Part of the reason I started blogging was to give myself a place to go when long conversations and arguments with close gaming friends reached an end. Many of those conversations specifically were with one person: my pal Rich. Rich and I met in a World of Warcraft raiding guild where we were both officers, and we have been friends ever since. Often, we argue over MMORPGs, but we both do have opinions on games at large. In a big way, he is one of my primary reasons for starting this blog.
Recently, we were chatting about the Playstation 4 conference and the reception of Sony’s new console and their hopes and dreams for the device. Rich had something he really wanted to say, so I persuaded him to write me an article. Though Game Delver often touches on more personal notes with the way my life and gaming have intermixed, I have never had any intention of keeping it an entirely solo affair. In other words, please give this article the same attention you would have given any of my own.
The Most Overlooked Feature from Playstation 4 Press Conference
Sony’s Playstation 4 conference has come and gone, and in its wake has been a predictable litany of gamers and media asking the same question they always do: Where are the games? The answer to that should be pretty straightforward and obvious: at E3. However, the conference wasn’t an event to show off the games of the PS4. It was an event to introduce how powerful a next gen console is supposed to be and what sort of innovations it should bring. So while you will see many blogs extolling the lack of games or comparing the technical specs to that of PC or the rumored specs for the next Xbox. I am here to tell you what I think everyone should be excited for instead.
Sony’s recent acquisition of Gaikai, featured heavily at the conference, is a game streaming service that functions similarly to other streaming services, with the simple twist: you can play games at max setting on a minimum spec machine. Let that sink in for a second. You no longer need to buy a top end gaming machine in order to play top end games. But how does this apply to a fixed spec console? One of the things that was mentioned was streaming the game while playing it. While Sony will not be the first company to take advantage of streaming game play it takes a big step forward for the consoles. Another option is the ability to play part of the FULL game. Gone are the need for demos, along with wasting development resources on creating them. Instead, we can try the full game as if we had a brief chance to rent the full product.
The other part that was glossed over in the technical discussion was the notion that the ENTIRE Playstation library will be ported at some point in the future. We’re talking some of the classic games that built many of our childhoods, including my own – games like Final Fantasy VII, Twisted Metal, Metal Gear Solid and hundreds more. I hope that they are able to implement online multiplayer when they do make these games available, thus finally allowing people to play classic games with those childhood friends who may not live next door or be free after school anymore.
There is another less likely, but perfectly plausible use for Gaikai. Streaming-based digital distribution will make it far, far simpler for publishers and developers to export games out of their markets, similarly to how we often see foreign films available on services like Netflix. This opens up games to those that want to take the challenge of game designers’ original intent. A little known fact is that games that come out in the United States are actually made to be easier. We get many toned down versions of games because of this. A short example of this comes from an E3 conference I attended one year. A group of designers were on stage explaining how a Harry Potter game needed to be adjusted for the different markets. The presenter went on to explain the difference between the three major game markets (United States, Europe, and Japan) when they came to problem solving. In the game there was a rock that needed to be put on a pedestal to reveal a bridge. The Japanese tester looked at the rock for a time and put it in the spot and proceeded to the next part. The European tester tried a couple of different things and finally put it in the right spot and moved on. The American tester threw the rock in the lake.
Differences in players aside, dropping a game on the network costs almost nothing for Sony and is a large incentive for developers to just let a game go global and see if they really want to try a game in the United States or European markets. While the game will be un-translated there are some people that would still play these and enjoy them.
While not most important part a major part will become streaming games. While I don’t agree with using USTREAM, as I find Twitch to have a far better interface, the idea that you can just use your PS4 to watch other people play a skillful fighting game or the next great FPS is a pretty good thing. The question is will Sony let people make money off of this? There more than a few people who make living purely from streaming games. Sony needs to incentivize people in such a way that people WANT to watch people on not only the PS4 internal network but on USTREAM as well. One of the top streams on Twitch is a League of Legends player. This stream can have upwards of tens of thousands of people watching it. On top of a $5 subscription people can pay to have no commercials, he also gets a few cents per person per commercial ran. While streaming might not equate to a 100k a year job, it does pay the bills and for the better streamers allow a rather comfortable living. Again Sony MUST be able to take advantage of this or the service will not be as popular as it could be.
Playstation 4’s future is still murky. There are still major questions that need to be answered. Questions like, ‘how much will it cost’. While I won’t say the Wii U is dead since Nintendo always has its own first party library to rehash on their new system, its lackluster sales and less than stellar reception are saying something. Either people don’t like the the central idea of the Wii U, which would be awful and really crush the system, or everyone is still waiting for that ‘one game’ to make them move and buy the new system. If its the latter, Nintendo may still have a chance. Either way, the ball is clearly now in Microsoft’s court to come strong and meet Sony’s Playstation 4 head on, or fall by the wayside like Nintendo seems to be doing.