Chatter on Sony’s inevitable next-generation console has shifted into overdrive in the past six months or so, with many commentators pretty convinced we’ll see the PlayStation 4 – supposedly codenamed Orbis – on shelves by holiday 2013 alongside Microsoft’s new Xbox. In fact, some industry folk expected the machine to put in an appearance at E3 last month, which obviously didn’t happen. Nonetheless, next-gen is just around the corner; Sony is obviously beavering away on its new home console, and we’ve already seen incontrovertible evidence that suggests a number of major developers are staffing up for next-gen projects.
Still, cast your mind back to PS3; as great as the system is now, its first 12 months or so on the market weren’t great, and the launch was pretty shambolic. The price, lack of killer software and an under-developed online component gave early adopters a few headaches. The good news is Sony’s had time to lick its wounds and learn from its blunders. As such, PS4 should be more than equipped to leave the gates all guns blazing – but here’s 5 things we think are a must have for launch to give it the edge over Xbox 720.
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PlayStation 3 had Resistance as its poster boy launch title, which while a solid shooter and a fine visual showcase for Sony’s then-new machine, didn’t really do much else. PS4 needs a true triple-A or two, preferably from an already-established franchise; and with many new IPs introduced in PS3’s life cycle, there are ample games to pick from. Imagine popping down to your local game store come launch day and coming away with a shiny new PS4 and a copy of Uncharted 4? LittleBigPlanet 3? God of War IV? Having triple-A exclusives is key to any successful launch, and while PS4 needs more than just Nathan Drake or Kratos flying the flag for early adopters, their impact cannot be understated. Just don't expect Gran Turismo 6 on day one.
Robust PSN or bust
PlayStation Network is the heart of Sony’s gaming community. It’s where gamers flock to partake in heated, contention-filled bouts of online gaming, team up in some satisfying co-op, purchase digital goods and hang out in PS Home. The service has come on leaps and bounds since its inception in November 2006, but at launch it wasn’t exactly in great shape. PS4 needs to take the service to the next level by introducing some exciting new initiatives to welcome gamers to Sony’s latest home console, iron out all the creases – no more bloody frequent Firmware updates please! – and offer top notch content from day one. If backwards compatibility is out the door, then we want to see a comprehensive line-up of back catalogue titles up for grabs, ranging from PS1, PS2 and even PS3 (though the notion of PS3 games not being b/c is pretty far-fetched). Xbox Live is a killer service, and PSN needs to stay in the game if it’s going to compete.
Sony’s recent acquisition of Gaikai is no doubt going to form an integral component in its plans for PS4. Cloud gaming is the next logical step in the way we experience games, and has a wide variety of applications for Sony to take advantage of. Imagine the possibilities of having a robust Cloud service from day one. Sony could offer its entire PS1/2 back catalogue up for streaming at launch, distribute playable demos of new PS4 games and even flog those triple-A juggernauts to boot. No more having to free up space or waiting for downloads to finish; just stream the content you want and enjoy it instantaneously. Sure, there's a heap of logistical issues to consider with Cloud gaming (uptake of high-speed broadband, for one, which in some parts of the world isn't quite there yet), but if Sony can at least have some sort of initiative there on launch day, it'd give it a massive advantage over the competition. With Microsoft’s Cloud plans up in the air, Sony could well and truly pip the Next Box to the post in this regard.
Strong PS Vita compatibility
Sony has been trumpeting the cross-play functionality between PS3 and PlayStation Vita since day one, but you’d be off your rocker to assume the buck stops with your trusty old black slab. Nope, ever since PS Vita was conceived, there’s no doubt in our minds that the electronics giant had begun planning a comprehensive compatibility plan for PS4 and PS Vita. In fact, this has already been shouted out on the web numerous times, specifically when the whole Orbis rumors reared their heads, bringing with them the tantalizing prospect of the ‘circle of life’ – that is, the purported relationship that Sony’s next-gen console will share with its portable cousin. Sony would be foolish not to launch PS4 with an extensive line-up of cross-media functions with PS Vita, whether that manifest in traditional transferable saves between games, cross-platform play or something even more exciting.
The price is right
Anyone remember PS3's launch price? Enough said, we think. Sure, while PS4 is sure to be a powerhouse with some meaty innards, we hope that the company is looking at ways to keep the costs down while still offering something that is sure to dazzle from a technical perspective. The firm attempted to do this with PS Vita, which we think for the most part was quite successful. From what we’ve heard, PS4 won’t make use of Sony’s proprietary cell processor, which was a major contributing factor to PS3’s high price point and subsequent slow sales. If the rumors are true, then the platform holder is plumping for AMD, which would surely trim some of the unncessary fat in regards to costs. PS4 needs to be positioned at an affordable price point, so we’re hoping Sony decides not to perpetuate Ken Kutaragi’s ambitious yet flawed cell-loving strategy for its next-gen effort.