Yesterday Sony decided that being first does matter since they opted to show us their hand, or at least a partial glimpse of it, with their reveal of the PlayStation 4. It was bound to happen at some point, but after months of rumors, speculation, and the internal hopes that we all had Sony thought it was best to get the jump on the next-generation as opposed to tip-toeing around it until the presumed mega-event that is E3.
With expectations being high, Sony managed to deliver a presentation that was devoid of the immediate self-congratulating and constant loaded talk about would-be features as they instead gave us a rather concise and to the point thing about what matters the most: the games. While some may have hoped for a more front-end loaded reveal of half a dozen new IP reveals, Sony kept things simple by outlining their future plans and goals with the PS4 along with showing games that weren’t rooted in the smoke and shadows tricks of being target renders but were instead direct gameplay running on the hardware as it stands now.
As a longtime fan of the PlayStation brand I was of course elated with the initial offerings that Sony showed yesterday. Hearing such a thing may not be too surprising considering my console leanings which may or may not have a constant fanboy flapping tinge to them, but what surprised me the most was that last night was the first true sign of Sony actually evolving the PlayStation brand and their corporate ideology.
Even though we may have seen major shifts as Sony went from one console generation to the next, the PlayStation brand has remained mostly the same in a sense. It’s always been about the games, yet now the horizon is changing to go along with the ever shifting climate of not only the games industry, but our culture as well. Whereas Sony previously had a closed mentality about how things should be done and executed, a trait which I personally found commendable in a sense due to its creative convictions and slightly ego-centric stance, the PlayStation 4 is almost an admission that yes, it’s sometimes better to listen and take action that way rather than giving developers and consumers one particular thing and hope that they like it without actually asking them first.
We got a small glimpse at Sony’s new corporate and creative attitude with the reveal/launch of the PlayStation Vita, but the debut of the PlayStation 4 really hammered down the new stance and energy the company has. With the creative mind that is Mark Cerny taking to the stage to dole out some of the more tech centric specs of the PS4, Sony right off the bat showed us that yes, this time they learned from their mistake with the PS3 that going with bleeding edge tech that has never been done before isn’t exactly the best way to immediately foster relationships with developers.
In some ways it may be easy to perceive the new-found developer friendly nature of the PS4 as nothing more than standard corporate talk. While a few notable figures may have been featured in Sony’s developer video segment such as Double Fine’s Tim Schafer and Dylan Cuthbert from Q-Games, it may have still been easy for the core gaming audience, such as those with a jaded mentality, to easy push aside any developer comments as nothing more than the usual talking head next-gen console hype we’ve grown accustomed to for the past decade or so. Yet there was one main difference this time out: Sony actually backed up their claims.
If you’re like me you’ve probably watched the Killzone: Shadow Fall and Infamous: Second Son trailers half a dozen times already to marvel at what Guerrilla Games and Sucker Punch have done with the PS4. The sheer fact that both studios have accomplished such impressive visuals as their first gen efforts is impressive and I personally highly await what the finished product will look like once both games hit retail. But on top of that, Sony showed that the PS4 is a powerful, yet friendlier, beast of a console through the arrival of 3rd party demos such as Capcom’s new IP Deep Down. Compared to the early days of the PS3 which was plagued with developers trying to grasp the Cell architecture, the PS4 indeed looks like it has a more streamlined design that won’t forgo immediate power in favor of making things easy.
Now I won’t entirely be naive and expect every 3rd party game to look overwhelmingly good, yet it’s a good sign that Sony recognized the faults they made with the PS3 and actually rectified them with the PlayStation’s successor rather than once again being in a half sunken ship for nearly two years as developers try to figure out how to properly port a game without having a member of the Sony ICE or Studio Cambridge team come in to assist development.
Sony’s newfound energy was of course felt in the more social aspects that are being pushed within the PS4. Likely being the source of contention up until the console finally hits the market, the arrival of a Share button on the new DualShock controller along with more user driven online profile shows that Sony understands that consumers want an experience beyond just playing games. Of course hearing such a thing may make a few folks puke in their mouths as there’s still a mindset amongst gamers that gaming shouldn’t always be a social experience. Do you really want everyone to e-stalk you or possibly make a trade with someone?
While the would-be Surfergirl’s may not be an immediate component of Sony’s plans with the PS4, the online focus that’s being take is nonetheless impressive and is worthy of feeling encouraged in a sense. Compared to how Sony handled the online component of the PS3 with most of it being nothing more than conceptual videos shown at conferences with only light details given as to how things would work, Sony gave a more concise, and feasibly executed, outline of their plans to deepen the core gaming experience without veering off into territory that would induce nightmares of dozens of Mii’s roaming around a carnival landscape that makes absolutely no sense.
There’s always the likelihood that Sony could make a few stumbles when it comes to their social features, yet based on the advances made within the past few years on the PS3, I think it’s safe to say that we won’t have a repeat of the PS3 in which most of us had no clue how things would work a month prior to the console arriving at retail. More importantly, the features that Sony are pushing within the PS4’s social aspect is stuff that some of us will actually deem to be good. I don’t know about you, but the prospect of being able to record gameplay footage without the use of a secondary capture device is something I find compelling as is the ability to stream gameplay as well. Of course I don’t foresee everyone using such features, that’s unless there’s a rise of gamers playing games whilst naked for the goof factor, yet it still shows that Sony is no longer looking at the PlayStation brand as a closed ecosystem that doesn’t change until the next console arrives.
The general openness Sony is taking with their general mantra towards gaming is certainly clear with their acquisition of Gaikai. Most of us expected Gaikai to be used in the expected way of Cloud gaming and being able to play old games on a new platform, but who ever expected Sony would ever roll out the possibility of playing a PlayStation game on a non-PlayStation platform? We may already have such a thing in the minimal effort that is PlayStation Mobile, along with a select few PS1 classics that can be played on mobile platforms, but it appears as if Sony is taking a major look at literally opening the floodgates in order to truly evolve rather than once again have a closed perspective on what should be traditionally done.
Sony may have found themselves in the worse possible position to be in when the current generation began since they let their ego and pride get the best of them in an era which was finally beginning to change. Though now it seems like Sony has learned their lesson as every step they’ve taken and announced with the PS4 not only seems like a logical evolution of the core DNA of the brand, but it adds a little bit to the ever evolving melting pot of ideas and concept which now drives the games industry. As opposed to playing catch-up as they did with the PlayStation 3, Sony is stepping up to the plate to become the potential leader and main draw of not just games, but the features which drive the games or are all together separate from titles such as Drive Club or Knank.
Saying who will be the dominant force in the next generation of consoles would be too foolish, yet it’s clear that this is a different type of Sony than we’ve encountered before; one which isn’t going to be burdened by 3rd party port issues and could possibly be the biggest about face we’ve seen a major force undergo in the games industry.