Yesterday’s unexpected SingStar announcement baffled us at first, but after having an entire evening to think about the latest PlayStation 4 entry, we’re starting to come around to the idea. With its next-gen system thus far, Sony has really tapped into the brilliance of broadcasting – and while the Live from PlayStation application has had some less flattering moments, it’s also offered something unique. Secretly, we all want to be celebrities, and the Japanese giant’s streaming service enables you to taste fame, whether you’re holding an impromptu phone-in show or recording the activities of an otherwise unremarkable Brooklyn barbers.
But where The Playroom lacks focus, we suspect that London Studio’s latest karaoke game is really going to shine. While the initial announcement was vague, a subsequent Eurogamer.net report has confirmed that the title will support the PlayStation Camera, allowing you to incorporate augmented reality face masks and more into the light hearted experience. This means that you’ll be able to stream your party to the world, and turn your Friday evening into a homemade version of the X-Factor. And there’s a real beauty to that – singing is, for lack of a better word, a showy pastime, and even the most retiring personality secretly wants their vocals to be heard. It’s the hook that made the decade old franchise a success in the first place – and now your potential audience is the world.
There’s always been a social aspect to the series, of course. On the PlayStation 2, the franchise – along with EyeToy and Buzz – paved the way for the future success of the Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect by shattering the perceptions of what gaming can be. Instead of being the domain of basement dwelling teenage boys, it opened up the medium to Mums and Dads, and made the manufacturer’s hard-edged system an important piece of living room apparatus. The transition to the PlayStation 3 was tough for the property, as the high price of Sony’s overengineered console squandered the cheap and cheerful accessibility of its predecessor – but the developer employed the device’s advanced technology to implement the SingStar Store and also allow players to record clips.
These videos could then be shared on SingStar.com, and watched and rated by the community. It was a cool idea, but the PS4’s inbuilt features look set to take this social approach further. Not only will you presumably be able to capture your performances using the DualShock 4’s share button, but you’ll also be able to splice together your clips using the onboard SHAREfactory editing software, and upload your performances directly to the web. What better way is there for a budding songstress to get spotted by the Simon Cowells of the world? And then there’s the streaming opportunities presented by the abovementioned Live from PlayStation application.
We live in an age where talent shows dominate television programming, so while this editor doesn’t personally see the appeal, our desire to be entertained by amateur performers is stronger than ever. Sony’s next-gen SingStar will allow people to do that, and by making the software free-to-play, it will recapture some of the accessibility of its PS2 predecessor. Granted, all of the dangers of public online webcam streams are certain to rear their ugly head, but for the people that opt to use the software properly, there’s a real opportunity to share their performances live with an interactive audience. In fact, if London Studio’s smart with this, there are no limits to the things that it could do – how about allowing viewers to vote on the next song, or even rate performances as they’re taking place? The sky’s the limit.
It’s this kind of social interaction that’s been a little lost in the ‘For the Players’ marketing message, but we’re beginning to come to think of it as Sony’s secret killer app. How many copies of inFAMOUS: Second Son have been sold on the back of shared screenshots and video clips? How many people have bought next-gen consoles after having a fun broadcast experience in The Playroom with their friends? It’s a number that’s hard to quantify, but we suspect that as the PS4 matures, it’s these features that will come to define the super machine. And it may yet breathe new life into the more casual experiences that propelled the PS2’s popularity late in its life. A new Buzz game where viewers can participate in quizzes at the same time as the hosts? That’s the right answer.
Do you agree that streaming is the SingStar secret that we’ve overlooked? Are you excited by the potential of the PS4’s social features? Bang your buzzer in the comments section below.