What Sony Failed To Tell Us

Many gamers, myself included, were left feeling a little jaded after Sony’s confirmation of the PS4 last night. While this may be attributed to us gaming bloggers being a cynical bunch of snarky bastards, it also comes as the result of Sony’s Meeting feeling a lot more like a press conference where they just confirmed our suspicions.

Even the name, PlayStation 4, matched the most bland of predictions.

We speculated that details would be thin on the ground, but we did get some basic details on the technical specifications. The 8GB of processing power is impressive, but it was pretty much a given that Sony would be abandoning Cell processor technology and moving over to having a “supercharged PC” sounded a bit more like admitting defeat then anything revolutionary. We did not think that we would get a price or a release date, but at least there was some talk of “holiday 2013”.

Many people seem disgruntled that we did not get to see the hardware, but that was always more likely to happen at E3, and really tells you very little about the important factor, i.e. what is on the inside. On that at least, we got more details than we may have wanted, but no matter how impressive the tech specs are, it is difficult for most average gamers to equate that to what we will end up seeing on screens and so can be a hard sell without the full catalogue of games to help showcase it.

A lot of Sony’s faith for what they see powering the next console generation came from the Gaikai technology they acquired last year. This does have the practical application of making playing demos a degree easier through instant access and performs a similar function to allow purchases to instantly start playing a game. It also has the added benefit of empowering the new “Share” button to allow you to easily share short videos and watch other people while playing their games. However, this was exactly what we have been speculating for months that this technology would be used for — having seen it all before on OnLive — and the only feature that seemed to have been added was the ability to take over the playing of someone else’s game. Gaikai functionality felt more like a confirmation than an announcement or reveal.

PS4-Controller

The one piece of hardware we did get to see was the newly redesigned controller. This did look fairly exciting, if a little crowded, but some of the thunder was stolen by this, now seemingly accurate, image being circulated a week ago. I liked what we saw of the controller, but Sony failed to give us a detailed guided tour and I really hope we hear the words “vastly improved triggers” in Sony’s not too distant future. The new pad was also used to highlight what was arguably the biggest technological surprise of the evening, with the ability to pause a game, power down to standby mode and rapidly power back up to play where you left off. As Sony also mentioned that the console would allow background downloads even when the power is off, this will hopefully make waiting to apply updates to a game every time you turn your PS3 a thing of the past. As such, this was perhaps the best consumer focused announcement made last night.

In terms of the games on display; Knack seemed like an odd choice to open with, as it was not exactly a graphical powerhouse, but it did show off the current darling of the tech demo, some stunning particle effects. Knack presumably also led the way as it was the only game to demo some of it’s Vita connectivity. Shiny Space shooter number 1 (a.k.a. Killzone Shadow Fall) looked very impressive, as did shiny Space shooter number 2 (a.k.a. Destiny) – or at least I think it did, I blinked and missed more than half of the previously unseen footage. InFamous: Second Son is sure to please fans of the franchise and seems to be hinting at the inclusion of a multiplayer or co-op being added. Capcom showed off, Deep Down, which was later revealed takes place in the Dragon’s Dogma universe, but it is hard to get too excited over that without seeing in game footage. DriveClub may have forgotten the first rule about DriveClub, but at least petrol heads can be pleased that they won’t have to wait until the next Gran Turismo to get their PS auto erotica fix.

Watch Dogs may have been widely speculated to be a next-gen game, but still looks like the new IP most likely to help sell consoles. The demo shown did more to show of the graphical capabilities, which was fine for this sort of event, but I would prefer that subsequent demos do more to evidence the new unique variations in dynamic emergent gameplay that we saw in the original trailer. I had also hoped that we may have got some more details on how the multiplayer functioned and how this might interact with the Share functions and social media integration.

Jonathan Blow’s The Witness did not seem to wow, but I shall reserve judgement until we see more gameplay details. Once you got over the excitement of seeing Blizzard’s name in blue, you realise that an eighteen month old Diablo 3 was possibly the most boring game they could have announced. Square Enix seemed to have wasted everyone’s time showing an eight month old tech demo and telling us to “be excited for E3”. While we all would have liked to have seen more games, I have to admit that overall, for this far out, there was actually a fairly good selection of games on show and probably just enough to tempt most gamers into thinking about preordering a console.

Vita owners may have felt a bit left out, but I did warn everyone that they were unlikely to preload the front end of this with too much talk about the Vita to prevent discussion of how badly the Vita is selling (at least outside of Japan) from marring the announcement of their new living room console. As we were about to kick off the LiveBlog last night, people were commenting that this would be the ideal opportunity to announce a Vita price drop for Europe and the US, this made sense as one was recently announced for Japan, but as I commented at the time; “Yes, but…Sony.” Sensible and Sony don’t often sit in the same board room.

