We might already have the WiiU, but most have been waiting for the big boys to show their hand. Sony has kicked the sales race into top gear by teasing the industry with the PS4, not even showing onlookers what the console itself looks like.
Is this a masterstroke piece of clever marketing to get people like us overly speculative about the whole affair? or simply because the final look isn’t quite nailed down yet? or perhaps something which is considered to be important?
What’s in a name?
The name ‘PS4’ was widely rumoured to be scrapped for the more minimalist and Apple-esque ‘Playstation’ ahead of the reveal, due to ‘4’ being an unlucky number in Sony’s home country of Japan, but in the end Sony went for the smart option, which is easy for consumers to follow.
There’s plenty of new Xbox names knocking about too (Nextbox, Xbox 720, Xbox Infinity, Xbox Loop, Xbox 8) but really everyone is just waiting for some information to see how the two companies stack up against each other.
Throughout the announcement the word ‘power’ was mentioned frequently, to an almost dizzying extent at times, and winning the specs race is clearly high on Sony’s priorities.
The system boasts 8gb of RAM, a ‘specially optimised’ processor and dedicated high-end GPU – also tailored for the console. Undoubtedly there is a lot of power knocking about, and having a second processor to download games while you play another one is definitely a time-saver.
More than just a pretty (old man’s) face
What Sony don’t seem to realise is that though power is handy, gamers aren’t going to be impressed simply by shinier graphics. From the games which have been shown so far, most appear to have a high level of graphical polish, but what gamers are really reaching for are innovative and original gameplay experiences.
Enter Halo creators Bungie with Destiny, an always online massively multiplayer game which, following an exciting reveal of its own a few days earlier, has some big ideas about what gamers are looking for. The game promises a lot, including some exclusive PS4 content (did that sting Microsoft?), but to justify always-online it has a long way to go to compel gamers (especially in the UK).
Other games, with only a handful of exclusives, refused to raise excitement levels much, other than Watch Dogs, which continues to look promising (but has since confirmed as multi platform and multi-generation).
The controller is the closest we got to the console itself, with a fancy touchpad and a share button being the only noticeable additions to the look and feel. There is a big push to using the PS Vita as a controller, which is a more pocket-sized alternative to the lap tray-esque WiiU controller, and the aim is to have all PS4 games stream-able to the Vita.
There is also a lot of cloud-based action with the PS4, thanks to recently acquired expert company Gaikai, and there does seem to be a few nifty innovations there, but nothing we haven’t already seen in a more basic way on other platforms before.
Play(station)-ing it safe?
In all there’s a lot to love about what the PS4 will be able to do. The biggest benefit will be one we never see, as the architecture of the console makes developing games much easier than before, but there is sure to be more reveals to come as the sparring between Sony and Microsoft ramps up over the coming months. Strap yourselves in games fans, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Below an amusing round-up from Matt Lees (@jam_sponge) at VideoGamerTV:
James Michael Parry