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Whisper it: the PS4 & Xbox 720 are not about gaming

Gordon Kelly

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Whisper it: the PS4 & Xbox 720 are not about gaming

meIn literary circles it is often debated whether ‘Jaws’, the original novel by Peter Benchley, is not actually about a big shark, but infidelity. Shark expert Hooper is portrayed as arrogant, with more interest in studying the shark than saving the townspeople and Brody dislikes him on the suspicion he had an affair with his wife. In the novel Hooper is ultimately eaten by the shark. It seems fair comeuppance.

Step into gaming circles and a similar, equally odd, debate is happening. It may have taken until their third and fourth generations respectively and their franchises have aged far better than subsequent Jaws films, but there is growing support for the notion the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 are not about gaming. What’s more, in casting their affection away from what should arguably be their primary focus, both may also be chewed up and spat out for it…

The arguments for this shift in priorities are compelling:

  • The consoles are no longer competing on performance, but being aligned
  • Talk is rife that both consoles won’t be backwards compatible with current games

  • Both consoles may block users from playing second-hand games and neither seems keen to clarify this once and for all.
All three are major no-nos in the eyes of hardcore gamers and suggest Microsoft and Sony have far less appetite this time around for a war fought over frame rates, polygon counts and draw distances. Furthermore Sony has gone out of its way to dramatically simplify coding for the PS4, stressing ease of game development on the platform as opposed to a tidal wave of exclusives. Even Microsoft’s Kinect won’t be such a great differentiator after Sony unveiled ‘Eye’, which mimics Kinect alongside controller support for Move-like operation.

So how will Sony and Microsoft duke it out this time around? Two different kinds of media: social and multimedia. “It’s going to be connected. It’s going to be social. It’s going to be immersive. It’s going to be interactive,” said Ubisoft Montreal CEO Yannis Mallat when speaking about the Xbox 720. Mallat admitted next gen console graphics would be “mind-blowing”, but also added that “the connected aspects and the social components will be what will define the difference between a next-gen experience and a current-gen experience.”

UI

Likewise Sony has announced the PS4 will be always connected, will pre-download content users might be interested in and will also feature a dedicated ‘Share’ button. “Base hardware architecture for PlayStation network [is] designed to integrate social networks through all aspects" according to lead Sony developer Mark Cerny. Furthermore Sony is going after casual gamers and a wider female user base.

“We are not going down the route of making the console pink of course,” said Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House, however “the key is getting games developers who are going to make the next Angry Birds excited about the PS4.” Throw in extended television, film, music and indie developer support which builds upon the current gen consoles and it becomes clear Microsoft and Sony will position the Xbox 720 and PS4 as the technological heart of our homes. And this is a big ask for devices which are not mobile.

Laptops, tablets, mobile phones and inbetweener hybrids and phablets are where the public’s interest currently resides and it will take a monumental effort to shift their focus towards machines with limited mobile integration. Yes the PS4 will neatly integrate with the PlayStation Vita and Xbox Live has mobile apps and is built into Windows Phone, but Apple and Google dominate the handheld sector. Of course Sony is an Android handset maker and has an Android PlayStation store, but again it is a minority player.

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Furthermore rivals are stacking up. In the mobile space is Nvidia’s Project Shield, which harnesses mobile flexibility, wireless connectivity and Cloud gaming to deliver a triple threat. Meanwhile out-and-out gamers are being wooed by machines built for Valve’s Steam platform. The Linux based system doesn’t force customers to adopt any specific hardware or ecosystem and is firmly focused on delivering the most cutting-edge experience possible. It could bring the organisation, unity, upgradeability and functionality the PC gaming sector long promised and whose fragmentation ushered forth the era of consoles in the first place.

None of which is to say Microsoft or Sony have necessarily got things wrong. They remain giants in delivering living room entertainment, have hoards of loyal followers and developers, and will deliver slick, multi-functional consoles alongside a relentless global marketing assault. As such their short-term success isn’t particularly in doubt, but whether they can match the near-decade long life cycle of their predecessors most definitely is.

Rightly or wrongly Jaws is at its most enjoyable when it is about a shark. Whether games consoles prove better at escaping their established formula remains to be seen...

Christopher Litton

April 10, 2013, 8:23 pm

I think Microsoft and Sony definitely need to step up their game. Buying games on steam works out much better value and a lot of online sellers have download codes for almost half the price of a full game.

Add to the fact that the services they provide for renting movies or downloading music etc can all be done on your pc; if they don't have enough exclusive releases then what benefits do they bring? Or am I missing something?

I hate to say it but I have been converted since using steam on a dedicated gaming pc; which can be used like a console. Just use big picture and plug in a controller and thats all you need.

