The Average Gamer

PlayStation 4: Social Will Win This Generation

PlayStation 4 2013 Social
So here we are, not even half a day after Sony’s big press conference to announce the Playstation 4. Everyone knew it was coming and there were no real big surprises.

The PlayStation 4’s architecture is a PC-based CPU/GPU provided by AMD with 8Gb RAM and so on and so forth. Nothing earth shattering. Yet the big question that people seem to be asking is why Sony did not show the actual console? I find this curious. Do you really care what box this hardware comes in? Given Sony’s styling of the Playstation 3, I think we can safely assume it will look nice in your living room.

The Hardware

Now for me, the change from IBM Cell to AMD x64 architecture brings in some interesting changes to the console market. Rumours are that the new Xbox will also be based around hardware from AMD. So now we have both main consoles PC based, by the same chip manufacturer. No doubt the specifications will be very similar, especially if the leaked specifications are true.

So what do we have left to distinguish between the platforms (and even the humble PC)? This is what I believe the next “arms race” of the console wars will be: the operating system flexibility, ease of use and how well the social integration systems are, rather than how many teraflops the systems have. Really, does your average gamer even care about teraflops?

The People

Looking back at the PS3, and being a Playstation fan since the PS1, I don’t have a problem admitting that its online social integration really lagged behind that of the Xbox 360. In fact, I’m so far behind, I don’t recall ever actually playing a multiplayer game on the PS3. It was just easier on the Xbox, finding people to play with and actually gaming. The major saving grace for the PS3 is that Internet-related items were free – I really object to paying for Xbox Live gold just to use iPlayerNetflix/4OD etc.

Now for day-to-day driving of the consoles, I find the actual PS3 interface more intuitive, and easier to navigate. Sure it maybe doesn’t have the bells and whistles the Xbox does, but I can easily find what I need and launch it. The Xbox interface has always struck me as too over the top, trying to cram in as much as they could, straight in your face. [MOAR ADS! – Ed] Perhaps this is where the demographics came in – older people using PS3 and younger preferring the Xbox?

Sony appear to have taken all of this on board with the new platform. From the presentation, and the “social” button on the new controller, it’s clear they are focusing on online, sharing and basically having fun with your mates. The ability to record and auto upload to social sharing sites like YouTube is not new, having existed on PC for years and the followings of these videos have gotten so large in the gaming communities that there are sites like which cater solely to the gaming community. It’s even created a whole new class of gamers, like Toby’s Daily Game Commentary which my friend’s daughter is addicted to.

Surprisingly it’s also not new to the PS3, as PixelJunk Sidescroller had the ability to video and upload your clips online. The difference here is the new features are part of the machine’s actual OS recording a continuous 15-minute buffer, so any game you play will have that ability and the user experience will be consistent. It’s pretty clear that these video communities are key to success and by adding these features it shows that Sony are serious about supporting the online social communities.

It’s not all online social interaction though. By putting the Move system straight into the new controller it also further aligns Sony against the Wii U. It remains to be seen how the new Xbox will tackle this, but rumours are putting it heavily on Kinect-style interaction. I find the Move/Wii interface more accurate than the Kinect, but I know my friends children find the Kinect more fun.

The TL;DR Version

I think the future is now down to an OS, social integration and user interaction method war between the various consoles rather than the graphics/audio in the games themselves. Given the similarities in the hardware I wouldn’t be surprised to find someone like Foxconn making both consoles in China!

Oh, and my personal gaming preference is the PC which will only benefit from the hardware choices both Sony and Microsoft have made. Since the games will be developed on PCs to start with, I’m sure we’ll see the same games appear at lower prices and with higher resolution graphics to punish things like the Nvidia Titan GPU.

The end result is a win-win for the consumer in my opinion. Now would Sony, Microsoft just please sort out one multiplayer system so I don’t have to buy all three platforms. (Hint: Just use Steam!)