What Does the PS4 Bring to Gamers?

PS4

Like many gamers and press enthusiasts last Wednesday night, I gave my full attention to Sony’s unveiling of the PlayStation 4.  I’m not privy to many early reviews or private one-on-one sessions with game developers so any chance that I can spend learning about new hardware or games, I typically do so more as a consumer than as a member of the enthusiast press.

So does the PlayStation 4 impress me?  From a technical standpoint, you bet.  8 GB of RAM is nice.  Multi-core processors are nice too.  (At the same time, I deal with servers at work on a daily basis that make the PS4 seem like a simple child’s plaything, if you were to simply compare hardware.)  Graphically, the new console has the promise of handling stunning, densely populated visuals that are sure to please any gamer.  But what really is impressive is the idea of sharing gaming playback to the “cloud” for my friends and other players to watch.

Another new feature that excites me is the ability to play games while they are still being downloaded, which promises to remove the nagging downtime of download/mandatory install times PS3 owners are all too familiar with.  That’s some network marveling juju if you ask me.  But it could also be due to the fact that Sony spent a big chunk of change in Gaikai.  My guess is that gameplay will stream to the PS4 while in the background the actual software is downloading (to be installed at a later time).  It likely won’t be as seamless as the presentation made it out to be, but we’ll see.

Therein brings up an interesting point in my mind.  What about progress?  If the download takes a while and the streamed gameplay actually makes some headway, how is the save handled?  Is it stored in the “cloud” or locally?  Either way the engineers at Sony and Gaikai must have something figured out otherwise they wouldn’t make these claims, right?

I’ve become a lot more skeptical of the “play while it is downloading” premise after further information was released the day after the event from Sony saying that saves and previous PS3/PSN games won’t transfer over to the PS4.  Why the hell not?  I get the fact that the hardware architecture between the PS3 and PS4 are completely different.  Emulating a PS3 game on the hardware of the PS4 may be possible, but why do it if the investment in Gaikai has been made?  So what is keeping the PS4 from being able to transfer my saves and PSN games to the PS4?  Sony already has my saves in the “cloud” with my PS+ subscription.  Why can’t Gaikai’s servers take that saved data and load it to a PS3 game that I’m clearly going to have to stream if I want to play an older game on the new system. This is one serious bitch slap across the face of gamers if Sony can’t get this working.  I get hardware backwards compatibility forces limitations, but “cloud” streaming should be able to solve this.  My save is in the “cloud”.  Let the “cloud” streamed game bump uglies with my “cloud” save file, and let me continue playing where I left off.

My other major point of skepticism has to do with multiple local accounts.  Currently my PS3 has a profile for each member of my household.  Of those profiles three have unique PSN IDs.  Downloading a PSN game under my PSN ID allows each profile to play the game, which is fantastic. But how exactly are other local profiles on a PS4 (assuming there will even be multiple profiles) going to be able to take advantage of new and old games alike?

I’ll assume that any games developed for the PS4 will be able to install locally so that any profile can take advantage of one purchase.  But what about PS1, PS2, or PS3 games?  Gaikai will eventually be able to stream all back catalog titles, but at what cost?  Again another assumption I have is that some form of PS+ will cover the price of streaming older games into my home.  But will that mean I have to pay PS+ for each profile that wants to play an older game?  There’s a reason I don’t use an Xbox 360.  I don’t want to pay an annual fee to play a game online.  I certainly don’t want to pay for a family pack Gold subscription.  But if my other family members want to play an older game on the PS4 and I have to pay for that privilege on more than one account, I will seriously consider not buying into the whole console.

I like the look of the new DualShock 4, and I’m curious to see the full potential of the new PlayStation Eye.  I like the potential of sharing gameplay with friends (and inevitably random strangers).  I realize that it is still way too soon to know just what will come from Sony in the form of gaming services.   I can’t help but think that after seeing a large uptick in profits from PS+ subscriptions on current hardware, Sony is looking at any and every way to extract money from its core fan base once the PS4 is released.  Hopefully the PS4 brings great new games but not at the expense of overly aggressive subscriptions.

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.