Sony has changed. The ungainly arrogance of the Ken Kutaragi era was quashed within minutes of the humbled hardware manufacturer’s practical pageantry overnight, as recently appointed SCE president Andrew House and system architect Mark Cerny relayed the advantages of a developer-driven future. The irresponsible overconfidence that spawned popular sound bites concerning second jobs seven years ago was quietly swept to the side, as the platform holder introduced a console that seems dedicated to reversing the wrongs of the past half-decade.
In many ways, the PlayStation 4 is the anti-PlayStation 3. Where its predecessor was clumsy and obtuse, the manufacturer’s next system is anything but. The architecture is familiar and straightforward, ensuring that developers will be able to almost instantly harness its prowess. Meanwhile, the hardware is consumer-friendly, offering a window into a socially connected world that promises interactivity and interest at every turn, rather than dead ends and lazily implemented community hooks.
Despite its posh PC innards, the platform promises to recapture the essence of what consoles are supposed to be all about. A lower power state will allow you to pause and restart gameplay instantaneously with the tap of a button. You’ll be able to play digital games almost immediately while they quietly download in the background, minimising the delay between activity and play. Firmware updates and patches will be unceremoniously dealt with behind the scenes, while the system will try to understand your likes and dislikes, and adapt its presentation to match your personal tastes.
Sony rattled through these announcements with a knowing nonchalance. Gaikai will allow you to play demos on-demand from the PlayStation Store, allowing you to get to grips with every game before you part with any cash. Remote Play, as it was always intended, will provide the option to bounce PS4 titles to your PlayStation Vita, freeing up your television to other members of the house. And, one day, PlayStation Cloud will allow you to access three generation’s worth of content on any connected device. The manufacturer appeared to slip into fantasy land at times – allowing your friends to pick up your progress across the Internet seems a bridge too far – but it never deviated from its primary vision of improving the experience for the consumer at the foot of the device.
And neither did it stray too far from the hallmarks that have always made PlayStation such an exciting brand. The architecture may be simplified, but the confirmation of 8GB GDDR5 RAM took even the development community by surprise. It’s since emerged that those working on PS4 projects only learned about the increase during last night’s press conference – yes, that Killzone: Shadow Fall demo was probably running on an earlier hardware prototype with 4GB GDDR5 RAM. We can only imagine what visual upgrades the inevitable E3 build will offer.
But we suppose that’s the sticking point for some: the games. It’s true, much of what was shown for PS4 looked like spruced up versions of titles that have come before. Guerrilla Games’ aforementioned debut looked simply stunning, but it still ultimately hinges on the same L1 to R1 action that we’ve played hundreds of times before. DriveClub seemed ambitious at first, but for all its promise of innovation, it’s essentially Need for Speed: Shift with a club-based angle and the obsessive attention to detail of a Kazunori Yamauchi release. Even the crudely stylised Watch_Dogs, a technical masterpiece, appears little more than a third-person shooter with a loosely implemented hacking hook. Been there, done that, and got the Platinum Trophy – but this is just the launch window line-up.
And you’d be naive for assuming that it’s all that the PS4 will have to offer. Last night was just a taste; an aperitif ahead of the main course at E3, GamesCom, and the Tokyo Game Show. Guerrilla Games, Sucker Punch, and Evolution Studios may be accounted for – but what of Polyphony Digital, Sony Santa Monica, and Naughty Dog? And just what was that Media Molecule sculpting presentation all about, anyway?
The key thing is that the system philosophy appears to be in the right place. It may lack the unbridled ambition of the CELL processor, but that’s probably for the best. PS4 is a console that seems to be rediscovering the importance of plug and play. And for everyone involved – be it the developers who will produce content for it or the consumers who will lose hours with its games – that seems like a step in the right direction.
What are your thoughts on the PS4’s consumer and developer-friendly philosophy? Do you think that the console is following the right path? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.