The PS4: Glass Half Full

With the spectacle of Sony’s PlayStation 4 conference past, the chaotic swirl of speculation, criticism and reaction to the first look at the next generation of consoles has begun. It’s now the time gaming media and gamers themselves begin to pick apart Sony’s presentation, and sort out exactly what to make of the information they’ve been given.

There will inevitably be criticism of the PS4. Much of it, such as the lack of information about the cost of the console itself, is justified. I personally still have a lot of questions and concerns about the PS4, and won’t be making any decision on purchasing anything until I learn more from Sony and see Microsoft’s response with their own next-gen console.

Yet despite much of nay saying you’ll hear, there was still was a lot of promise in what was presented in New York that night.

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While we didn’t get to see what the console itself will look like, we did get a pretty detailed look at its innards, thanks to industry veteran and lead systems architect Mark Cerny. According to Cenry, the PS4 runs on a standard X86 chip, and uses a normal PC GPU to provide some of the stunning next-graphics we saw in the game demos. Cerny also said the new system will feature 8GB of high-speed unified system memory.

While it’s easy to dismiss the system as what amounts to a mid-grade gaming PC (and you would have a valid point), it could also mean a much smoother, user-friendly experience for gamers. Coming off some of the issues with memory storage, loading time firmware updates, the PS3 had, the PS4’s hardware promises to streamline the experience. The move to scrap the overly complex and problematic guts of the PS3 will not only contribute to a better over all experience for users, if also plays into another very important aspect of gaming’s future.

Between Cerny and the parade of game developers trotted out on stage last night, it’s clear Sony wants you (and other developers) to know that the console be easy create games for. The system that Cerny and others said would be more user-friendly is also going to make it easier, and hopefully slightly cheaper, for AAA developers and indie studios alike to create content. This is a huge step forward from the PS3, which was reported to be notoriously difficult to develop for. This not only means fewer headaches for developers, but will hopefully mean PS4 users will get more games faster than they did on the console’s previous iteration. If Sony makes good on its claim that the system will offer developers fewer restrictions, then we can and should expect some truly unique, engaging and diverse titles for the PS4.

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Lastly, there are the “social” elements of the system that was so highly touted at the presentation. “Social” is a four letter word in some gaming circles, and for good reason. Many gamers, myself included, feel that push to make gaming more than just about gaming has been at least somewhat detrimental to the medium as a whole.

While I shrugged off most of the unnecessary social features paraded out at the presentation, I was very happy to hear that the console would require at least some online features to be tied to a person’s actually name. I pray that Sony will keep this feature, and that it cuts down on the crudeness, immaturity, sexism, racism and general douchebaggery that often ruins online gameplay.

The possibilities that the Dual Shock 4’s “share” button offer could also be interesting, depending on how they are implemented. If it includes the ability to record ones voice along with footage it could be a boon for the Let’s Play community, as it would eliminate the expense and hassle of buying additional software and equipment to record gameplay footage and commentary.

In the end, there’s still a lot more information from we need from Sony before determining just what the PS4 holds for the future of gaming. While it’s important not to get caught up in the hype and maintain a healthy sense of scepticism we should also take note of the potential this console, or any other, may hold for the next era of gaming.

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