The innovations Sony is bringing with the PS4 seem to be a real product of listening and paying attention to the lifestyles and cultural behaviours being led by gamers in the modern world. Where many tech companies seem bent on taking the inverse approach, attempting to convince consumers of non-existent needs in order to justify their recent R&D output, Sony’s tack seems to be one of serving real cultural trends in ways we just didn’t see coming.
The Gaikai streaming tech we had viewed with suspicion has not been shaped, as some of us feared, into a forced, substandard distribution service that no-one really wanted. Instead it’s an utterly freeform demo service. It’s a supercharged version of Vita remote play. It’s the staggeringly cool facility to observe and hop into a friend’s game to help out, just as you would at their house. It’s a whole new future of on-console broadcasting and user-generated programming. It’s YouTube culture on a button. It’s Nintendo’s Miiverse philosophy happening in real-time, in-game, in a way that makes Ninty’s effort now look as fluid and shared an experience as a ‘90s web forum.
And that’s before we even get onto the new, open, self-publishing friendly PS Store, which sounds for all the world to operate with the freedom of the democratic, indie-friendly PC gaming market. Where Sony once scored major points with the PS3’s open, PC-style physical connectivity, it now looks to be running with that spirit and philosophy into all areas of the PS4.
And then of course, there was Media Molecule's glorious conversion of maligned old motion control into a tear-jerkingly delightful 3D sculpture and virtual puppeteering device...
It’s not just the fabric of the games that were shown tonight that really matters. It’s easy to throw out a pithy 140 characters about an FPS being an FPS or a racing game just being a load of shiny cars driving around a track really fast. It’s easy because it’s a lazy and uninspired thing to do. What’s exciting and inspiring though, is to think about how utterly new those games are going to feel within the radically new context in which the PS4 is going to present them.
And what’s really exciting and inspiring is to then think about what happens when developers starting building whole game designs around some of this functionality. Functionality which, much like the many features of the PS4’s Swiss Army controller, will be available to everyone, right out of the box, with no divisions or inconsistencies between the capabilities of titles, communities or individual players.
Even rapidly forgotten first game of the show Knack had a certain spark hidden away in it for me tonight. Yes, it had a slight whiff of the Xbox 360’s underwhelming Kameo about it, but reading between the lines its fun, spontaneous, creative use of the multiple object-rendering tech shown in the dry demo previous was exactly the early calling card I needed. Next-gen technology used to serve whimsical, warm, smart innovation. That’s the Sony I wanted behind the PS4 and that’s the Sony I reckon I’ve got.
I am excited. I am in.