Around 90% of all American PS4 owners have taken their console online, as reported by CVG News. Bravo, one and all. It’s the other 10% that amazes me. If you have the means (and I must stress that as a proviso, as it’s clearly a privilege to have this ‘problem’), the very thought of owning a PS4 and not connecting it to the internet is madness. Like owning a Ferrari and only driving it around on your front lawn.
I know this because I’ve been there. Oh, God, how I have been there. With the PS4, that is, not the Ferrari. But I'll get to that shortly.
First, it should be stated that not everywhere on Earth, even the US of A, has perfect broadband coverage. But somehow I doubt being physically unable to connect is the reason for most of this 10%’s unwillingness to venture online. It’s more likely people thinking they don’t need it. They don’t play online, they already have TV and a computer, so why should they connect their new console to the internet at all? They never needed to in the past, after all.
The other possibility is that this 10% also accounts for the younger PS4 gamers who have not been given internet access. That's extremely sensible, although there are parental controls that would limit access to dangerous areas. Plus, if the parents are that concerned, the PS4 should be in the living room anyway, where everyone can see what's being accessed and indeed played. And surely the parents will want to see how their Resogun scores compare to everyone else's? Admittedly, the rest of the world may not actually care, but what's the point of all the endeavor if nobody can see the result?
Both those possible camps are missing out. It isn’t until you’ve been connected for a while that you realise how lost you are when you don’t have it. To explain that Ferrari-on-the-lawn parallel, I moved house recently and am suffering from the inevitable three-week wait for someone to press the ‘GIVE JUSTIN BORDBRAND NAO’ button. In the meantime I'm using a Wi-Fi passcode to piggyback off someone else’s connection, which apparently goes through a relay in London, if my concerned verification emails are to be believed.
Suffice to say, this makeshift connection doesn’t work very well and is constantly cutting out. But even when it is connected, my PS4’s online functionality is borked. The convoluted connection is breaking the PS Store and What’s New social feed, and it’s a real eye opener as to how much that affects my PS4 experience. Everyone grows to love the What's New section on the new XMB, even though it seems surplus to requirements at first. Indeed, I suspect Tom Jones' 'What's New, Pussycat?' was written about the What's New feed. You know: 'What's New, Pussycat / Oh, woe woe woe (my internet's down)'. Although I'm sure Tom has better taste than to let the world know he's playing Knack.
To put this in context, such services only work on my personal, temporary connection if I turn on my PS4, log into Wi-Fi, then turn off the console and back on again, whereupon it connects properly and updates all the social fields. And when it does, it’s like I can breathe again. It’s strange, but I'm starting to find the feeling of being disconnected really disconcerting.
I’m not going to even try playing online until I have ‘real’ internet. But that just proves my point. Even without actually playing online, the console itself only feels like it’s working properly if it’s connected. Otherwise it feels empty. Even slightly broken. Several times over the weekend, I hit Share to show the world a particularly incredible moment in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition (which looks sensational on PS4, by the way), often before realising I couldn’t. I also couldn’t browse the store. I couldn’t update my games or firmware. I couldn’t sync my trophies, or see the ones my friends were unlocking. I couldn’t read my messages or buy DLC. I couldn’t do very much at all.
All I could do while the connection was down was play games. Which is ironic, really. Looking back over my recent article about what would happen to gaming if someone switched off the internet, it sounds like ‘just playing games’ would be right up my street. But the truth is, a PS4 without an internet connection is a shadow of what it really is or should be and it feels impotent (cue old man Steptoe music). Sony’s done a fantastic job of integrating social feeds and online functionality--without compromising ease of use--to make the PS4 experience magnificent. Without the internet, it’s merely very good.
If you are one of the 10% who haven't taken your PS4 online, you're missing out. Absolutely. A connected PS4 is a living PS4. Don't think you’re proving a point by staying offline and using your console like it’s a PS1.
I didn’t want to have to do this (lies!) but I’m going to have to quote from Wayne’s World: "Live in the now!" And, quite literally, "Get the net!"