Overall, it was not a bad showing for Sony, but the previous generation of consoles did a very good job of reinventing themselves and it was difficult to get away from the feeling that this was more akin to one of these reinventions than it was a full scale new hardware launch. The previous (current) generation was ushered in with the fanfare of two major technological innovations; HD and Broadband, but there is no sign of the headline grabbing technological watershed, save for the inclusion of streaming and it is difficult to be at this stage and see how this could have as big an impact. There was no talk of 4K screen support or the type of download speeds that would be needed to take full advantage of the Gaikai functionality, but I expect to hear more details on both soon.

There was a lack of surprises and Sony certainly have a lot more to say about “The Future” going forward, but let’s not hold that against them in the present. It is time to get excited, not more cynical. The more I come to believe that, the happier I will be.

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Comments

  1. Jordan P

    As you said I think your being abit cynical . I’m very much an xbox fanboy but I thought the conference itself was ok. Better than any conference from last years e3. The thing I’m worried about is the after conference announcements. Good ones like they are stopping the rumours that ps4 wont play used games (which we all knew was unlikely anyway). But then they go and announce that psn games wont transfer from ps3 to ps4. There is no good reason for this to happen, and it boils down to a fuck you to every loyal ps3 owner who has spent probably hundreds of pounds on downloadable games. They are only doing this to make you either rebuy games on psn for ps4 or keep your ps3 that way they can say in 5 years look at all the active users we still have on ps3. But I’m going off on a tangent.

    Some good games shown (very excited about infamous, not so much about shiny shooter) and a few cool new(ish) features like the streaming and sharing capabilities. Although they mean next to nothing to me, because where I live the internet is so slow and expensive not to mention downloading/streaming a part of a 20gb+ game will wipe out my bandwidth limit in no time. That sort of thing isn’t going to push consoles now, in a few years when we have a better infrastructure and price plans sure, but that alone is not going to get me to buy a ps4.

    I think the only really stupid thing they did was not show the ps4! As I have seen on many sites “Who launches a console and doesn’t show the console”. Has that ever happened? But when it comes down to it I think sony panicked after they were too honest. Only a month ago Kaz Hirai said that they wont announce anything until xbox does because they may just copy us! After that massive PR nightmare, they had to pave over the mistake and do it before xbox had a chance to show anything.

    So I think it was a little rushed and probably not the way they wanted to announce the ps4. No set price or date of release is one thing but no idea what it looks like is very unusual in this industry.

    Finally I would say they main reason I enjoyed it was I cant wait to play they 3rd party games like Watch_dogs and Destiny on my xbox infinity (That’s the name I’m predicting, please don’t let it be 720). Because it’s going to take a big fuck up from Microsoft to loose my £’s on launch day.

  2. Matthew J

    Even as someone who has been through multiple console launches in his life, and has become very used to being cynical, I thought their conference was great. Gone was the egotistical E3 2005(6?) Sony of “We know best, and we’re going to give gamers the privilege of following us.”

    As a lot of the fellow writers echoed during the conference, the only terrible thing they really pushed last night as the social integration of the system, but that’s the way the Internet is going. Heck, if I scroll up, I’m liking BRB on Facebook and asked to give it a +1 on Google+. Every website is integrated with Facebook, Twitter, and/or Google+ these days, and YouTube, Ustream, and Twitch.tv are bigger than ever. We can hope that on the next-gen consoles these features are easily ignored or turned off, but I can’t blame Sony for following the biggest trend of the Internet. For people that love these social aspects, system-level integration will be fantastic.

    What worries me about the Playstation 4 is the price. I don’t know that much about computer hardware, especially when you get out of the realm of what I can buy, but everyone I’ve seen who would know what they’re talking about says that 8 GB of GDDR5 RAM is going to be extremely impressive, but also quite expensive.

    It’s going to be an interesting year, and a very interesting E3. I’m excited to be seeing another console transition.

  3. KrazyDude

    The vita doesnt sell in japan either.

  4. Kenny

    Eight gigabytes of processing power? I wanted to stop reading there. You don’t measure power in RAM. That’s eight gigs of memory, and effing fast GDDR5 memory at that.

    This article is written in such a negative way it seems you’d already made your mind up before the show. Which was far better and informative than any E3 presentation the last couple years.

