Weekend Short-Takes: 2/22/13

Sony America head 'hopes' PlayStation 4 won't cost $599 at launch, says specs aren't finalized yet‏

Simon Wu:

I sure hope it doesn’t cost an exorbitant amount either. Look, I am perfectly fine with the fact that specs are still not quite nailed down yet. I am also perfectly fine with the fact that the physical manifestation of the console itself was not shown, which the Internet seems to have exploded over. It’s not a big deal at all. In truth, I feel like this press conference was created simply to have complete security that Sony would not get upstaged by Microsoft again. Their job was very simple: capture the attention of gamers and monopolize it with occasional drips and drabs until E3, when they will do the big reveal, while we will not hear a peep about the next Xbox until then.

Jonathan Tung:

While I agree with Simon that the conference was more of an excuse to avoid getting upstaged by Microsoft, I also worry about the price point that Sony is aiming for, especially since they face stiff competition from both the Wii U and Microsoft’s still-yet-to-be-announced game console. As long as the price is cheap enough for Sony to not sell at a loss and not overly expensive as the PS3 was when it first launched, Sony should be able to make up for what they lost from the Vita bombing heavily.

Max Gruber:

I seriously hope they learned their lesson from their embarrassing E3 2006 press conference. Remember all those memes we collected from that one event? “And you attack its weak point for massive damage. AHEM.” I like Sony’s initiative to getting themselves right out of the gate and into the next-gen consoles, but, as Simon and Jonathan have mentioned, it’s troubling that the price may be too exorbitant for what consoles are now. We’ve yet to see what Microsoft’s hiding under their sleeve, so we’ll have to wait and see if what Sony is offering to us is worth every penny. I will say this, though. From what we’ve seen from the games that will be available for the system, it makes the Wii-U look like a goose egg.

John Fenix:

I do agree that I expected more from this presentation than what I got. I do agree that having more than just the controller present and showing off games, which I admit is nice to see they are focusing on gamers and the comment in the article that for the most part we won’t care what the console looks like after a while, but it still felt unneeded for such a big event. Definitely not even big enough for E3, so I guess this works? Sony, why do you confuse me? (OK, that might be because I have been drinking too much tea)

Alex Miller:

Right, tea John. As for Sony, well done to them. They went in, did what they needed to do, and got out without causing any real issues or fuck ups. What they needed to do was stop Microsoft from screening off the gaming world from them with an earlier release. What I wanted more of was specifics, which is the one thing (other than the box itself) that Sony skillfully sidestepped all night. They have a range of where they think it will be, but in a way I wonder if this still plays into Microsoft’s hand. Major Nelson, as I have mentioned before, has a countdown to E3 on his blog. And we know that Microsoft will have all their specs and stats down by then. Does this mean that Microsoft can pack the bigger “WOW punch”? All remains to be seen, but I do hope that, in deciding the final specs, they are able to keep it under $599, otherwise simply acknowledging the mistakes of the last generation is pointless if they don’t learn from them.

expertreviews.co.uk

PlayStation 4 will not have native PS3 backwards compatibility

Simon Wu:

This is bad. Oh, I’m sure they’ll play off the Gaikai emulation and streaming down games as a method to work around this, but it’s not the same. Will you have to pay for the streaming service? Will you have to pay for the PS3 games you want to stream? Is there a way to register the PS3 games you own so you don’t have to? The complication caused by the architecture change is fundamentally necessary to keep equipment costs down and improve margins on a shrinking business, but the flaws will all be in the execution.

Jonathan Tung:

Seeing as Sony removed the cell processor from the PS4, it was obvious to begin with that the PS4 will not feature any form of native backward compatibility. However, I find that their usage of Gaikai for emulation purposes to be quite ambitious. As long as they don’t make any of the same mistakes OnLive did, the PS4 should be a quick hit.

Max Gruber:

While the prospect that the PS4 will not be backwards compatible with PS3 games has a bad omen written all over it, I can see myself being a little left out from my old favorites. Demon’s/Dark Souls, Killzone, Resistance, God of War, anything Final Fantasy related (*tapping feet* I’m waiting, Noctis), Metal Gear Solid 4, etc. would be unplayable on the PS4. Yes, I know that you can stream games between the PS1-PS3, but it’s not really the same, especially in regards to the gaming connoisseurs who collect every single game in existence. Would they still have to pay in order to play their favorite game from 20 years ago? Let’s hope not.

John Fenix:

While this can make it hard for the first few years, I can sort-of see why they would not include it. I played a bunch of Halo 2 before Halo 3 came out and even some after it did, but I think I could see the appeal of having the ability to just play digitally as a compromise, and I also lean toward having physical merchandise. Of course, there’s still the issue of having to purchase them again, though I wish there was a way to, I don’t know, have a kiosk that could scan the barcode of an old game, and you would have to include your info to cross check to get a voucher. Although even as I type this, I’m aware that barcodes don’t mark individual copies and that could be worked around VERY quickly. Well, one can dream.

