of PlayStation” press conference. Just a note; I’m going to go through each category and list the points in order of their occurrence.
[gn_heading style=”2″]The Good[/gn_heading]
- It’s called the PlayStation 4. Finally, we can put the Orbis silliness to rest.
- The opening marketing video. It seems this was a glimpse into Sony’s new strategy, and based on the words in the conference, this cemented their message of focusing on the gamer, no matter who they were. It was appealing, confident, and easy to relate to. The pillars of PS4 are Simple, Immediate, Social, Integrated, and Personalized.
- Bringing social gaming and aspects to the home console. While this is something that will likely be passed over by most, Sony has captured the essence of social gaming and fully incorporated this into the PS4. While not entirely new conceptually, they are the first out with this all-encompassing message and took it a step further with seamless sharing and connectivity between phones, tablets, and their Vita. Sony seems to get it and hit on all the right notes here, and they’ve accomplished it without forgetting who their core audience is.
- Mark Cerny. A breath of fresh air in terms of delivery and presentation. He came across as kind, understanding, confident, and, more importantly, anti-corporate. From all accounts, he is one of the most universally respected individuals in his field, and it really showed.
- Following that, the PlayStation 4 specs. Again, from listening to the buzz from people who have seen the competition’s specs, it sounds like Microsoft is in trouble. 8 GB of GDDR5 RAM is simply huge, and the openness of the design is a decided departure from the closed aspect of the PlayStation 3. Very forward thinking in its design, all without marginalizing the power and desire for cutting edge tech that Sony is known for. Graphics matter less and less, but what is here to work with is beyond what most were expecting.
- The new user interface. Seamless gaming and application switching at the press of a button, like the Vita. It looked great, and all the social options seem easy to access.
- Full Vita integration. As I predicted, which you can read here: Feb 20th could be zero hour for the Vita
- Cloud gaming. The extent of how it will work is unknown, but the bones are compelling and original. It sounds like this isn’t finished yet, but the promise of the future and what they can do with it is interesting, nonetheless.
- The controller. Make no mistake, this is still a Dualshock through and through, just a natural evolution of the design. I’m already in love with it, and the new bells and whistles offer appealing options that don’t seem to clutter the experience.
- NO CELEBRITIES TO BE FOUND!
- Used games compatible and doesn’t require a persistent online connection. While not in the conference proper, it was confirmed hours afterwards. The gaming public breathes a collective sigh of relief.
- The games. All shown in real time, and if you hear anyone say they didn’t look impressive, kick them very hard. There is a clear difference between what is on the PS3 now and what was being shown on the PS4. The third-party showings stole the show, with Watch Dogs and Destiny making their PS4 intentions known. Even companies who weren’t with Sony last generation, like Bungie and the The Witcher developer, or were indifferent about the PS3, are all on board here. But…
- Not showing the console. Keep reading for this one.
[gn_heading style=”2″]The Bad[/gn_heading]
- Too much conceptual talky-talk. It was okay at first, but seemed to be the theme of many of the presenters. If it was just contained to Andrew House, it would have been fine, but it just kept going. Which leads me to the next point.
- Too long. At almost two-and-a-half hours, the message was stretched a little thin towards the end, and like movies today, it could have stood to have some fat trimmed.
- Tech demos. Aren’t we past this now? They hold practically no weight in the end products, and people know these are not games, so they’re automatically disregarded. This goes hand-in-hand with trimming the fat, as they were needless and served to offer nothing to the conference or the message Sony was trying to put forward. I even heard someone mention polygon count. David Cage, I’m looking at you. The one pass I’ll give is for Capcom, which seemingly showed a sequel to Dragon’s Dogma under the guise of a tech demo. Smooth, guys!
- Square Enix. Why were they even a part of this conference? The once mighty Square set an all-time low by taking the stage to show a year-old tech demo from last year’s E3. As if that wasn’t enough, they continue to treat their flagship franchise as the butt of a bad joke by giving us an announcement of an announcement for Final Fantasy at this year’s E3. No Versus XIII, no Final Fantasy XV, no Kingdom Hearts 3, and an absolute waste of ten minutes on stage. This seems strong to say, but I’m embarrassed to call myself a fan of this company at this point.
