No matter which way you look at it, Sony is undoubtedly gearing up to unveil its plans for the successor to the PlayStation 3, starting with its February 20 “meeting”.
The tagline for the event is simply, “see the future of PlayStation”.
Whether Sony will officially announce a new home console or not is inconsequential, but it seems very likely the company is prepared to talk about their upcoming plans, be it about their current and future hardware line, software or something else entirely.
But, if Sony are ready to unveil the PlayStation 4 -- or whatever it’s going to be called -- I thought it fun to outline a few areas Sony would need to improve to really deliver something special with its next-generation console.
Faster online experience
Boot up your PlayStation 3 right now and jump onto the PlayStation Store and chances are you’ll have to wait a good thirty seconds or so before anything loads. After which, try accessing any number of the sub-menus from the main page.
Take a while?
A lot of critics have slammed Nintendo for the Wii U’s sluggish OS, but in my opinion Sony’s handling of PlayStation 3’s online capabilities is far worse. From accessing the online store, to downloading updates -- even install times -- all take far longer than they should. If you’re in doubt, just turn on a Xbox 360 that’s connected to the internet and just see how much smoother everything runs.
With the gaming industry embracing online and digital distribution more than ever these days, it’s vital Sony make PlayStation 4’s online services quicker, faster and more accessible than ever.
Seamless integration with Vita
For the sake of argument we’ll ignore any and all problems facing Sony’s latest handheld and go straight to how it should be heavily integrated into the companies next home console.
Sony has already played around with the idea with cross-play functionality -- a feature only a small handful of games actually take advantage of -- but they now need to take it a step further.
I want to be able to use my Vita as a second controller -- or even my primary controller - for PlayStation 4. I want to easily share, backup and download data from the console to the handheld and vice versa. And, I want Sony to heavily invest in bringing more 1st and even 3rd party titles to its cross-buy program - complete with cloud saving compatibility.
The major issue plaguing the PlayStation 3/Vita relationship is the two have been pushed together well after the fact. A company like Sony would no doubt had worked future-tech for its home console into the Vita, or designed its future console to easily communicate with the aforementioned handheld.
Then again, I might be giving them too much credit?
Strong first party support
Second to Nintendo -- who has arguably the strongest 1st party stable of any gaming company, ever -- Sony has possibly the biggest line-up of first party titles and franchises to its credit. And moving into a new generation they’d be smart to push almost every single one onto the platform within the first two years of the console hitting shelves.
Whereas we’re seeing more and more 3rd party titles flooding the marketplace, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify buying into two or more specific console platforms. NIntendo sits comfortably atop its pile of Mario, Zelda and Pokémon titles, while securing its own roster of 2nd and 3rd party titles, and Sony needs to use its own franchises to its advantage in a similar way.
Many casual “core” gamers (yes, that’s a thing) don’t see the difference between Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. A diverse and undeniably powerful line-up of AAA 1st party franchises, the like of which Sony is certainly capable of, would see the company pull away from that misconception with PlayStation 4 and leave its direct competitor in the dust.
Budget conscious price
Let’s not beat around the bush, when it launched the PlayStation 3 had a ridiculously high price, one that only fools were be willing to pay. If Sony released an $800+ (AUD) priced video game console in 2013/14, the company would be taken out the back and beaten.
The hard truth is Sony needs to launch PlayStation 4 at a reasonable price point, or at the very least offer potential buyers incentive by way of included accessories and at least one bundled in game. If they don’t, the company will face an uphill battle similar to when the PlayStation 3 launched.
From there it can only get better. Nintendo introduced the Wii at a ridiculously lower price than either Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, and since then has only come down in price. Likewise, as both higher-end consoles have come down in price the install base for both has rapidly increased.
A strong, reasonably low price at launch will ensure a steady growth for the console for years to come, and if anything, hopefully avoid the same embarrassing sales figures as the Vita.
Whenever a brand new console hits the market there’s always two absolutes. The first being it’s going to be more expensive, and the second is it’s going to have only a small number of games for at least three months. So, being able to play all your existing games on your shiny new toy is important, not only as a gamer but as a consumer.
Other than Nintendo -- who allowed Wii owners the ability to play all their GameCube games -- backwards compatibility appeared to be an afterthought to both Sony and Microsoft, especially with the former. With their first hardware revision of the PlayStation 3 Sony removed the vital hardware components needed to read/run PS2 discs, and many fans worldwide cried “right in the childhood” at the same time.
Although Sony are slowly releasing its PSOne and PS2 library digitally on the PSN, ensuring the PlayStation 4 can run, at the very least, PS3 games is essential. If it can play PSOne and PS2 games then even better. While seemingly inconsequential from a business perspective it’ll do a lot in the minds and hearts of gamers around the globe knowing when they invest in a PlayStation 4 they’re also opening up the PlayStation 3’s vast, robust library of games.
By Jayden Williams
What do you want to see in the PlayStation 4?