10 burning questions we have about PlayStation 4

Sony’s PlayStation Meeting and PlayStation 4 reveal were nothing if not comprehensive. The two-hour coming-out party for the next generation of PlayStation hardware put recent E3 press conferences to shame and treated gamers to a detailed, thrilling look at games and features just around the corner.

Still, Sony’s reveal left some wanting: no physical hardware was shown and a whole host of questions have yet to be answered. The PSU staff compiled 10 such questions, and I took a stab at fleshing out each of them. We can’t promise you concrete answers in this article, but we can promise a glimpse of burning questions that Sony needs to answer in the coming months. Let’s get started:

1. Will PS4 look similar in design to PS3, or will Sony opt for a brand new look?

The fact that Sony didn’t show the physical PS4 console left some critics pining for more. I don’t give this absence the same importance as others, but I am curious to see what the next evolution in Sony hardware looks like. At the PS2’s launch, black was the new grey. Then came the PS3 to usher in the era of glossy electronics. Game consoles don’t follow trends; they set them. Black or white, tall or fat – the look of PlayStation 4 will be talked about and dissected for months to come. Hopefully, the look won’t define the system; I’d hate to be retiring my "Fat PS4" five or six years from now.

2. How much will PS4 cost?

This is a biggie, as the stickiest sticking point for PS3’s early days was its exorbitant price tag. $600 (hell, even $500 for the 20 GB model) crossed the line from ‘bold’ to ‘foolish,’ and everyone’s wondering if Sony will make the same mistake twice. For this reason, I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance it will. It’s reasonable to think that the PS4 could launch with two SKUs, one priced at $499, but anything more than $429 for the base model would be retail suicide.

3. Will the trophy system remain as is, or will it be enhanced in any way?

We caught a glimpse of trophies in screenshots of the new PlayStation Store during Sony’s PS4 reveal. Seemingly, things haven’t changed much. Bronze trophies, Silvers, Golds, and Platinums – it’s all there, but with PS4’s OS looking more and more like a gaming social network, we expect that viewing your trophies and comparing them to your friends’ will be easier than ever. Any improvements to the system will surely be subtle; automatic syncing of every trophy as it pops comes to mind. If anything, changes to trophies as we know them will come through streaming – peep in on your friend’s game session to see how a certain trophy is won, or save clips of your favorite accomplishments for the world to stand in awe of.

4. Will PSN downloads be speedier?

To some extent, download rates are tied to the ISP of a given user, but PS3 was (and is) notorious for under-performing in this regard. Still, there’s reason for hope. Coupled with Gaikai’s renowned streaming infrastructure and a modified PC architecture that simplifies programming tasks, PlayStation Network should be well-equipped for faster download speeds. Then again, it might not matter; Gaikai’s streaming technology will let you instantly try any PSN game before you buy. Furthermore, the same tech will minimize the time it takes to jump into a game, streaming the opening moments while it downloads and installs in the background.

5. Will PS4 be region-free?

We sure hope so. Being able to play games from other regions opens the world and unites PlayStation gamers across borders and cultures. It also puts amazing experiences in our hands faster. However, there are sticking points to regional freedom. Some territories may hold issue with graphic content–violent, sexual, or otherwise–that is perfectly acceptable in other parts of the world. Furthermore, region-locking helps publishers manage and meet the incredible demand for high-profile releases, stifles importing, and keeps regional prices relevant. As some can attest, this isn’t necessarily a good thing: video games and consoles are notoriously overpriced in some countries. In troubled financial times, paying reasonable prices is a high priority, and rightfully so.

6. How big will the hard drive(s) be?

This question walks hand-in-hand with the console’s price. Charging more for bigger hard drives was commonplace this generation, and will likely continue to be, as downloadable games and multimedia content grab larger shares of storage space. Sony should aim high with the launch model and offer between 500 GB and 1 TB of space. Any less would seem like too small a jump up from PS3 standards; indeed, 500 GB PS3s have become the retail norm.

7. What other PS3 accessories, aside from the PS Move Wand and Navigation Controller, will be compatible?

Not many, I’d wager. Sony has spent time and money developing truly exceptional Bluetooth accessories, so it’s a safe bet that your Pulse Wireless Headset will work with PS4. The same probably goes for Blu-Ray remotes and stereoscopic 3D glasses. There aren’t many other official accessories to speak of (and you certainly won’t be using your DualShock 3 with PS4), but the addition of a headset jack to every DualShock 4 will open up new options for listening and communicating while playing.

8. Will the PlayStation Camera’s dual 1080p lenses enable full body motion tracking, like the Xbox Kinect’s sensor?

This remains to be seen, for as much as we know about the PlayStation Camera (two 1080p cameras that can sense environmental depth and track the location of the DualShock 4), Sony has yet to explicitly state that it will accurately track body movements. If the Kinect sensor is capable of doing so, we can’t imagine it would be difficult for the PlayStation Camera; the question is whether Sony cares. Kinect hasn’t exactly been critically praised for its application to gaming, and in the wake of poor reception and sales for PlayStation Move, we imagine that Sony is hesitant to simply jump on motion-gaming bandwagons just because it can.

9. What will streaming services cost? Will we have to pay for PS3 games we already own?

Sony hasn’t defined how PlayStation Plus will factor into PS4 moving forward, but I imagine that access to streaming will be somewhat tied to the premium service. It seems bearish to assume that Sony will charge you a service fee to stream PS4 and PS3 games to PS Vita, and the monthly addition of free PS3 games to the PS Plus Instant Game Collection opens the door for streaming to make Plus subscribers’ lives easier. It’s also perfectly reasonable to think that PSN games you already own–from PS1 and PS2 Classics to downloadable PS3 titles–might be streamed for free down the line. Still, I’d be shocked if a system is in place at launch to recognize any disc-based game you own and credit you for wanton streaming. The game in question would presumably need an associated digital version; besides, Sony hasn’t exactly earned Western gamers’ good will by failing to bring the UMD Passport program for the PlayStation Portable over from Japan.

10. And more streaming questions!

Can disc-based PS4 games be streamed to PS Vita, or will streaming only handle digital titles? Can we surf, browse, and play PS4 demos and games from the PS Vita browser, or will a Remote Play connection to PS4 be required? Will the PlayStation App on smartphones and tablets allow us to stream PS4 games anywhere, with the DualShock 4 serving as a Bluetooth accessory? Man, I hope so. Streaming is so new to console gaming, and, combined with Sony’s mantra of social gaming and shared experiences, it makes for very nebulous territory. Here’s hoping that Sony continues to offer specifics in the coming months, so the PS4 launch is plagued with as little confusion as possible.

Do you have other burning questions about PlayStation 4 not covered here? Did Sony’s next-generation reveal impress you, or leave you wanting more? Sound off with your own questions in the comments below, and keep it here at PSU in the coming days, weeks, and months for everything PS4.