On Wednesday night Sony held an event to unvel details of the upcoming PlayStation 4 console. While it was unusually short on specifics for a launch event (to the point that they didn’t actually show any hardware) there were some interesting implications and confirmation of a few theories I’ve had about the next generation of consoles and their competition with PC platforms for gaming.
Firstly, Sony is creating new opportunities for developers.
Indies in the Spotlight
Sony had a major critical and commercial success with Journey last year and they’ve recognized that success by putting independent developers front and center. Jonathan Blow’s presentation of The Witness at such a key event for the PS4 hammers home the importance of indies to the next generation of console gaming. As essential as AAA titles are to the survival of the platform, independent studios and publishers are pushing boundaries and breathing new life into the industry.
Commodity Hardware Platform
For all the talk in the press about the “post PC” world, what we’re really seeing is a blurring of the line between what is and what isn’t a PC. Sony went out of their way to highlight the PC credentials of the upcoming system by showing the x86 architecture, PC GPU and hard drive. By leveraging the full scale of available PC hardware rather than the usual proprietary designs of generations past they’re proving that they actually want to make things as easy as possible for developers and simultaneously realizing economies of scale that they couldn’t otherwise get.
And secondly, the next steps necessary to compete with the resurgence of PC gaming are now more clear.
A familiar hardware spec is one thing, but if Sony is to steal thunder from existing App stores and other emerging game delivery mechanisms at launch they’ll need to further allow publishers the option to bring their own solutions to the table for infrastructure. Whether that means game servers, content delivery, matchmaking or other functions; it’s vital that publishers be given the opportunity to innovate on this front. The PlayStation Network was already further down this path than some of its competition but it still has some distance to go before it will be as creatively enabling as PC platforms.
Open Revenue Options
Possibly the most important of all emerging advances in recent PC history is the rise of new revenue models. From microtransactions to in-game advertising to early access funding, there are so many new ways to pay for game development that it has revolutionized what makes for a feasible title. Bringing more games in more genres to market has been a huge win for gamers, and tapping into that surge will require Sony to be very flexible in how they present their offering to publishers.
All in all the reveal was extremely exciting, and has rekindled my interest in the upcoming console generation.