Today is the day.
After that initial teaser trailer, subsequent retrospective videos, endless waves of rumours, and not to mention months (and even years) of speculation about when we would see the next generation of videogame consoles… February 20th has arrived.
Today is Sony Computer Entertainment’s time to shine. It’s time to use its self-installed limelight to unveil the future of its PlayStation brand, and barring any modern-day miracles or Earth-shattering tragedies, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the eyes of the world will be on Sony as the company pulls back the curtain on its vision for the future of gaming. And it will be, for better or worse, the future of gaming for Sony and for the purposes of this article we’re going to go ahead and assume that the PlayStation 4 is real, in whatever form and function it’s delivered.
Aside from the launch of a new console, there’s no bigger, more exciting and potentially more detrimental event in the videogame world than the announcement of a next generation machine and gamers, pundits, websites and news networks across the globe will be on silent pause in anticipation of the reveal.
We of course expect the PlayStation 4 to be a better and more fully-featured console than any before it, but what extras can we look forward to seeing during Sony’s reveal? What functionality and games will we glimpse as the collective blood pressure of the company’s executives hits danger levels?
El33tonline collects, dissects and disseminates the rumours, speculation and reality of Sony Computer Entertainment’s February 20th PlayStation announcement.
The Rumours. The Speculation. The Excitement!
There has been a never-ending tide of rumours crashing against the shores of the known gaming world for the last few weeks (and before that), which has naturally resulted in relentless speculation and unbounded excitement. What are the rumours responsible for the unbearable anticipation for Sony’s PlayStation reveal?
Let’s start with an easy one: What will Sony’s next home console be called?
PlayStation 4 follows the sequence and would continue the company’s strong brand recognition, while alluding to something even better and more powerful than what gamers have come to experience with the PlayStation 3.
PlayStation Orbis, however, has been used as a codename for the hardware for some time now and follows a naming pattern in keeping with the PlayStation Vita – no number and no preconceived notions, but with a bit of a reboot for the naming convention.
PS Orbis might also better suit Sony’s move towards creating an ecosystem of PlayStation products, rather than focussing on the products themselves, and the ‘Orbis’ name perhaps alludes to an intention to let this ecosystem ‘orbit’ this next home console.
This name could lead to the console simply being called ‘Orbis’ in months to come, which loses the PlayStation brand recognition in the media (something Sony would do well to avoid). Smart money is on the final name being ‘PlayStation 4’ to continue the strong brand and give Microsoft a tough time in naming its next console to try and match public perception that anything less than the ‘fourth’ console in a series is weak in comparison.
The Online and Streaming Functionality (With Gaikai)
This is a big question and a very important battle for Sony to conquer. Cloud-based storage (thousands of hard-drives in bunkers scattered around the world) and cloud-based computing (thousands of processors in bunkers scattered around the world) have both become more and more important in the way we use the internet and stay connected, live our lives and enjoy digital entertainment, either passive or interactive.
The potential for cloud-based gaming is very exciting, but that potential hasn’t yet been fully realised with initiatives from OnLive or Gaikai as gamers are promised the chance to play games of incredible visual fidelity by streaming gameplay and controller input through a device no more powerful than a decent media PC, with the results piped directly to them over the ‘net.
Sony showed its interest in this market segment with its $380 million purchase of Dave Perry’s Gaikai cloud gaming service in 2012, and there’s very little chance that the company will let such an investment wither on the vine.
Strong rumours are pointing to the ability to stream and play (at the very least) PlayStation 3 games online over the internet using technologies dreamed up by Gaikai. While programming cleverness is no doubt at the heart of Gaikai, a massive investment in hardware to run the cloud-based gaming service will be necessary to make the dream a reality, which means any such streaming service will most likely be a premium (i.e. paid for) feature of the PlayStation 4.
Streaming games could let gamers preview the latest titles by streaming only small portions of a game at a time to play, while playing full games on a whim (and without a 20GB+ download upfront) will also be possible for those with a strong internet connection. Don’t discount the ability to play streamed games on a PS Vita, either, as Sony looks to make further use of its latest handheld and make it more a part of the PlayStation ecosystem.
Extending Sony’s use of the ‘PlayStation Suite’ initiative, which aims to allow PlayStation approved games to be played on smartphones and tablets, could also be a direction that the company looks at, allowing gamers to play against one another across different devices and even play the same games on different platforms (like the PS3/PS Vita Cross-play feature).
All of this technology and background hardware comes at a price, however, and it’s heavily rumoured that most of the PlayStation 4’s online features will be gated behind multi-tiered premium subscriptions, with PlayStation Plus representing the lower of two tiers, and a so-called ‘PlayStation World’ giving console owners access to all of the machine’s social and online functionality.
The Share ‘Button’
It wasn’t long ago that red-hot rumours emerged regarding something called ‘Share,’ a feature of the PlayStation 4 that would allow you to instantly capture, edit and share screenshots and videos of your in-game escapades, with your unique content being sent to networks like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to provide your friends (and strangers) the chance to view that content and comment directly.
According to the rumours, this feature is made possible by the fact that the PlayStation 4 would always keep the last fifteen minutes of gameplay in memory, ready and waiting for you to share at the press of a button, with Gaikai’s streaming and storage in place to facilitate the spread of this content.
An intriguing prospect, and a feature that has been a core pillar of cloud gaming since its inception years ago, so will it finally become a reality with the PlayStation 4?
The Controller and Peripherals
We’ve already seen photos of the PlayStation 4’s controller in prototypical form, and the features that have been combed out of the images point to a touch pad in the middle of the controller along with a mic/speaker, motion support recognition with PlayStation Move-like precision thanks to a bright light panel, indented thumb sticks and a microphone jack on the bottom.
While the potential for touch pad support can be demonstrated by the best uses of the PS Vita’s touch controls and iOS games and applications, the panel could also serve as a keen way to browse the internet and interact with menus instead of relying on less precise thumb sticks for navigation.
Continued support for the PlayStation 3’s Move motion controller is said to be on the cards for PlayStation 4, but a new and improved dual-camera PlayStation Eye has been rumoured into existence, providing greater precision and more dimension for game developers to make use of in their games, bringing the technology more in line with the Xbox 360 Kinect device.
This all means that the PlayStation 4 will be better prepared, from launch, for supposedly ‘next generation’ experiences, despite a lack of titles in the current generation that ably demonstrated the merits of motion gaming and touch-based controls to hardcore gamers. Casual and family-friendly games will benefit greatly from the technology, though, as we’ve seen with Kinect and the PS Move.
No console launch would be complete without a devastating array of dazzling launch titles, and the PlayStation 2013 event is sure to include demonstrations of a good crop of games from both first- and third-party developers.
Strong rumours suggest that we’ll see the next inFamous game from Sucker Punch, Gran Turismo 6 from Polyphony, LittleBigPlanet 3 from Sumo Digital, the next Killzone from Guerilla Games and a new racing title from MotorStorm developers Evolution Studios. There is a chance (however small) that we’ll see an all-new game from Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls), and a re-reveal for The Last Guardian from Team Ico, now in development for the PlayStation 4.
What about third-party support? Very recently, it was revealed that EA’s Battlefield 4 is ready to be shown to industry decision makers (including GameStop’s CEO), and this may just be the right time to see what Kojima Productions has cooking up vis-