While researching for this article I discovered some interesting information. The Flickr account for the Playstation Blog has screenshots of the new Killzone: Shadow Fall in 4K resolutions. Sony made no mention in their press conference of 4K compatibility but these screen shots all but confirms that games can and may run in 4K (3840X2160) resolution on the PS4. Update: Sony says games wont run in 4K but images and video will.
Last night Sony announced it's next-generation video game console, the Playstation 4. The internet was on fire as the hype train had been building up momentum since a few details had been leaked online in the last week. Sony, historically has done pretty bad at these type of media events and many Playstation die-hards hoped for the best but braced for the worst. Depending on who you talked to after the event was over, Sony exceeded most to all expectations or was a total disaster. As an avid gamer that also works in the industry let me explain how we've gotten to this point.
Some Historical Context
The Playstation 3 was initially announced on May 16, 2005 at E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo). 18 months before it would even launch in Japan on November 11, 2006. By the time PS3 was being announced, Microsoft's Xbox 360 was on it's way into retail store within 6 months. Sony had no choice but to show their cards that early in order to try and slow down Microsoft's momentum. The generation before that, Microsoft launched a year after the PS2 so never have these two competitors launched a console in the same year.
Going into this year everyone expected both Sony and Microsoft to announce their new consoles either at or before E3 in June. Not wanting to show each other their hands too soon played a game of chicken until finally Sony pulled the trigger on Feb. 1st and announced a press conference for Feb. 20th to "See The Future". In my opinion you want to be the first to announce but do it as late as possible. With Sony announcing now they get most of the Spring to ride any hype generated from the press conference but rumors are already swirling that Microsoft will announce the follow-up to the Xbox 360 in March or April. Both will then have E3 in June to reiterate and expand on their message while possibly having playable game demos on the floor.
Playstation Enters The Cloud
Going into this press conference I honestly wasn't expecting much. We're still almost a year away from launch and anyone who has ever worked on a video game will tell you, the game doesn't really start coming together until the last couple of months. Also, knowing the development studios haven't had that long to use the final hardware to really put together anything really worth showing. (In fact rumors are that Sony only had 4-6 GB of RAM in the PS4 dev-kits, instead of the 8GB that were announced until very recently) All I hoped for was possibly a look at the hardware, some system details (services), the controller and maybe a couple of tech demos with a montage of recognizable titles "coming soon". Boy was I wrong, Sony kicked off their announcement first admitting how badly they messed up with developers on their development tools and why they were going with more tradition hardware. Then they threw out the 8GB of DDR memory (167 GB/s bandwidth) and other superlatives to impress the geekiest of geeks. Sony also mentioned a feature of the hardware that allowed the player to put the PS4 in a soft sleep mode that would auto save at any instance and allow them to resume play at the touch of a button without load times.
The highlight of the night was their sharing/streaming services that went well beyond even the most optimistic Playstation fan had hoped for. The "Share" button on the newly redesigned Dualshock 4 controller allowed players to edit and share video or screenshots of the game they were currently playing to friends on Facebook or start a live stream of their game instantly via Ustream. They also announced as a result of the purchase of Gaikai last year that the PS4 will have a streaming service that will allow for instant access to demo full PS4 games from the Playstation Network as well as potentially stream PS1, PS2, and PS3 games from multiple devices. (This sounded like it was still in the works and hasn't been finalized) They also promised to allow the streaming of PS4 games to Playstation Vita's and showed a live demo of it in action. Granted some of this we'll have to wait and see if and how it actually works but if Sony can pull everything they promised off then Microsoft might be in for a world of hurt this generation if they can't at least match some of these features.
Software Is King In This Land
Finally, we get into the games. Yes they actually showed real games. The first was a very Pixar styled game titled, Knack that seemed to focus on displaying how many objects the PS4 could handle on the screen at one time. Then the developer from Guerrilla Games announced a new first-person shooter from their Killzone franchise, Killzone: Shadow Fall. It looked beautiful, but exactly how you would expect a next-gen shooter to look so it didn't get too many ooh's and ahh's. Then they showed a new Infamous title, and a Myst like puzzle game named The Witness. They then showed gameplay from big 3rd party games, Watch_Dogs, Diablo 3 and Destiny and followed that with some impressive and some not so impressive tech demos. Overall the software showing was a lot more than I initially expected this early and they promised this was just a small look at some of the games they'll be announcing all year long.
There were a few games that weren't shown that I was hoping to see, *cough* The Last Guardian, but that can always be something they're saving to show off at E3 or that it merely needed more time. A lot of the games understandably still looked early in development, save for Killzone whose demo guy played through nearly an entire level while on stage. The elephant in the room though was the PS4 itself. It was nowhere to be found and as the final demo was shown and they said good night you can almost feel the smiles turn to frowns across the world. "WTF Sony?!", "Where the hell is the console?" Tons of these messages splattered across the internet within seconds of the press conference ending. I'll admit I was a bit let down towards the end to what was for the most part an exciting 2 hour show for Playstation fans. (yes, TWO hours) But after realizing that E3 was in a little over 3 months and given all the info they had already shared I can see why they wanted to hold some things back until the summer. The point of this press conference was to get a strategic jump on Microsoft and grab the mindshare of the hardcore gamers. I believe they accomplished this and the ball is now in Microsoft's court to deliver.
Unfortunately many others didn't see it that way, including many tech journalist, who poo-poo'd the entire presentation afterwards. It seemed the bitter taste caused by the lack of visible hardware, price and specifics washed out the sweet taste of actual GAMES AND FUNCTIONALITY. Yes, tech journalist and gamers alike, upset because they didn't get to see the plastic box that concealed the hardware we already know about. There's an assumption that if you're a tech fan than you're probably a gamer. Looking at some of the post-conference shows online last night it was obvious who were gamers and who were just technology enthusiast. Gamers were exited for the possibilities while the techies were expecting an Apple like presentation filled with hardware, price and release dates. That is not what this press conference was meant for. To make a political comparison, this show was red meat for the base. The Playstation loyalist.
Save Some For E3
Sony hasn't launched a console in nearly 7 years and in that time tech journalist have been to at least 50 Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft events. They always show hardware at those events because usually the hardware is the star of the show. But in the video game world hardware almost always takes a back seat to the software. In other words, it's all about the games stupid. And Sony delivered on that, especially for it being so early. Yes most of the games are from existing franchises and yes nothing really set the world on fire but these games have at least another 6 months of work to be done on them if not more. Not to mention this is a console launch, and console launches by nature usually have mediocre to poor software line-ups. It's the nature of the businesses. AAA titles typically take 2-3 years of development so it's no surprise that many of the first round of games will either be sequels or not all that innovative. Sony still has a lot to prove, especially when it comes to their online streaming services but we're headed in the right direction. If Sony can't produce signs of progress on the services front by E3 than there may be cause for concern. As an early showing of what they have to offer this next-gen, all signs point to Sony actually gets what gamers want. Again I'll reiterate, E3 is in June, and I'm sure we'll not only see more exciting games there but we'll finally see the freaking plastic box.