The Playstation 4 and the Xbox 720 will be industry game changers, despite what critics say. With the PS4 and XBox 720, we're witnessing the newest evolution of video games, a shift that will turn high-quality video gaming into a play-anywhere, anytime experience.
Sony on Wednesday night — in an Apple-esque product roll-out — unveiled the PlayStation 4. Kind of.
A two-hour-long presentation introduced us to a new controller, games in development, and some specs … but there was no sign of the actual console box. Or the price. Or a release date more specific than “holiday 2013.”
Thursday, after pundits digested everything that Sony put on the table in the event, the PS4 was assailed by criticism.
The Wall Street Journal the said the much-hyped launch of the PS3 left important questions unanswered:
“The PlayStation franchise is now almost 20 years old and its glory days are a thing of the past. Since PlayStation 3 came on the market in late 2006, Sony's gaming division has mostly incurred big losses — a $2 billion operating loss in the year ended March 2007, a $1.2 billion operating loss the following year and a $600 million operating loss in the year to March 2009. After that, gaming was rolled into a bigger unit with most of Sony's other consumer products — a sign, probably, of PlayStation's growing irrelevance.”
But why does any of that matter?
Sure price is a concern. The PS4, reportedly costing in the $400+ range, seems to be cheaper than its PS3 predecessor on launch, and that is absolutely critical. The PS3 lost a lot of early momentum because of its average game library and a very high price drove some casual gamers toward the Wii and Xbox.
But PS4 — as well as the soon-to-come Xbox 720, due to be announced in March — open the doors a completely re-imagined video game industry. Release date, price, and even what the console look like play second-fiddle to what users will be able to do on the device. The PS4 will integrate a wave of new ideas and technologies, from cloud computing to mobile gaming, all of which will redesign how we use and consume major video games.
Despite all the “super-computer” hardware in the console, the PS4’s controller — dubbed "DualShock 4” — is the first major game changer. The DualShock will have a touch pad … which, in our touch screen-oriented world, is a cute feature … but there is likely more to this development than meets the eye.
The DualShock seems to be the first step in a bigger PS4 evolution which will likely force all PS4 games to integrate with touch screen technology. The final vision, it seems, will be that PS4 games will eventually be able to be played on smart pads and smartphones ... all of which, of course, rely on touch screen technology. Say good bye to the joystick.
But the touch screen-to-smart pad evolution is missing a step … how will console-based games make it to mobile devices?
Sony has said that every PS4 game will eventually be able to be played on its hand-held gaming system, the Playstation Vita. This effectively allows console gamers to be mobile gamers.
To do this, PS4 will utilize a cloud computing system ... so far the first major gaming platform to do so (Xbox is also reportedly said to be using this feature in its future 720 model). The cloud computing will utilize Gaikai streaming technology, creating no need for discs or downloads.
Cloud computing, then, will allow Playstation to eventually stream content on other devises … imagine a Playstation App that allows you to use your PS4 console as a game mainframe and stream those games on mobile devises. Imagine playing a high-quality Killzone: Shadowfall on your train ride to work.
Angry Birds was just the beginning of mobile gaming.
About 63% of the U.S. population plays video games, while about 70% of the world plays video games. But, as the WSJ reports, console gaming in general is declining. Since PS3 first hit the shelves more than six years ago, tablets and smartphones have become the must-have technology for a new generation. Mobile devices also offer cheap or free games to satisfy non-hardcore gamers. In the U.S., console sales declined every month through 2012, according to researcher NPD Group. U.S. sales of hardware, software and accessories fell 17% in January from a year earlier. But console games like Halo, Skyrim, Call of Duty, and Grand Theft Auto off more compelling gameplay, graphics, and story lines then whatever new version of Tetris being pedaled at the App Store. There is a demand for high-quality games.
Sure there are faults in the PS4, but this is the foundation of a completely new gaming universe.
PS4 and the eventual Xbox 720 will push the limits of that universe.