Predicting the Future of the PlayStation 4

Last week, Sony surprised absolutely no one when they announced the next chapter of Sony's gaming presence, the PlayStation 4. What did surprise people, however, was how developer and gamer-focused the PS4 is. With a more PC-like architecture, loaded with tons of RAM, and a dedication to social networking, streaming and speeding up loading & downloading processes, Sony looks to recapture the magic it lost during the transition from the PS2 to the PS3. Personally, I couldn't be more excited.

However, if initial reactions from various journalists, analysts & gamers are any indication, the sky couldn't be falling any faster. There seems to be this sentiment that the leap between current gen and next gen is not going to be enough to ward off the likes of Microsoft, Nintendo, Apple, Google, or even Valve. Alot if us think that next gen is gonna be too cost-prohibitive to invest in right away. But honestly, we have nothing to worry about.

I think Sony will be fine. I think that every facet of gaming will be able to coexist peacefully without encroaching on each other's territories. In fact, the only company that has to worry, is Nintendo. That WiiU is looking pretty not-next-gen at the moment.

Anyways, I think I have an idea of what's gonna happen over the course of the PS4's lifecycle (10+ years?).

  • The PS4 will have 3 SKU's on release day; one of them will be $299.99.

I know what you're thinking: jWILL, you're an idiot! No way Sony releases the PS4 for that low of a price. Just the RAM alone is gonna push this thing towards $500!

Well, that would be true, if Sony had manufactured all the internal hardware themselves, like they did their last three consoles. But this time around, Sony decided to outsource their hardware parts, primarily to AMD. Meaning, they probably have a deal in place with AMD that lets Sony buy hardware at a subsidized price. In other words, Sony isn't looking to recoup any R&D money spent on creating a proprietary engine. Not having native backwards compatibility on the PS4 helps, too.

In addition to that, there is also this: Sony knows that if they were to price ANYTHING at the same price as an iPad, they would lose to the iPad every single time, due to the portability convenience of Apple's products.

So, be prepared to see a small hard drive edition of the PS4, as well as a price drop on the PS3.

  • Sony will be able to coexist with the rest of the gaming market.

I'm gonna need the analysts of Wall Street to stop crying wolf. Mobile & tablet gaming isn't gonna kill off consoles. Nobody is gonna look at their iPad as if it gives them a better experience than a dedicated console. In other words, there is a reason why games are so small on a cellphone: because it's a damn cellphone. They aren't meant to grab attention outside of a few minutes. Mobile games are time-killers for people on the go. With that being said, Sony shouldn't even worry about those people, because they barely play video games anyway. Sony should worry about the single 18 - 30 something's that don't have families, and lots of time on their hands.

And, I'm also gonna need PC gamers to stop killing my vibe. People are gonna have a hard time justifying $400+ for this thing, if it's priced that high; why would those same people pay anywhere from $800 to $3000 just to see better textures?

Every time a new generation of consoles comes around, everybody starts predicting the death of one company or another. People considered PC gaming as dead when this generation started up (and it would be, if it weren't for WoW, Starcraft & Steam, but that's just my opinion). But, everyone survived. I think the same thing will happen this time around.

  • Gaikai will fulfill most of it's promises, except for PSone/PS2/PS3 emulation.

The part of the presentation that blew me away, was the Gaikai segment. Being able to share gaming clips, stream your session to USTREAM, use the Vita as a second screen (RIP, WiiU), try out games while those same games are being downloaded, letting friends drop in and out of your game so they can help you... all that stuff is pretty huge to me. It's revolutionary!

But, Gaikai is being pretty ambitious with the backwards emulation. I remember how, when they removed backwards compatibility on PS3's, Sony said that you could still download last gen games onto your hard drive. That was true for PSone games, but it wasn't true for PS2 games until very late in the console life cycle. So now you're gonna tell me that Gaikai will eventually able to stream every single PlayStation game to ever exist?

Yeah, consider me skeptical on that one. At most, it will only manage to get halfway done before the PS4 lifecycle ends.

  • Sony will win the next generation arms race.

Here's an inside look at my bias:

I grew up paying games on the SNES, but I never really valued my gaming experiences until I had my original PlayStation. I played great platform games like Crash Bandicoot. I was emotionally involved in Zidane's story when I played Final Fantasy IX. I kicked major ass in Tekken 2 & 3. When the PS2 came out, I was awed by the advancement in graphics and storytelling. I loved new ideas like God of War, Prince of Persia, Star Wars Battlefront II, Final Fantasy XII, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and Ico. And, I admired the commitment by Sony to make sure they had the best games, the most games, and the best experience.

Then, something happened. Ken Kutaragi abandoned the mascots of PlayStation lore, which caused the likes of Crash, Spyro, Jak & Daxter & Parappa the Rapper to fall by the wayside. Kutaragi cared more about powerful proprietary engines. He cared more about making a supercomputer rather than making a good console. As soon as that overpriced model hit the store shelves, the PS3 had no shot. Every since then, they have been playing catch up to Nintendo & Microsoft, using similar ideas to attract the casual gamer, while abandoning the core gamer.

They lost the magic.

But, I feel like the conference was a "reset" for Sony. From the opening montage, you can tell they were getting back to basics. They embraced their proud history. Everyone saw the followups to Killzone & inFamous as more of the same, but I saw it as commitment to establishing continuity to memorable franchises and characters. They enhanced technology, without compensating old tech (example: the Dualshock 4 compared to the original Sixxaxis). They made it better for gamers instead of making it more of a Netflix/cable box. They told developers "you want to make better games? How can we help you with that?"

In other words, they have their magic back. More important than that, they have their focus back. And with all of that being said, I think Microsoft will focus more on making Durango more of a entertainment set piece, rather than the best gaming experience you can buy. Nintendo, on the other hand, has their work cut out for them, as third party publishers are getting ready to abandon them yet again, once the new consoles come out. Hell, they don't even have a lot of first-party titles out right now, and that's Nintendo's bread and butter.

The cards are in Sony's favor at this moment. With the economy slowly recovering and more options for gaming at our fingertips, we may have a renaissance moment in gaming culture. And, I just think Sony will be in front of it.

Lol, sorry. Didn't mean to make this such a long post. Anyways, tell me what you think...

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