Is Sony’s jump on Microsoft enough to win the next-gen war?
Simplicity and Sharing
Taking a tip from Apple’s playbook, Playstation 4 will feature a frozen state for instant-on functionality much like iOS multitasking. Not stoping there, Sony has realized the importance of sharing content. Ease of sharing has become increasingly important in the age of social networking. I can’t begin to tell you how much the Safari and iOS share buttons have changed my digital experience. With Playstation 4, Sony will not stop at sharing links but sharing gameplay clips, something old GameFAQ readers would have died for during the N64/PS1 era.
While many of us were not impressed with Nintendo’s Wii U, Sony seemed to find something they loved. Sony’s acquisition of Gaikai and it’s use of cloud gaming will allow gamers to stream their PS4 titles to a paired Playstation Vita (presumably over a local network), much like the Wii U’s capability to stream full Wii U games to the Wii U Gamepad when others feel the need to take over the TV.
Early on during the conference, Sony focused on the importance of developers. Building a console that is friendly to developers will ensure a slew of titles and the potential for a massive game library for players to take advantage of. Many gamers remember the fantastic library of games offered by PS2 and it would seem that Sony wants to reclaim that notoriety.
The biggest surprise of the night was the inclusion of Sony’s list of 96 third-party developers. While Nintendo was hoping to attract more third-party developers with Wii U, it would seem as if Sony has swallowed them up. It’s is not to say that all of these developers will be creating exclusives for PS4, but with a list as staggering as the one provided during Sony’s announcement, it ensures the potential.
Perhaps the most surprising of all developers was that of Bungie (developer of the original Halo trilogy). Hot on the heels of the announcement of Destiny, Bungie’s first (and extremely ambitious) post-Halo title, Sony dropped a bomb with the announcement that Destiny would be coming to PS4. With Bungie previously being owned by Microsoft, this news came as a surprise. Many were sure Destiny would be an Xbox exclusive. With the success of the Halo franchise, many Xbox die-hards will likely be clamoring at the chance to play Bungie’s newest title as soon as possible.
While not entirely unheard of but surprising nonetheless, Sony announced that World of Warcraft developer Blizzard Entertainment would be releasing their latest game, Diablo 3, for both the PS3 and PS4. While the game’s announcement may not be a triumph for Sony, the idea that a primarily PC focused developer such as Blizzard (aside from Starcraft 64 and the aborted Starcraft: Ghost) has interest in the PS4 says multitudes for the system’s potential.
As far as tech specs go, PS4 runs circles around Nintendo’s Wii U. IGN’s Beyond Podcast crew put it best by saying PS4 has just “lapped” the Wii U. One of Wii U’s best features, the ability to stream Wii U games to the Wii U Gamepad, has been conquered by the PS4 + Gaikai’s ability to stream games to the Playstation Vita. However, this is a double-edge sword. While the feature will prove extremely handy in family households, purchasing the combo of PS4 + Vita will likely run a price upwards of $700 while the Wii U bundles a Gamepad for a max of $350. On the flip side, the Vita is also a stand alone handheld console whereas the Gamepad provides no functionality without the Wii U.
Against Microsoft, Sony played it safe. They now understand the importance of UI, ease of development, and online community. Based on software alone, Xbox 360 and PS3 games are strikingly similar. The race for next-gen console dominance will not rest on hardware specs alone. Being the first to please developers in the next-gen race and catching up with Microsoft’s online community are the safest bets Sony could have placed with the PS4.
With massive company fragmentation, poor PS3 architecture choice, and awful marketing, Sony has been struggling to keep up in the console war. Unlike Nintendo and Microsoft, Sony simply does not have the capital to take lofty risks on experimental features. While Gaikai is the newest and likely grandest feature of the PS4, it is predictable. If Sony is able to focus on the potential of locally streaming (and potentially cloud streaming) games, it may provide them with a massive advantage over Microsoft’s next console. Let just hope users can shell out for both PS4 and Vita.
Did Sony convince me that this is the system I must own now? No. However, Sony has come out swinging. With no new radical features (Nintendo), the lack of memorable IP (Nintendo), and a striking similarity to another set-top power house (Xbox), Sony’s massive set of developers may prove to be what wins the next-gen war.
Image source [TweakTown]