After Wednesday’s PS4 press conference I felt pretty good about the direction Sony was taking the Playstation brand. It’s been a rocky 6 years for the PS3 but they’ve seemed to finally find their stride with software/services in the past couple of years. In the early days of the PS3 there was complaints from multiple developers about their dev tools and the architecture of their platform. Their proprietary chip, the Cell created a steep learning curve to create games with, resulting in sub-par 3rd party ports. Their Playstation Network was far behind their competitions when it came to features and accessibility. Over the years Sony has continued to add features and value to their online services via firmware updates.
At the beginning of the PS4 announcement they
started with righting all of their wrongs of the past generation. They talked a lot about the philosophy of the PS4
like being social, always being connected and their streaming/PSN strategy. Even
after showing more games than most assumed they would, Sony left a lot of
details about the PS4 to the imagination. I assumed they were playing coy to
build the hype for the upcoming gaming convention, E3 in a few months. But
after a string of interviews from CEO Jack Tretton Sony seems to still be
trying to figure out exactly what the PS4 will become.
In recent interviews with Forbes and AllThingsD, Tretton said the cloud services described in the presentation were “aspirational” and how he was sure they’ll be there, just not sure about them being there at launch. Now to be fair, the reporter lumped in streaming back catalog games, sharing, and the Ustream functionality all together and Tretton appeared to be answering the larger cloud streaming of PS3 games question. He also mentioned yesterday how the PS4 hardware was, “still in development in terms of final specs and design”. These answers are troubling to put it lightly, especially Sony’s history of over-promising in the beginning and under-delivering. So here is my wish list to Sony for E3 to make me feel comfortable about purchasing a PS4 in the fall.
Operating System/Online Services (PSN)
They have to show basic functionality and design language of the operating system. No mock ups. Even if it's not final, users want to see what it's like to actually use the system. I believe they also need to show the bare-bones functionality of the new features of PSN, including the sharing to UStream and Facebook. Maybe not on stage but at least to the press to instill some confidence in the progress of the network. Emulating back catalog games (PS3, PS2, PS1) is admittedly a daunting task that’ll probably take some time to get working but I do expect to see the live streaming and friend spectating features at launch. It wouldn't hurt to show off the instant demo streaming in PSN as well. If Sony plans on launching the PS4 with the same basic network functionality that exist on the PS3, Microsoft is going to eat their lunch this holiday season. Microsoft gets the network and make no mistake they're going to come out guns blazing whenever they announce their next-generation system. Sony has promised a lot, early, but if they fail to deliver at least some of these features at launch I'm not sure consumers are going to have the patience to wait until they figure it out this time like with the PS3.
There are a handful of games that would melt the minds of Playstation fans if announced and/or shown at E3. Hopefully we get 1 or 2 of these either as actual game footage or at least an announcement. Sony knows their biggest strength is their first-party studios so I expect them to come out swinging (again) with more games at E3.
The Last Guardian – Announced for the PS3 over 3 years ago from the makers of critically acclaimed PS2 games ICO, and Shadow of the Colossus. TLG has been the talk of every hardcore Sony fan for a while but has been plagued with delays. An update on this elusive title would rock E3 if announced for simultaneous release on PS4 and PS3.
Naughty Dog Title – Known as one of the most talented studios in the industry and makers of the Uncharted series and the upcoming Last of Us. They are a two game studio now so it’s very likely they are working on Uncharted 4 or another title.
Final Fantasy: Versus XII - This mythical beast was announced in 2006, at the start of last generation and still hasn't made it's way to the PS3. There's rumors that it could've been pushed back to debut on the PS4 but then again there has been rumors of this game coming out for 7 years. Here's hoping that it may land on the PS3 & PS4. (Square, this is your last chance!)
New Intellectual Properties – Every new console generation brings the hopes of new IP's. New ideas that couldn’t be accomplished in the previous generation that show why you have to own the new console.
PS4 – This kind goes without saying but Sony should have a close to final design for the PS4 by E3.
The New PS Eye – They showed screen shots of the new dual camera PS Eye they didn’t really explain its purpose beyond that it will replace the old PS Eye. I’d like to know if it has similar functionality of Microsoft’s Kinect and if so are there any games in the pipeline that will take advantage of it.
While Sony did a good job in my opinion on building excitement around the PS4, their post-conference interviews and past history have left me very skeptical if they will be able to pull off all or most of what was promised on Wednesday. Why games have never been a problem for Sony, gamers are increasingly looking for more value and deeper engagement with their gaming experiences. There's a lot more competition for consumers time since the last Playstation was released and Sony has had 6 years to plan a strategy. But to on lookers, it appears Sony has been frantically trying to put together a compelling cloud network, hence the purchasing of Gaikai only 7 months ago. Who knows, maybe there was a lot of back-end and front-end work being done before the Gaikai purchase and they just need time to integrate them into their plans. But from the looks of it, Gaikai could’ve been a last ditch effort to drag PSN into the future. Please prove me wrong Sony.