Alex Miller:

As John says, this is going to be a much bigger deal early on, and will subside as the PS4’s native library expands. But for those first crucial months Sony is hurting themselves by limiting the gaming options available to early adopters. As Simon and I discussed when talking after the WiiU launch, early fanbase is important, as this is what you must build everything else on. It won’t matter when there are plenty of PS4 games to choose, but until then this could be bad for Sony.

engadget.com

Netflix, Amazon Instant, More Coming to PlayStation 4

Simon Wu:

Finally. More services. In terms of the number of services it will offer at launch, the PS4 will be dwarfed by the last-gen 360. I am heartened that Sony recognizes the incredible disparity and is taking some preliminary steps to start crossing the chasm that separates the two systems. However, if Microsoft continues to add services at the same rate, the chasm stays the same size. I expect far more from E3 in this regard.

Jonathan Tung:

While it does not come as a suprise that the PlayStation 4 will be launching with that many services, it does seem quite clear that they’re going to be heavily pushing them, especially when competing with Microsoft. However, since the Xbox has a lot more similar exclusives (such as Redbox, HBO Go, and ESPN), Sony is going to have to step their game up and score some exclusives of their own if they want to maintain a lead when going into E3 later this year.

Max Gruber:

Maybe Sony realizes that in order to beat Microsoft, they must harness the plenipotentiary girth that have made Microsoft so successful in the gaming market: by becoming a multimedia device. I’m getting this strange vibe that we’re going to have the same repertoire happen for the PS4 as the 360 had, in that more time will be spent not gaming than gaming on the PS4.

John Fenix:

A check in the “About time” box for Sony, this should surprise no one who played on any of the recent consoles. To be honest, branching out and offering other services is not a bad idea, and they are (for the most part) focusing on things that would be more likely used (Ignore IE) by games and, heck, families. Look at Steam, which also serves as a platform for a lot of software as well as games, though they more focused on game developers than anything general. It’s going to be hard in the future to justify a dedicate hardware product for just one activity. So, as much as some of us would want it, it just makes more sense to branch out.

Alex Miller:

This is a long time coming, and honestly it surprises me exactly how long. I know the Roku I have runs the same general UI as the PS3 (lacking the proper gaming functionality obviously) yet when I use a PS3 it doesn’t have the same amount of services. Will be a good way to increase the value for money of this device, but it is bizarre to me that this is just now coming. hopefully it launches without the need for a disk like the PS3 did.

ign.com

PlayStation 4's UI and inner workings detailed: No more booting, games download as you play them

Simon Wu:

There are two things needed to solve the problem of Games on Demand as it currently exists. Firstly, and I don’t expect this to happen as long as Gamestop exists (and probably don’t want it to happen until Valve comes in and blows up the stagnant pricing schemes), streamable games should be released simultaneously with launches. That way I don’t have to stand next to a bunch of 10 year olds and their moms who drove out at midnight. Secondly, games need to take less than an hour to download, which is what Sony ostensibly has solved here. WoW first pioneered streaming down starting areas and continuing on, and more recently I’ve seen it implemented in Office 2013. Also, what’s great about the brand-new modern processors are that they support all the latest features we’re used to, including low-power standby, rather than the ancient on-off proposition we currently have.

Jonathan Tung:

Now this is what I have been waiting for: a game console that comes with a suspension option AND the ability to run a web browser WHILE IN GAME. I suppose it’s a good idea that Sony is borrowing things that they have learned from Steam and other PC services when designing the PS4’s OS, and throwing in the ability to record your own game footage and uploading it to the internet should make it even easier to make your own LP’s. However, I worry such a service like this could end up being abused to no end, epecially when combined with 12 year olds playing Call of Duty while cussing online.

Max Gruber:

I’m really liking the streaming feature. It’s like OnLive in a way, only it’s, probably, faster than the former and it’s for games that ACTUALLY look great, like Deep Down, Watch_Dogs, Destiny, etc. I would be liking the whole part where you could record yourself playing if it wasn’t for the ten seconds of film section. Really disappointed about that. I was really expecting a lot more recording time for one session.

John Fenix:

The only thing that caught my attention really was this streaming feature, which really interests me, as it seems it could compete with how Microsoft might incorporate Skype in their next box. No surprise with the “play-as-you-download” feature and I am not particularly interested in the “straight-to-game” feature.