    We were shown lots more than Sony had to, and most of it was impressive. Games showed a clear jump in capability even if they’re still in production and the new features show Sony is trying to push the user experience. They’ve clearly made a huge leap in creating a better platform for developers. And who cares what the box looks like, it’ll be black and somewhat square in shape. This show was about what it can do, and that’s what matters.

  5. Great write up Tim. Agree with pretty much everything you’ve said.

    I’m not sure I agree with why people think it’s such a problem that Sony didn’t show off the box last night. Maybe it’s just me but so long as it’s not a hulking behemoth again (and I really don’t think even Sony are stupid enough to do that) I couldn’t give a rats arse what it looks like. I spend my time looking at the screen, the console itself is hidden away beneath it.

    On the whole I enjoyed the Meeting, but I’m not sure there’s anything that really excited me. Everything looked very pretty yes, and that’s very nice indeed but I can’t say there was anything revolutionary gameplay wise that showed what the future of gaming was and there certainly wasn’t anything that sold the system to me. The only thing I did think was really pretty cool (especially as an architecture student) was the ability to quickly generate freehand 3D models using move, but then they had to go and ruin it with the weird puppet band.

    Having not played with an OnLive before, the Gaikai stuff was interesting but ultimately most of it’s functionality is not for me. I can’t see myself ever uploading gameplay footage of myself as that’s never really appealed. The ability to jump right into demos is pretty cool, and something I’d definitely make use of. My main worry with Gaikai is that it’s all well and good when I’m in London with BT Infinity throwing bandwidth at me like it’s going out of fashion but if I ever go home to my piss-poor internet connection I worry that I’m essentially going to be losing most of the ‘new’ functionality of the console.

    The most important things for me this coming generation will be what becomes of PS+ and Xbox Live. I’ve been an Xbox owner since the start of this generation purely because that’s what all my friends were playing online; recently I’ve been playing less and less games in multiplayer and very few games as they come out, instead relying on a rental service. Heck, my 360 gets used by the flat for Netflix as much as it does for games. If Sony continue giving away free games on the new console it’s going to be very difficult for me to say no to that, and I think it’d be that which decides the console I plump for. I would hope that Xbox has something similar planned with Xbox Live but seeing as they haven’t offered an awful lot more through the years with Live, I can’t really see it happening.

    Ultimately I think that until we see a price for the two consoles (the £400 listing on ShopTo would be a stretch but doable), and confirmation of the above I’m going to find it hard to get excited about either system.

  6. Kenny

    You must be a hard man to please Tim, if nothing there impressed you. But I’m sure Sony will have wowed you by the end of June, so don’t worry.

    I was personally impressed by the hardware that outdid rumours and is great for developers, firmware that’s fast, clever and trying to be at the forefront of gaming entertainment, and software that delivers impressive new experiences.

    Your article does seem quite negative. Pretty much every paragraph, and the headline, sound complaining. It doesn’t seem like anything interested you, and that doesn’t make for a fun or particulary informative read. You may not realise it as it’s your own writing.

    At least you can look forward to Microsofts reveal, as they Usher in their next console…. 😛

  7. Jordan P

    A couple of people quoted my commented about psn games not being transferable to ps4. I’m not suggesting that disc based games should be backwards compatible. Of course the cell processor means this is impossible unless they had a ps3 in the box too (as someone else said) and as much as I’m sure most people would like that it’s never going to happen.

    But downloadable games are a different thing in my opinion if it’s not a physical media it should be easier to update for new hardware. Now I know the following analogy isn’t water tight but I think it serves to make my point. Ive got a htc phone when I upgrade in a few months it’s not even imaginable for me to not be able to re-download my purchased games and other content.to my new phone. Now I know the excuse is that the cell is different to standard processors etc etc. But my new phone will have different processors to my current one. And when I re-download my games they will work.

    The games I buy for my phone are all from the play store. The games I buy on my ps3/ps4 are from the playstation network. Sure there are going to be some differences between the ps3 verison of psn and the psn for ps4. But to me if they ever sell psn games that where available on ps3 on the ps4 (which I’m sure they will down the line) that’s just a rip off. These games should be tied to your account, you should be able to transfer them.

    Once again I know it’s not exactly the same considering the cell but you can transfer downloaded wii games to wii u, so seems like a mistake by sony to dismiss it so easily. And people acting like it’s not a big deal isn’t going to get that changed.

    Maybe I’m expecting too much. Maybe this is just another case of hindsight being 20/20 and its too late to change now. But to me it’s a big deal. And it’s something I hope doesn’t become a trend for the next gen. Because we all know that companies like to copy each other.

  8. StuartM

    Where has it been confirmed that Deep Down takes place in the Dragon’s Dogma universe? I would love to see the source of this information before I get too excited!

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