Last night, audiences around the world were invited to watch as Sony announced its upcoming console, the Playstation 4. Viewers were treated to a showcase of trailers for upcoming release titles, presented by developers from the likes of Activision and Ubisoft, the new ‘Dual Shock 4’ controller, complete with a built in touch screen, and support from developers around the world for the projected features and capabilities of the PS4 console. Indeed, one could say the only thing missing was the console itself.
Sony CEO Andrew House put forward a number of bold intentions. The Playstation 4 is to be the ‘most powerful platform ever; Simple and adaptive’, with ‘socially enriched content’ and a design not only suited to players, but developers as well.
The results offered on the night were astounding to incomplete. David Cage, the head of the French studio Quantic Dream, which brought us the critically acclaimed ‘Indigo Prophecy’, announced that developers are now limited ‘only by our imaginations’. He presented the result of a number of new facial rendering tools made possible by the PS4: an incredible 3D rendered face, lifelike and detailed to a degree only previously seen in the best CGI films. It remains to be seen how much of this is mere showmanship for cutscenes, and how much can be applied to general gameplay. The questionable applicability of projected features also applied elsewhere, such as Medium Molecule studio’s ‘3D sculpting’ tool, which will utilize the Move Controller to attempt to bring 3D graphics tools to gamers themselves.
A number of new features were also revealed around ‘Playstation Network’, this time by David Perry, the CEO of the California based company Gaikai. He emphasized how the PS4 will utilize social networking on a new level. By combining popular social platforms such as Facebook with Ustream, the first gaming social network ‘with meaning’ is on the way. Friends will have a new impact on gameplay, such as being able to instantly donate items and weapons in real time, and with Ustream’s ‘multicasting’ function you will not only be able to project your gameplay live to any location or device you want, but friends will even be able to contribute to or even take over your gameplay for you from wherever they are. Much of this is building on existing features, though a fully integrated gaming network of the caliber promised to us on Wednesday has yet to be created. If it can be done, then we have a lot to look forward to.
Mr. Perry also promised a new, extensive use of cloud storage for Playstation network. A project has been green lit by Sony to make the ‘fastest global network’ in existence: one that will allow PS4 users to access a library of games from the original Playstation right up to the PS4, and play them ‘instantly’. Again, downloadable games are old hat, but the key here is the scale. Sony claims it will create a gargantuan library at gamers’ fingertips. If done correctly, this could combat the tendency by gamers to download pirated games for free, which would be a great victory for Sony. With extensive social networking, easy access to such a large cloud library of games, and with the results of upcoming projects to look forward to, Mr. Perry confidently promised gamers the ‘past, present and future at their fingertips’.
What then, were we not shown? The most glaring missing piece was the console itself. No model of the Playstation 4 was actually revealed, failing to give a truly material quality to the many features that have been promised to us. This huge range of online features and games also highlights one of the more worrying development plans for the PS4: that is, removing the use of second hand games. With so much connectivity and sharing, it would be easy for Sony to apply its patented technology, which would only allow gamers to play games which they have activated and legitimized through the use of a code. This would not only stop them from selling games second hand, but potentially could even stop them from lending games to friends.
A number of impressive release titles were also revealed. Trailers were shown for the Guerrilla Games’ newest addition to the ‘Killzone’ series, ‘Killzone: Shadow Fall’, and Ubisoft revealed its newest sandbox, ‘Watchdogs’. Other trailers included Capcom’s ‘Deep Down’, ‘Infamous: Second Son’ from Suckerpunch games and Evolution Studio’s ‘Drive club’. We were also treated to a preview of ‘The Witness’, a puzzle game which comes to us from Jonathon Blow, the creator of the critically acclaimed ‘Braid’.
It is safe to say that what has been revealed so far has left the gaming world hungry for more. The main presentation ended with the promise that the PS4 would be coming ‘Holiday 2013’, suggesting a Christmas release. Thankfully, we have E3 to look forward to in June, where the console itself will, hopefully, finally be revealed.