Alex Miller:

I am very excited about the download while “off” or as you play bits, but that’s probably having a lot to do with how absolutely miserable updates and download on the Playstation 3. Another category where Sony is playing catch up to Microsoft, this is more a case of Sony “solving” an issue they created. However, I am not as excited about the sharing and social networking they are harping on. Remember how annoying Farmville invites and updates were on Facebook like 3 years ago? Imagine those, but instead of offering a pig or corn its a “totally sick” 360 no scope. I just don’t care, and the ten second limit will construct any shared videos to this trivial category, as anything interesting really ought to take more than ten seconds.

engadget.com

Sony announces DualShock 4 controller with touchpad and 3D camera tracking

Simon Wu:

Sigh. We were told previously that there would be some sort of touchpad addition to the controller a la Vita, but I’m just glad Sony haven’t gone crazy and pasted a tablet right in the middle of it. However, they have gone and done something I find incredibly stupid: put a speaker in the controller. Whenever I use a Wii, I’m surprised and frankly annoyed by the extremely tinny and low quality audio that gets piped through there. I have surround sound; this isn’t necessary in the slightest. This does not make it more immersive; if anything, it takes me out of experiences.

Jonathan Tung:

Upon first glance, nothing appears to be out of the ordinary for the DualShock 4; however, after looking at the specs, I have to say that I am now quite intrigued about the new control scheme that Sony has implemented here. In addition, it appears that they have also borrowed a few things here and there from the Xbox controller, such as the built-in headphone jack, for instance. Regardless of fact, let’s just hope it doesn’t end up going the way of Sixaxis (and we all know how terrible that was).

John Fenix:

It’s interesting to see what appears to be a more streamline traditional console controller set-up like the 360 with the Wii’s motion controlled functionality and Wii U’s touch interface. Yet it still looks like something Sony would release, which I mean as an improvement. Consider it Sony’s equivalent to the Xbox’s Controller S from the “Duke.”

Alex Miller:

Solid design, adding some new features, but mostly leaving a working system well enough alone. I am annoyed about the small speakers like Simon but that is just something we will have to get past.Maybe we can even silence it in the options. however, something not mentioned in the article and that I think a lot of people are ignoring is the new triggers. The L2 and R2 buttons are now triggers as opposed to bumpers, making them more like the Xbox 360 controller than the PS3’s. Solid improvement, as at least for me that is what I prefer.

playerone.tv

Sony: PSN games won't transfer to the PS4, nor will your game saves‏

Simon Wu:

Also very unfortunate, but the Xbox won’t be spared from this issue either, as it faces the exact same transition. This brings up a very interesting question about backwards compatibility (or lack thereof) from this generation. Unlike the last transition, there are a ton of really great games that I want to keep playing. And I also don’t want to lose my progress in something like Fallout 3, or even worse, my chained Mass Effect 3 saves which have dependencies in two other games. Will I have to keep my old console on hand at all times just in case? Or can this Gaikai emulation also serve as some sort of cloud save storage that will work on the PS4?

Jonathan Tung:

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOPE. (sorry, that was the only thing I had in mind when they announced this)

Max Gruber:

My only comment.

Alex Miller:

Just like with the non-backwards compatible issue addressed earlier, I think this will be a bigger issue for Sony early one than it will be in the long term. However, just like with PS3 games, removing arcade options limits what the early adopters can do with it and what they can use as interest points to sell their friends on the console. Hopefully the issue Simon mentioned, of game saves that affect other games, will be addressed in a satisfactory manner, but full credit to Sony it will be very difficult to do.

gamerzone.com

Blizzard announces partnership with Sony, bringing Diablo III and more to PS4

Simon Wu:

Leave something for Microsoft? Actually, though. Bungie’s Destiny will have PS4 exclusive content, or so it now sounds, Blizzard games will be on the PS4, and Valve appears to try and be evacuating the current consoles in favor of its own Linux-based solution. My colleagues are right in pointing out that this has happened before, but just like the papal resignation, not for a very long time. All I want is to see the Korean professional Starcraft players reach 160 APM on the new DualShock controllers. That’d be one hell of a stress test.

Jonathan Tung:

While this comes as a shock for many hardcore Blizzard fans, keep in mind that this wasn’t the first time a Diablo game was ported to consoles, let alone a PlayStation. Back in 1998, EA and Blizzard actually ported the VERY FIRST Diablo game onto the PS1, adding in addition features such as enhanced graphics and a two-player mode. Unfortunatly, since most of the fanbase on Battle.net don’t appear to be taking this news very well, we can expect to see Blizzard taking some additional flak over the next couple of months, especially at PAX East, where they plan on giving the public a chance to try it out for the very first time.

Max Gruber:

I’ve been seeing a lot of hue and cry from the dedicated PC audience about this, and it ain’t pretty. I’ll leave this quote from Kotaku for everyone to read that sums up what I feel about Diablo III coming to the PS3/4.

