Sony is expected to announce its next PlayStation console at its February 20th press event. Every day until then, Shacknews will look at PlayStation's history, and analyze what that could mean for the company's future.
In only two days, Sony will kick off the new generation with a media event that is almost certain to debut the next PlayStation console. We're not sure what the company has up its sleeves for the announcement, but a Shack staff roundtable makes some educated guesses based on past performance, and stakes some hopes for the future.
More than anything, I'd like to see PlayStation Network remain free on Sony's next-gen system. While PSN suffers from annoying downtime, the value it provides over Xbox Live is tremendous. There's something just plain ol' wrong about having to pay a $60 annual fee so that I can access my paid Netflix subscription. I feel like that kind of aggressive pay-gating will only increase in the future, and by remaining free, PlayStation Network can offer a much less evil alternative.
Online gaming will continue to grow in the next generation, but beyond your standard competitive/cooperative experience. Journey is a terrific example of a game designed around PSN. Imagine if that experience was only available to Gold users, instead of casual players that just happen to be playing an online game. By making online access free and standard, I think developers will be able to come up with even more interesting and exciting designs in the future.
Speaking of PSN, Andrew, I'm very curious to see where Sony takes its outstanding PlayStation Plus service. The paid subscription won over many skeptics, myself included, with its Instant Game Collection. A fully-realized IGC from day one on the PlayStation 4 might be too much to ask, since it cuts into their profits, but that doesn't mean Sony can't commit to future plans for Plus or even additional features. They've turned me into a believer once, and I'd like them to do it again.
This announcement also provides Sony a golden opportunity to revive their flailing handheld. I love my Vita, but I don't think it's too shocking to say that the company has dropped the ball on marketing it. I'd like to see Sony come up with some unique connectivity functions between the device and the PS4. It's a nice PlayStation 3 accessory, especially for games that offer cross-buy, but it could be a value-add for the PlayStation 4 if Sony finds the right use for it. A Vita update with added functionality hitting around the same time of the console launch would be a perfect way to serve both masters.
Will PlayStation Network remain free?
The thing that I am most eager to see is what games Sony and it’s third-party partners plan to bring to the table for the console’s launch. Andrew did a great round up of the first-party studios and exclusive partners Sony has had, but the console will only be as good as the games available for it when it hits shelves. We can only hope that a new Uncharted, Killzone, or something wonderfully creative from Media Molecule are on the launch roster to push the system as a must-have.
I agree with you, Steve, that now would be a good time to revitalize the Vita. Speaking of Killzone, Mercenary looks fantastic and I think it is logical to find a way to tie some of the incredible Vita offerings to the PS4 in some way. Make the Vita part of the PS4 marketing, create a few solid bundles, and make them seem inseparable for certain franchises. Now is the time.
The PS4 could bolster the Vita
I'd like to echo John's sentiments that it's software, software, software. Okay, and services, too. But mostly software. Also, given that the specs of both Sony's and Microsoft's next-generation consoles appear strikingly similar, the differentiation between both new platforms for a lot of folks will likely hinge on both exclusive games and more nit-picky differences. It's arguable how much of an advantage (if any) Microsoft's built-in, new and improved Kinect will be in the next-gen marketplace, but it's peripheral differences like that (and again, exclusive games) that'll likely sway the mainstream consumer one way or the other--provided both new boxes are priced similarly. For some folks, which upcoming system to buy could just amount to factors as trivial as brand loyalty, or which controller feels better to them.
PlayStation Plus is also a great initiative, and if Sony continues to enhance and expand it to reward subscribers in meaningful ways, it could become an even bigger advantage in the upcoming generation than it already is. I actually anticipate that a lot of gamers will weigh this subscription-based service against Xbox Live equivalent when making their console-buying decisions, depending on which is more attractive on a personal basis.
Moreso than ever, however, the relative technological homogeneity of the upcoming crop of consoles means that this year, deciding which console is "best" will be even more subjective than ever.
A new Killzone could satisfy the shooter crowd
Services like Plus will differentiate from Microsoft's next Xbox