On the 20th of February, 2013, Sony officially announced that the Playstation 4 was coming soon. At the press conference they showed off the new controller and eyetoy designs, both of which had been leaked days before the event. After that followed a lot of hype about what the console will do and what improvements have been made of the Playstation 3. Faster performance and better graphics were expected but it was clear that Sony’s focus with the PS4 was the integration of social media. From blogging and videos to tips, cheats and walkthroughs, Sony’s aim is to make the PS4 more accessible from a casual standpoint and making it easier to share your gaming experience with others. They didn’t actually unveil the new console though.
The Dualshock 4, Sony’s new controller for their mystery console, doesn’t deviate too much from the design of the Dualshock 3. The general shape is the same although 4 is a little chunkier than the old controller. No doubt this was done to incorporate the new features, such as a share button and the touch screen. Older features, such as the select and start buttons have been merged into one options button and the joysticks now have concave bases. The touch screen seems very similar in concept to the Wii U gamepad. Sony’s touch screen isn’t nearly as big but they seemed to have shared the idea to incorporate a multiscreen format into the gaming experience. But the main focus for Sony here is the share button.
The share button represents much of Sony’s vision for the PS4. With that button you can upload videos online to a community page or to a new profile page. The profile page looks very similar to Facebook but it’s geared towards gaming and sharing your gaming experience with your friends. If you want to show off a sweet goal in FIFA, all you have to do is click the share button. You can live stream Call of Duty missions on to Ustream. And, if you get stuck, you can hand over the reins to someone in the know.
That’s all well and good but honestly, there doesn’t seem to be much long term use in all of this. Likely there will be a surge in the number of ‘Let’s Play’ videos now that people can more easily video their game. Not that it was terribly difficult before but this certainly opens the ability up to a larger group of people. The problem with that is that ‘Let’s Play’ videos, videos were you watch someone else play a game, are generally enjoyable because of the commentary of the player. If someone has a hard to listen to voice or just isn’t very witty it can be very detrimental to other’s enjoyment of the video. Furthermore, unless you’re the Speed Gamers, or a similar game orientated charity, I’m not sure how vital live streaming will be. And most gamers I know would enjoy completing a game themselves more than handing over the controls if they’re stuck. I think the last time I got help is from my sister to beat Tekken 3’s Tekken Force.
There are other features, of course. The interface is getting a complete make-over, the secondary processor will allow the console to download a segment of a game so that you can begin playing while it downloads the rest and it will attempt to predict what you would like to purchase next. It will even begin to download it in the background although I suspect that this feature can be turned off. Otherwise your hard drive will get clogged up with half the date from about fifty different games that you either couldn’t afford or just didn’t want. The console will also boot up immediately, going from sleep mode to the home page or right back into a game with ease. While all of these features will certainly streamline and elevate the gaming experience, it’s clear that Sony’s focus with the PS4 is social.
In a recent interview, Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida stated that the five principles of the PS4 were the Simple, Immediate, Social, Integrated and Personalised. So while the social functions are optional and can be disabled, it may feel like you’re missing out on a vital part of the PS4’s experience. By nature, I’m a very anti-social gamer. Most of my game catalogue is made up one player games such as Fallout: New Vegas, Batman: Arkham City and Heavy Rain. Even the games that I do own with multiplayer functionality, such as Tekken Tag Tournament 2, rarely get used for that purpose. Although I’ve been online while playing Tekken Tag Tournament 2, I’ve never once fought anyone online. I get how that can be fun but I just get my kicks from uncovering the single player stories and unlocking everything I can by myself. That can get frustrating though when I come to trophies and there’s a gold for winning x number of online fights.
Not that I’m a perfectionist or anything when it comes to my games. I’ve only ever had all 151 pokemon once (using the Mew glitch) and then promptly introduced more pokemon and I’ve never been anywhere near close ever again. It’s not about getting 100% but it is disappointing to find out that there are certain areas cut off simply because I’m not a social gamer. This happens even in browser games such as the new Facebook game Game of Thrones Ascent. While I’ve enjoyed playing the game over the past week and it’s a lot of fun to construct my holdings and develop my character there are bonus goals that I just can’t do without other people. It’s an unfortunate side effect of being the only one in my group of friends that cares enough about A Song of Ice and Fire to play a facebook game about it but it almost feels like I’m being punished for not having the right friends or not playing well with others. And I don’t want to have to add a bunch of strangers just to play the game.
It’s not that I haven’t tried. I’ve played Call of Duty online and I’ve played group games on the browser, like Grepolis. Eventually though, the game becomes a chore. In Grepolis I built up my empire but it began to feel like a chore when I was going online several times a day to simply defend my cities and launch counter attacks. It stopped being fun and became more laborious. And that’s my major concern in regards to the new social features that are being integrated with s PS4. They might be fun to start with but when the novelty wears off they might be seen as an unnecessary addition to otherwise enjoyable games.