So the next generation of consoles is almost here (ignoring the Wii-U for a moment!). There’s a lot of speculation on what this will mean and the slow drip tease of leaked photos and secrets.
Here’s my views on what “Next Gen” should mean, in terms of PlayStation, unless Microsoft show me something whizzier.
Whizzy Processors and Graphics
Yes it’s all very nice having lots of Giga-Flops and GPUs (whatever they are). I’ll take a big leap of faith and assume that the PS4 will be faster and snazzier, but how will this be used?
Better graphics are nice and all that, but what I want to see is more immersion. Better AI. More persistent worlds (that don’t lead to massive lag …. Skyrim I’m looking at you). Bigger explosions and more lens flare isn’t going to cut it. Oh and don’t give it some bullshit name like Emotion Engine (thanks). That processing power needs to be used smartly, which brings me onto…
A Better User Experience Outside the Game
Hello XMB, oh hello spinny icons waiting for you to extract the actual pictures and words so I can find out where stuff is. Lets have a look at my trophies, oh hello percentage bar of syncing. Let’s play this new game, oh hello patch, install, quit game to go to shop, add online pass details, add them again you dsylexic bugger, reload game all over again. Play.
This has to be quicker, slicker and from the user perspective as invisible as possible. Being able to swop out of a game to check something and then back into the game seamlessly. Having a messaging system that isn’t a crock of shit. Updates that don’t get in the way of quickly playing a bloody game. Even the PS+ auto-update isn’t really much good. It only updates recent games, which considering the big selling point of PS+ is it gives you a load of games each month kind of defeats the point!
OK so PSN isn’t apparently as good as XBox Live. I’m going to assume this is a given to be fixed, mainly because Sony should be more focused on online this time and also because I don’t care enough about mulitplayer to write anything meaningful!
But what I would like to see is the use of online and friends list in a more intelligent way. Who on my friend’s list is playing this game? Who on my friend’s list has this trophy? Platinum trophy notifications. Something like the Vita does, but that is still lacking. Anything built around these sort of ideas would be welcome with one disclaimer. Flexibility. Allow me to tailor what I see, from what games, from what users etc. Otherwise the spam will put me and everyone else off.
Yeah so Gaikai will be the saviour and backward compatibility will be fine. OK. Maybe. But this is what I worry about. Singstar and Rockband DLC working on the new console. I’ve spent hundreds of pounds on this. If it’s not on the PS4 I have to keep my PS3. That means I won’t be getting your new shiny PS4 for a very very long time. I don’t care about licensing and stuff like that. I want to use the stuff I’ve paid for. I’m happy for a minimal transfer fee, but otherwise I will serious reconsider my future purchases. This issue is a test for me of the digital vs physical product. Don’t fail me.
Shiny Toys Only Work if Mandatory
PS Move. I bought it day one. Two controllers, one analogue stick thing, one charging dock. They have got very little use other than giving me something extra to dust each week.
If there are any clever new feature it needs to be mandatory. Think of the original Wii and then the Wiimote being optional. The effect would have been much less than the business success it was (let’s not think too much of the hardcore gaming though).
Move failed for many reasons, but one factor was that only a subset of the PS3 owners had one.
If Vita becomes a WiiU copycat with it’s second screen IT WILL FAIL. WiiU comes with the controller with a screen in all units. Therefore all WiiU owners have it. Don’t split your market in “haves” and “have nots”.
It looks from the leaked controller pictures that Move is going to be “built-in”. This may be it’s chance to be saved as a failed concept. I hope so.
Sony needs to not **** this up. Pressure from mobiles, Steam boxes even Smart TVs means it’s not just the usual console wars. I have faith in Sony. That faith has been tested a number of times, but things like PS+ show it still has the ability to deliver. The future will be challenging, but with a bit of luck and some smart ideas they can maintain a strong position in the gaming world.
A lot has been written about the damage that used games are doing to the industry. Online passes have been seen as a way of clawing back revenue from used game sales and perhaps as way to make used games less profitable and desirable, however so far we’ve not seen any evidence that this is working or is producing any great revenue stream, although the proliferation of online passes suggest it is in some way successful.
I’ve noticed however that my gaming habits and my purchasing methods for games have been changed by online passes and not in the way intended.
My Current Gaming Habits
To put the record straight at the start of this article, I buy games new, I rent games and I occasionally pick up a used game. I don’t see any problem with this and resent being labelled as a problem by the industry I love and support.
I like to play a variety of games and tend to replay only a few games if they really add something to my experience.
I also prefer the single player/campaign experience to online, but I can and do get sucked into the online multiplayer from time to time. Burnout Paradise (over 200 online hours logged), Resistance 2 and Killzone 2 are all games I played a significant amount time online. I also bought DLC for two of these games, so more money to the publisher and also an increased time before the eventual trade-in.
Benefits of Trade-ins and Renting
I didn’t like Oblivion. However I love Skyrim and I took that gamble of buying new as I knew I could trade it if I really didn’t get into it. That’s a real world day release date sale that only existed because of the ability to trade in.
FPS games tend to have a campaign length of only 6-8 hours. I have limited interest in online but I typically buy these new and usually close to or on release. Again trade-ins make these viable to me given the focus on multiplayer. I do try the online. Occasionally I would play for a while, usually not for very long (there is only so much spawn, walk, die, spawn, run, die, spawn, turn around, die I can take).
How online passes have changed how I buy and play games.
I’m now being actively dissuaded from playing the online portion of a game. I know 9 out of 10 times I’ll try it for 30 minutes and never return. I am however, left with an online pass code that has now is worth more to me as something to sell on eBay than something to redeem and then not use. I’ve paid for this and I know I’ll probably not really use it so it’s a simple choice. It’s only worth a few quid, but that’s better than 30 minutes of some turgid online experience.
While this may not seem a big deal, I’m actually support the used games market by trading my code and I’m now going to trade the game much more quickly as there is now zero chance of being sucked into the online. There’s also zero chance of me buying DLC.
So well done to the gaming industry, the introduction of online passes are, for me driving behaviours that actually take income away from developers/publishers and benefit the used games market!
The next-gen is coming in the next couple of years and there is (again) the rumours of some kind of system level ban on used games. Maybe it’ll “just” be a system level version of online passes, but for all games. So buy Skyrim used and you’ll need to pay £6-10 for a pass to actually play it.
This is a dangerous development if true. Forced to pay full prices will mean I will be more careful choices in purchases. I’m happy to see more money going to developers, but they also need to be wise to the consequences. I’d hope such a system would be matched with more fluid price points, otherwise I’ll not be buying the shorter games and you’ll miss out on me buying any sequels of your games if I’m not confident enough to buy the original.
Hmmmm, so I thought I’d try my hand at blogging. Every now and again there is something on my mind and twitter’s 140 limit means my thoughts have nowhere to go.
Well now they have a home. Will anyone read this? Does anyone care? Worst case, this turns into a private diary of inane ramblings 🙂