Sony’s actually been having a pretty good two months.
With the announcement of the PS4, the gamers are excited, the developers are excited and there’s even been enough positive press within the financial sector that stocks are up, and Sony’s stock status has been upgraded from “Junk” to “Neutral” to “Buy.” All in all, that’s quite impressive for a company that has garnered a lot of skepticism and even disappointment in this current generation of consoles.
The big question now is, how long will this rosy feeling last?
The big question now is, how long will this rosy feeling last?Right now, we, as gamers, are in that ideal “honeymoon” phase with Sony because we have no PS4—and thus no reality—to check against our expectations. We’ve just got a lot of hope because we saw press conference that presented a humbler, more focused Sony that made a lot of promises that sound pretty good. And that’s the important part. So far we’ve got a lot of promises, and if you check your optimism at the door and look at past history, it’s plain to see—especially from Sony—that a promise isn’t something that is always kept.
All you have to do is look at the current generation and how it started to see just because a company says something, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be true. Sony made a lot of waves when it teased the PS3, showing off a sizzle real with some phenomenal graphics for games on show. In particular were two standouts, Killzone 2 and Motorstorm. The graphics and gameplay teased for these games looked too good to be true, but we were told—at least in the case of Killzone 2 that this was gameplay. Later it came out that it was nothing of the sort and gamers were first introduced to the concept of a “target render,” where elaborate CG animation was used to show what the developers were aiming for. Killzone 2 eventually managed to close some distance with its target render, but it was a clear cut case of smoke mirrors where Sony showed one thing, hoping to pass it off as another. Then there was backwards compatibility, a feature that everyone loved from the PS2 era which Sony claimed was important going into the PS3, and it was. For a while. Eventually Sony changed its mind about this in order to keep costs down and removed the feature entirely from future iterations of the PS3, relying on specific HD ports a few isolated rereleases on the Playstation Network to take the place of the wider backwards compatibility that the PS3 formerly enjoyed. Then there was the reveal of dual HDMI outputs on the initial PS3 prototype, a feature that Sony actually hyped during the early press conferences which once again—likely for cost reasons—was removed and not commented on when the PS3 was finally released. And of course, in what was a pretty bitter pill to swallow for the more technically inclined fans of the PS3, there was the controversial removal of the Other OS feature. Once touted as a great reason to opt for the console due to the possibilities of running LINUX, it was eventually scrapped to make the system more closed and thus less susceptible to hacking.
In each and every case, Sony actually had reasons for what they did—whether it was to build anticipation as a marketing initiative, keep manufacturing costs down, or close security holes. But that doesn’t discount the fact that these are promises Sony made then eventually reneged on. And in a way, it’s easy to see why; the promises they made were good ones, perhaps naïve ones that didn’t take into account the potential for damage from changes in financial situation, or the resourcefulness of the hacking community. These promises were made to the gamers because at the time, someone at Sony was thinking about how cool this would be.
The problem is now, in the first quarter of 2013, we’re right back to that.
Sony has been making a lot of cool promises about the PS4 that carry that same naiveté. Streaming games from the entire PS1/2/3 library via their Gaikai tech is the epitome of cool, and one of the big talking points many journalists carried away from PS4 reveal, but will it actually work the way Sony envisions? If nothing else, OnLive, Blizzard, and most recently Electronic Arts have all shown how gaming can fall apart completely when it relies on an always online connection to play. There’s also the lifeline that Sony has thrown at their struggling Vita, turning it into both a Nintendo Wii U tablet controller, as well as yet another recipient of the Gaikai streaming technology. Once again, the idea of someone’s Vita becoming a one stop portable gaming solution is extremely compelling, but so was the idea of a virtual, 3D world where people could meet and socialize and that turned into Playstation Home.
In all honesty, I think that Sony gave a very good presentation last month when it came to finally teasing the PS4. I’m just also mindful of the fact that they’ve said some things that sounded pretty good in the past and didn’t quite pan out in reality.