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PS4: The tech is good, Sony's creative bravery is even better

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.

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17 comments

  • zombi3grim - February 24, 2013 6:36 p.m.

    The share button is my favorite feature.
  • CrashmanX - February 21, 2013 11:08 p.m.

    IMO, I'm still waiting. While I love my PS3 and many of it's games, I'm still on the fence about the PS4. Though I suppose that's from being spurned by the PS3 initial release. Here's hoping things turn out WAY better than before. (Be less that $500 please!)
  • n00b - February 21, 2013 3:24 p.m.

    Sigh Maybe I've just become a cynical old man but i feel the PS4 and the games shown are uninteresting and underwhelming. I feel there is no place me in the modern gaming world and that the types of games i enjoy are not being made, and if they are made they are few and far between and get looked down upon as shallow and old school. Oh well. At least the indie scene who grew up playing the same types of games i did are making something worth while whenever they can get their heads out of their asses and stop make physics based puzzle crap.
  • Gaiten - February 23, 2013 11:28 a.m.

    I'm right there with you, buddy.
  • 7-D - February 21, 2013 2:37 p.m.

    Respect for actually looking to the positive, I certainly am. You're being quoted on CVG too David ;) http://www.computerandvideogames.com/392889/features/united-by-division-worlds-critics-react-to-ps4/
  • giovanni-de-oto - February 21, 2013 1:08 p.m.

    I personally cannot wait to see what square enix has in store for the ps4, i love FF. I dont care what other people say about xiii and xiii-2 i loved them, and yes ive played almost all of the older games
  • lordgodalming - February 24, 2013 2:21 a.m.

    I'm with you, man. Love the FF series, old and new. However, I believe Square's successes this gen have been due completely to its creative talent and IN SPITE OF it's corporate and marketing side. And after the BS they pulled during the PS4 unveiling, I'm starting to doubt SE can find enough humility to pull its head out of its ass for this gen.
  • Y2Ken - February 21, 2013 9:09 a.m.

    Agreed, Dave. I was impressed by the variety Sony showed. No, they didn't pull out a completely unheard-of new triple-A IP. But they've got to save something for E3 at least. What they did do was offer an impressive amount of variety in the games they did show. It really didn't feel as though any two games on display were that similar, which is quite the achievement. What impressed me most however was definitely the UI and architecture, the share features and streaming demos are really great ideas that could genuinely be a big deal. That said, Sony doesn't have the best track record when it comes to having a fast online service, so I guess we'll have to wait and see whether they can truly deliver on those promises.
  • wadesmit - February 21, 2013 9:09 a.m.

    I have a great, great feeling for this gen. And Sony really has gained my loyalty back completely. On another note, I sincerely hope 'Deep Down' will play along the lines of Dragon's Dogma.
  • Mooshon - February 21, 2013 8:44 a.m.

    I thought Sony knocked it out of the park to be honest. They've obviously listened to what people have been asking for, addressed issues, but also taken a very user centric approach. Almost the reverse of the norm. The Gaikai integration sounded incredible. Background downloads, remote play, instant demos, jumping into friends' games - and the killer app: streamed access to every PS title ever across devices! I'm in.
  • CitizenWolfie - February 21, 2013 8:31 a.m.

    I felt a little bit sorry for the guy (I forget the name) who introduced Knack. The room seemed to react with a giant "meh" at the end of the footage and it all seemed a bit awkward. I think people were probably expecting something more flashy. Anyway I do hope all Sony's talk of innovation, imagination and creativity gets followed through. At the time it felt like a lot of PR buzz but the Media Molecule video of the Move controller used as a sculpting tool was really cool and my first "wow" moment of the event.
  • shawksta - February 21, 2013 3:48 a.m.

    I frankly loved Knack's presentation because of how unique the concept is. You can see Sony is pushing to make accessibility more improved and making you do everything without having to bother your gametime, which is really neat and the Gakai relationship is just getting better.
  • blue-heelerky - February 21, 2013 3:19 a.m.

    Drive Club, not Race Club. Great write-up! As a PC Master Race, the only reason I own a console is for the exclusives...Both Nintendo and Sony offer the best and I'll continue to support them.
  • taokaka - February 20, 2013 11:16 p.m.

    As the lonely, grouchy hermit I am I didn't care for any of the speculation about the social side of the console before the show but after the presentation I say bring it on. I think that sony did a fantastic job with the ps4 reveal except for the slow beginning and square enix not really having any reason to be there.
  • ncurry2 - February 21, 2013 5 a.m.

    Here here! All of my friends have migrated to purely PC gaming and I hate facebook. The only reason I'd get the PS4 is for the games that I can only play on it. I think it's got promise for sure but it likely won't be a day 1 purchase for me.
  • lordgodalming - February 24, 2013 2:23 a.m.

    This. Social gaming can go to hell for all I care, give me good single player. I am glad other people like to play together though. :) And frigging Square Enix. I was actually most excited about their part of the presentation--which I was sure would be a Versus XIII reveal--and then they did...whatever that was.
  • BladedFalcon - February 20, 2013 10:19 p.m.

    I didn't forget about Knack, certainly, it wasn't the highlight of the show. But I definitely liked seeing a game that looked more colorful and more "E for Everyone" friendly, without looking super saccharine like a lot of the crap nintendo sometimes churns out. (I'm looking at you NintendoLand.) And if nothing else, I am more interested in that game than say, Killzone: Shadowfall or Drive Club. I still need to see way more in the way of game variety, but at the very least, the first impression of what they showed here was far more impressive than the first unveiling of the Wii U back in 2011. It remains to be seen what Microsoft will come up with though, so we'll see.

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