Going into yesterday’s PS4 announcement, I’ll admit – Sony kind of had to dig themselves out of a hole right from the start for me. I’m an unabashed XBOX fan, and seeing as my PS3 (which I didn’t convince myself to buy until two years ago) continues to sit virtually untouched on its dust-covered shelf despite the two, maybe three exclusive games that remotely pique my interest, it’s safe to say they had their work cut out for them.
The big “announcement,” as you likely already know, wasn’t much of an announcement at all. Not only did they not mention a price point, a release date, or what kind of DRM they’ll be using, they didn’t even show the damn console. For all the hype surrounding the event, I expected a few more details. This was one giant cocktease.
And tease they did. As with any reveal/demo, we were met with a fancy stage, giant screens, dramatic lighting, and more grandiose adjectives than possibly necessary. And particle effects, of course. Because wow, the particle effects.
Having some experience in 3d and game development, I can’t lie and say I wasn’t impressed with the visuals. The tech demos were pretty. Like, I’m-pretty-sure-I-actually-had-drool-dripping-from-my-mouth-after-watching-that-Killzone–demo pretty. …but was it really all that different from Killzone 3? The new color palette was nice, fire and explosions looked better, the AI seemed smooth and pretty deep…but how many more ways can we be stunned by a first-person shooter?
And then I had to watch cars, because apparently people are still wowed by driving games. So sure, DriveClub looks spectacular, and I’m amazed at the attention to detail in the textures. But then there was inFAMOUS: Second Son, which was, in my opinion, one of the worst intros of all time to a game that really doesn’t look interesting at all, and by this point all I wanted to see was something NOT hyper-realistic. I knew going into this that the system was going to pump out beautiful textures and crazy high-poly models and environments so large my head will likely blow up when thinking about the sheer amount of processing you’d need to handle all of that on top of those dynamic shadows that Killzone was showing off and the fire looked SO PRETTY.
But…where’s the creativity? Where’s something new?
And then just like that, The Witness. A man after my own heart, Jonathan Blow brought to the table something a bit like Journey – something that was thoughtful, that wasn’t a shooter and wasn’t full of explosions. Something that caught my attention.
But as quickly as it came, it went. We were thrust back to the swarm of statistics and showoffs, of head polycounts and Move controllers, and how this new engine and that new engine are going to make everything awesome and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. (But you’re not fooling anyone, Square – we all remember that footage from when you showed it off a year ago.)
It feels like every reveal for every new generation of systems goes a little something like this. Throughout its lifespan, features are added to the system. For the 360/PS3 it was things like Kinect, Move, social media integration, headset jacks on now-wireless controllers. When we move on from that generation, those new and innovative features are suddenly standard, so we expect to have things like a wide range of internet options, a “Share” button, and some degree of motion control. So what exactly was I expecting this time around?
I don’t know what I was looking for, but this wasn’t it. And the more I think about that, the more I worry. Am I really becoming one of those entitled gamers I so despise? Am I here on my internet pedestal bitching about how Sony’s doin’ it wrong, but I don’t even know how they could have done it right?
Maybe not, because here’s the thing. I may not know what I wanted Sony to do, but I do know they basically gave a nice easy pitch down the middle to Microsoft, who has the chance to totally knock it out of the park. While I can appreciate that Sony seems focused on the traditional gamer – as opposed to Nintendo’s family gamer and Microsoft’s living room gamer – it doesn’t seem a good bet for a company that’s already kind of struggling when it comes to selling consoles, particularly since as of right now, there’s no real reason to buy the system. Microsoft has every chance to capitalize on Sony’s failure to explain why the PS4 will be a more appealing device to own than anything the competition can come up with…or what you have now.
By denying backwards compatibility, they’ve essentially made my already underutilized PS3 even more useless. Why should I buy any new games now? I know I’m not speaking for all PS3 owners when I say that my system doesn’t get much play, but go ahead and glance at the stack of games you’ve got. Now embrace the fact that in a few months, Sony’s banking on you going out and spending at least a couple hundred dollars on a new system and basically flushing the money you spent on those games down the drain. (Or keeping both systems hooked up and really, how long is that going to last? I know I’m not the only one who has limited shelf real estate.)
I’m not the biggest proponent of backwards compatibility, because really, why buy a brand new system and play old games on it? (Except you know, if you want to consider every broke gamer out there that cherishes each new game they get and will have to buy their new system with only one launch title because they want it so bad and will just make do for a while. I got you, bro.) But what’s going to happen to games like Grand Theft Auto V? GTAV releases in September – an assumed 2-3 months before the PS4 launches. Will they see dramatically decreased sales due to people holding off, waiting to pick up their copy on the new system? The fact that titles like GTAV and Diablo III (don’t get me started on that) are going to be available on both platforms makes me wonder, What’s the incentive to pick up the game on the PS4? If the same game is capable of being played on a current-gen system, it’s clearly not using the full potential of the next-gen system. So why bother?
But oh, don’t worry. You can stream your old games on the Cloud! Great! Now tell me that they have software that can automatically recognize the games I’ve already purchased and I might be interested. And about that whole Cloud thing? I’m just a tad bit concerned about the bandwidth requirements in the notorious high-latency network environment in America. Maybe this won’t be as much of a concern in Japan where connection speeds are way faster, but if people still have problems streaming movies on Netflix here, I can only imagine what’s going to happen when they try to stream these ridiculous new games.
I know, I know, not everyone is quite as cynical as I am. And I know that the whole Cloud thing is the way things are moving and I won’t be surprised if Microsoft shows something similar when the time comes. But if they’re aiming this system at the traditional gamer, they’re going to get met with this type of criticism. Because really, what do gamers want?
We want more and more to play games when and how we want, and maybe use a secondary device if we choose to, not because they tell us to. We want to not lose purchases like those we’ve made on the PSN. We want to see synergy with music, video, and internet to match (and hopefully exceed) Microsoft’s advances in that front, without losing sight of the fact that consoles are first and foremost for gaming. We want to see some damn innovation.
All that presentation said to me was that the PS4 is an upgraded PS3 that puts out pretty pictures, can use the internet, still has the Move for some unknown reason (like to sculpt dicks out of clay, because you know that’s what most people are going to use this Media Molecule ZBrush-like software for), and can talk to that system that you probably don’t have (Vita). Sony stayed in its little box, and tried to pretend that they were changing the game. I’m not buying it.
Truth be told, in a day of announcements/unveilings? My vote goes to Google Glass.