Laurence Smith

April 10, 2013, 10:28 pm

Umm Sony has already clarified MULTIPLE times that the PS4 WILL support used games! The 2 consoles being aligned is not a "no-no" in gamers eyes its actually a good thing.
Also the Eye while it does mimic the kinect remember that the kinect ripped off of the PS2 eyeToy and the PS3 PSEye

J.j. Barrington

April 11, 2013, 12:17 am

I don't know why I'm bothering to even respond...

Tell me, if the PS4 isn't about gaming, why all the display from GAME DEVELOPERS about the PS4 and how friendly it is for them to work on? Why all the talk about social features that promote gaming? Why announce a variety of core games for the release window, with more certainly to come? From what we know of the console, there's NOTHING that ISN'T about gaming.

Which leads me to the 720... is that even its name? We don't know. We don't know ANYTHING about it. We don't even know, officially, that it's going to release, EVER. But you already know that it's not for gaming. For the record, I'm of the opinion that it will, based on the pervasive nature of current rumors, and Microsoft's current practices in the industry, NOT have gaming as a primary focus. However, we have ZERO information on the system one way or another. So exactly how would we- or more specifically, YOU- know whether it IS or ISN'T about gaming?

Sorry(I'm really not, though), but this article is complete and utter crap.

Gordon Kelly

April 11, 2013, 9:32 am

Actually it's back in the mix according to latest reports.

And I didn't say it was a bad thing that they would be aligned, just that clearly they are not fighting to be gaming top dog. Other services have become more important.

Kinect may have been influenced by the PS2 eyeToy, but it took it too another level. It's like saying the iPad influenced by past tablets. Yes, but....

Gordon Kelly

April 11, 2013, 9:39 am

Thanks for your considered opinion, that was mine.

To respond: there is NOTHING about the PS4 that's not about gaming? The music and TV download and on-demand services are about gaming? The web browsing services are about gaming? The social networking interaction is only about gaming? The Blu-ray drive is only about gaming? Don't be daft.

Based on the reports that have come out about the Xbox 720 since this editorial which discuss the console's direct integration with broadcast TV this only strengthens my predictions.

And the '720' moniker is widely accepted across the industry as the way to respond to the next generation Xbox - stop nitpicking.

Laurence Smith

April 11, 2013, 12:17 pm

Well I should hope that the Kinect is better after coming out 7 years later! also excuse me if I'm wrong but regarding the used games reports I do believe they say that developers/publishers themselves can support it but Sony themselves will not, much like DCUO for PS3.

Actionable Steps

April 12, 2013, 7:00 am

I agree with you Legit_Elite, you've hit the nail on the head.

All of this articles logic rests on the three principles stated at the beginning, and the assumed response of the objectified 'gamer'.

First, bringing console specs together is good for gamers, it means that there won't be dumb issues like poor ports on a certain console or another having very complex coding (Skyrim for example ran poorly on PS3 as it was designed as a port).

Sony already said that they will have backwards compatibility, and this is neither good nor bad for gamers, only for people who don't already own the previous console. I have a PS3, I don't care about backwards compatibility.

Neither consoles will block second hand games - this would be absolute suicide as many key analysts have already said and both companies have denied that they will do this. This is a dumb rumour and nothing more...

At the end of the day a games console is a games console, and they are trying to integrate multimedia aspects to make the console a more attractive buy and to make it a greater part of the living room. All real gamers prefer their games on stationary devices, hence why the Vita is failing and the iPad's best game is Angry Birds... The real gaming market is in Gaming PCs and the next console generation.

Laurence Smith

April 14, 2013, 12:09 am

Are you saying that the vita is failing because it is a handheld or that only gamers are buying it and the mainstream is only focused on the ipad? Because personally I love gaming on a handheld (not the ipad) and I don't think that that makes me not a "real gamer".

J.j. Barrington

April 17, 2013, 6:04 am

... I'm sorry. I must have missed the part where, like almost any other device out there, the PS4 and 720 had to be ONLY about gaming in order to BE ABOUT GAMING.

The fact of the matter is that while those non-gaming features are there, Sony has placed its focus squarely on gaming. Why on earth would they spend so much time focusing on what developers thought? Why spend more time talking about how the social aspects will be used for games than, say, some apps or something?

And yes, I'm fully aware of how "widely accepted" the 720 name is. The POINT was that WE KNOW NOTHING MICROSOFT'S NEXT CONSOLE. I'm not criticizing your decision to use it; rather, using that to EMPHASIZE just how little we actually know.

Gordon Kelly

April 22, 2013, 1:36 pm

Of course, that is why this is an opinion piece. The clue is in the categorisation ;) There are no rights and no wrongs until everything becomes official.

Now let's have a little less of the "complete and utter crap" nonsense.

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