“Diablo 3 was setup to be a console game. The reason only 4 players are allowed into a game is for 4 controllers. The reason the quests make you walk in a linear closed circuit as opposed to big open worlds, is to keep your buds next to you on the same screen. The reason for no skill points or complicated number crunching? To make console players happy... The reason for passive skills? Perks like Call of Duty uses. Everyone unlocks perks and uses their favorite ones. PC gamers are just beta testing for the console release so it won’t be full of bugs. That's how ActiBlizz intends to make the real money. Also explains why the game doesn't have VoIP for PC gamer chat. Diablo 3 is the modern Call of Duty of ARPG's.”

Alex Miller:

While I can’t think of how the quintessential point and clickclickclickclicklclickclick game will work on a console, it doesn't surprise me that ACTIVISION-Blizzard are trying to get their money from a game that was less than warmly received by its supposedly intended audience. However, as far as new games for the PS4 go, I’m not expecting much. Unless they started developing for the PS4 when the PS3 was released a Blizzard game will never be done in time for this conolse generation. All kidding aside, I wonder if WoW’s drooping numbers are forcing Blizzard to branch out more than they have had to for about the last decade.

slashgear.com

Play PlayStation 4 Games on Your Vita

Simon Wu:

The Playstation 4 becomes the server... How? Are we doing seriously complex RDP? (Remote Desktop Protocol) How many gigabytes of data and battery will that consume for the Vita, which depends on a fairly limited battery and also on sometimes questionable Wifi or very quickly consumed cell data limits. I think there are some second screen possibilities here, but the idea of pushing down data to the Vita from the console just so you can play a console level game isn’t feasible at this point in time.

Jonathan Tung:

In all seriousness aside, this looks more along the lines of Sony trying to mimic Nintendo’s own Remote Play option, despite the fact that Sony already did this before with the PSP and the PS3 a while back. Also, I’m not so sure if I would want to shell out $300 just to play ps4 games (in reality, we all want better Vita games).

John Fenix:

Like my comment on the streaming partnerships, this should not be surprising as both Nintendo (Wii U and 3DS) and Microsoft (Smartglass) have already been pushing for cross-platform compatibility. Once again, I feel Sony spent more money than needed for what was announced.

Alex Miller:

This is honestly most likely an attempt to sell more Vitas than anything else. While this is a really fun sounding idea, I think all the issues Simon raises are fairly accurate. We already have issues streaming video to devices with a less than stable wifi connection, adding in the need to communicate controls real time with no lag leaves me skeptical. And beyond all of this, if they found a way for people to legitimately play console games while on the toilet, what would happen to that corner of Reddit that is committed to the most Macyvery/Rube Goldberg way of playing their console while away from their screen. I think the internet would suffer without it.

ign.com

PlayStation 4 Does not require an Internet Connection

Simon Wu:

Ball’s in your court, Microsoft. This is some high-level corporate sniping here, a clear jab at the rumors about the ludicrous DRM scheme that might be on the next Xbox. As I said above, by having the conference now and controlling the message until E3, Sony gets to put up unanswered attacks on all the rumors about the next Xbox, and completely owning the console gaming space for several months.

Jonathan Tung:

Those who don’t have access to the internet should breathe a sigh of relief as the PS4 can be internet optional, perfect for those who barely even use the internet (which is like, what .1% of Americans?) In addition, this also means that there are still some people who totally dislike the idea of having to always be online in order to play games (I’m looking at you, uPlay).

Max Gruber:

Praise the Sun, for thou art God incarnate! Thank the Lord that the PS4 does not require an active internet connection to play! What was I going on about? Oh yeah. This is a sure sign they understand that always-online connections are an abomination and that they should cease to exist like the Bubonic Plague.

John Fenix:

Despite what you think, the PR people check the internet as well. Although I also have to join the choir and that I am glad it’ll work offline, but not because the online is bad, or that no one uses the internet, or because I am mad at online features that require to play the game (although I am starting to see why people don’t like the online passes, EA), but because I was thinking practically that if something happens such as the internet goes down or gets shaky, or not available, I shouldn’t be prevented to play games because of it. (This is another reason I like DVDs or at least legally-purchased digital copies)

Alex Miller:

I'm just going to keeping harping on that this is a non-issue, a non-story. There is no way the next Xbox will require always on internet, and now way Sony was going to either. Just as the Sony people have realised, the Xbox people must know that that model just doesn’t work for everyone (or anyone really.) I refuse to believe this was even ever seriously considered, but I am happy to get at least some backup here.
 

darthskeletor's picture

Holy. Shit. That was a lot of material to go through. If memory serves me correctly, this is the first time you've had a panel of 5? And what an impressive week to get all that contribution on too. I think that you guys are exactly right that Sony just needed to get the ball rolling on their product before Microsoft, and that most of this uncertainty and the negative aspects so far will resolve themselves by E3.

Whiplash's picture

@darthskeletor

"If memory serves me correctly, this is the first time you've had a panel of 5?"

 

You are in fact correct. I was surprised that I got to participate in this.