Over-the-shoulder-spectating; commandeering another player’s game session; instant, real-time video uploading to the Web; storefront game streaming… little of what Sony outlined about the PlayStation 4 during its press conference this week had anything to do with power or landmark gaming experiences (although Killzone: Shadow Fall and Watch Dogs both debuted impressive footage). It did, however, paint a promising picture of the console’s hardware architecture and online connectivity capabilities, which sound, in a word, seamless.
But just as the PlayStation 4’s potential selling points have begun entering the public spotlight, so have its imperfections.
Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida has confirmed to Engadget that current-generation PlayStation Network games — that is, those saved to the PlayStation 3 — won’t have the ability to be transferred to the PlayStation 4. The same preclusion applies to saved PS3 games, according to the site, which comes as a huge detriment to the console after Sony already admitted that it wouldn’t be backwards compatible with PS3 discs.
Ironically, the limitations are being attributed to the very architecture fueling the PlayStation 4’s potential for innovation. Sony intends to either emulate PS1, PS2 and PS3 titles, offering them for download on the PlayStation 4’s storefront, or host them through the cloud using its Gaikai-powered streaming technology. Unfortunately, the PS4’s CPU — the x86 “Jaguar” built by AMD — is so distinctive from the PlayStation 3’s, that the manufacturer believes many recent (or for that matter, large) PS3 titles will prove too cumbersome for the emulation process to work. And as for streaming, Yoshida says that only older games are currently in the Gaikai pipeline, and their release schedule following the console’s availability will be “longer term.”
The news counteracts any goodwill Sony might have attained by announcing that the PlayStation 4 would not block used games. Sure, the secondhand market will still exist, near-death as it may be thanks to the growth of digital distribution, but now the history many gamers have carved out on the PS3 over its seven-year lifespan will be demonstrably devalued. Consider Mass Effect. Under the current conditions, anyone who played the entire Mass Effect trilogy on the PlayStation 3 and wanted to see their decisions crystallize in BioWare’s next installment would be left out in the cold (with no Devlon suit to save them). Even if emulation or cloud streaming had brought the series to the PS4 by then, there would still only be one cruel option: Buy it and play it again. The last way to begin a console race is by encouraging your fanbase to stay put in the previous generation, but that’s exactly what Sony is risking here. No save transfers, no PSN transfers, no backwards compatibility — they might end up being this decade’s “$599 US Dollars.”
Another mixed bag — albeit one much lighter — manifested itself when Yoshida spoke to Joystiq recently regarding the PlayStation 4’s 4K support. Sony made a splash at CES 2012 by showcasing its first 4K TV, which renders HD images in four times the pixel resolution of 1080p, and early prognosticators wondered if the format wouldn’t work its way into next-generation gaming. Yoshida says that while the PS4 does support the output for recorded video, gaming in 4K won’t be a function of the system. Bad news for pixel enthusiasts; good news for those who like to keep their entertainment budgets under 5 digits.
Where do you stand on the PS4’s backwards-compatibility incompatibility? What about its inability to transfer PS3 saves and current-gen PSN games?
The PlayStation 4 is targeting a holiday 2013 release.
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