- Media Molecule. What the heck were they talking about?
- The games. Nothing blew the doors off the place, which is fine, as you have to keep some things under wrap. Maybe I’m acting spoiled here, but Killzone, a racing game, a new indie, and a trailer for a new InFamous don’t do it for me. I felt they could have brought one huge gun out to the floor from, say, Naughty Dog or Sony Santa Monica. It just seemed to lack something without one of Sony’s major franchises leading the charge, and, sorry, I don’t consider Killzone to be one of their majors.
- With no peep out of Studio Japan in regards to The Last Guardian, can we just agree the game is dead now? Disappointment after disappointment. At best, it will be a digital release, but I’m just going with the perception the game is buried, and I just wish we would stop talking about it.
- Blizzard. Everyone was genuinely surprised when they took the stage, but in the most anticlimactic moment of the night, they announced Diablo 3. It’s cool, but by the time it comes out on the PS4, will it even matter? I debated putting this on the bad list, but it should have been much more.
- Not showing the console. Don’t worry, I’ll explain it all below…
[gn_heading style=”2″]The Questions[/gn_heading]
- OK, not showing the console. Let me address how it is good and bad at the same time. By not showing it, Sony cements their concept of you being the focus of the experience, not the box. Their decision was to showcase the new controller design, the UI and social features, and their focus on us. Besides, the point of it just being a box rings true, because at the end of the day, does it matter what it looks like? Yet, it’s also bad, as this was a reveal of the PlayStation 4. People were expecting to see the hardware, and they came away feeling somewhat cheated. Personally, I was surprised they didn’t show it, but after letting the reasoning set in, it’s sound, I suppose. Leave people speculating about it until E3.
- Vita is important to the PS4, as I speculated it would be, but there was no price cut announced to coincide with the decision in Japan. Strange, and with Shuhei Yoshida confirming that the Vita won’t see a price cut this morning, the Vita is still in limbo until at least E3. Connectivity is fine and needed, but with Vita floundering in North America, and with nary a game release for 2013, what is the incentive to buy a Vita at this point? It’s an amazing piece of hardware, but that has proven not enough. Sony seems to want to wait and see with Vita, but I don’t understand how they feel things are going to change.
- Where was Metal Gear Solid 5/Phantom Pain? Konami released a teaser splash image with the number 2.20 on it days ago, yet it was nowhere to be found.
- Cloud concept. It seemed a little vague, and for everything that was explained, there was something else left up in the *ahem* clouds. Lots of questions to answer here as to the extent of Gaikai’s responsibility with the PS4.
- Backwards compatibility. We all know that it won’t be included with the hardware proper, but how will they handle this? It was alluded that it may be handled with Cloud gaming, but nothing was concrete. At this point, who knows.
- Online plans. Rumors persist about Sony moving to a paid subscription service, which makes sense, but no details were forthcoming. The mumbling of a PlayStation World service, where premium access and PlayStation Plus services will be rolled into one, didn’t take shape, and we can only speculate at this point.
- How will they handle our current accounts and the transition of content from the PS3 to the PS4? The announcement this morning seems to indicate that you won’t be able to take your PSN content over to the PS4, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. Going to wait and see on this, but it could frustrate a lot of people.
Overall grade: B+
Sony blew the doors open to the next generation and took the initiative on social gaming evolutions, new experiences, and innovative ideas, while still acknowledging that they are the system for hardcore gamers. The tone was surprisingly different, and the consensus around the industry seems to be that Sony gets it. Saying that, there are a ton of questions to answer moving forward. Sony has given us a glimpse of their future, but in the end we all want even more.
Overall, a brilliant public relations move with this conference, and Sony seems to have all the momentum. They touched on nearly everything possible and make it seem that they are first with all of it to the public, even if they actually aren’t. Microsoft will be hard-pressed to not sound redundant on their console announcement, as Sony really brought out the full arsenal here and covered the spectrum. Can’t wait until E3!