Roundtable: As the dust settles, what impressions of PS4 remain?

Sony's learned some lessons and is keen to court devs - is it enough?

Wednesday night, Sony took the wraps off the PlayStation 4 at a two-hour long event at New York City's Hammerstein Ballroom. Between new games, partnerships, a holiday release window, real-time game demos, pre-rendered teaser trailers, and a few tech specs, there was plenty to talk about. But what stood out for the staff of GamesIndustry International? Brendan, Dan, James and Rachel weigh in with their big takeaways from the night.

Brendan Sinclair

It's only been seven years since Kaz Hirai famously declared, "The next-generation doesn't start until we say it does," but it felt much, much further away on Wednesday night. Everything about the PlayStation 3, from its developer-antagonistic architecture to its 599-US-dollars price tag to its anemic launch lineup screamed hubris. After the unmatched dominance of the PlayStation 2, Sony reasoned that all it had to do was show up and eat everyone's lunch.

The PS3's subsequent struggles have apparently shamed some humility into the electronics giant, as evidenced by Wednesday's event. There was a recurring theme to the show, an acknowledgement that change was needed. Mark Cerny articulated as much, saying the company took a "consumer-focused and developer-centric approach to the design of PlayStation 4." The last time around, Sony felt it could dictate terms to developers and consumers, not realizing how the generational jump reset the playing field. This time around, things are different.

"After the unmatched dominance of the PlayStation 2, Sony reasoned that all it had to do was show up and eat everyone's lunch."

Brendan Sinclair

A video testimonial with various devs explaining how Sony approached them for input when creating the system furthered the point, as did the acknowledgement of support for free-to-play business models, the featured spot for indie developer Jonathan Blow, and devoting the big finish to a succession of third-party publishers, most of whom were simply shilling multiplatform titles. Perhaps I'm not being cynical enough, but the most impressive moment of the event was Square Enix's Yoshihisa Hashimoto touting the PS4's 8GB of memory, social features, and flexible development environment. "In short," he said, "it's a game developer's dream."

It seems the developers are happy. Now if Sony can just win back the consumers, the next generation may see yet another upheaval in the pecking order.

James Brightman

The introduction of Mark Cerny as lead architect on PS4 is hugely significant in my mind. With Cerny guiding the direction of the next-gen platform, we've witnessed a sea change within Sony, driven by Western sentiment and ease of development. Gone are the days of "crazy" Ken Kutaragi telling everyone what a system must be. According to Cerny, Sony actively sought out feedback from developers to make the PS4 incredibly developer friendly. This was very, very smart.

Sony appears to recognize that this isn't the same marketplace that PS3 launched into in 2006. The industry has changed enormously and Sony must contend not just with Microsoft and Nintendo, but iOS, Android and Steam. Sony needs developers more than developers need Sony and so it's in the company's best interest to do everything possible to attract them in droves. We'll see if that proves to be the case with PS4 in the long run, but what we saw and heard at the event was a very positive sign.

Capcom's big reveal was a new IP codenamed Deep Down, which seemed to have elements of Monster Hunter mixed with Dark Souls style presentation. No complaints there.

Capcom's big reveal was a new IP codenamed Deep Down, which seemed to have elements of Monster Hunter mixed with Dark Souls style presentation. No complaints there.

I'm also excited about the long-term potential of Gaikai, which could ultimately turn PlayStation into a cloud platform all by itself, making games available on consoles, handhelds, tablets or anywhere else. Admittedly there's a ways to go before this becomes reality, but at the very least, being able to demo practically any game on PS4 should be very appealing for consumers. And remote play on Vita has a lot of potential as well, if we're eventually able to use it away from the home.

Of course, the big question of price still remains, and that could make or break Sony. We won't know how much PS4 will cost for some time - in fact, Sony may not have decided internally yet - but let's keep our fingers crossed that the company learned a valuable lesson with PS3.

Dan Pearson

Sony's has always been a pretty broad church - it's the hallmark of any massively successful manufacturer - and in Wednesday night's show the corporation wisely did its very best to embrace that with a mixture of whimsy and spectacle. However, what it also managed, crucially, was to make sure that the PlayStation audience knew that this was a machine centred around games and the player. Yes, we saw a lot of social features and heard about all sorts of excitingly integrated media experiences, but games were very much at the centre of the presentation.

Key to that was the overt olive branch to developers with a return to familiar PC architecture after the heady and confusing days of the Cell. With Mark Cerny at the helm for the hardware development, Sony certainly believes that it has created a system which will attract talent from one-person studios to the world's biggest publishers - and wasn't afraid to bring them all onstage to prove it. Cerny's lengthy presentation was a clearly extended hand to the coders marginalised by the alien nature of the PS3's engineering.

"Giving Jonathan Blow centre stage to present The Witness, announcing PS4 console exclusivity at the same time, set out Sony's stall succinctly to indies."

Dan Pearson

We saw a lot of familiar faces, but giving Jonathan Blow centre stage to present The Witness, announcing PS4 console exclusivity at the same time, set out Sony's stall succinctly to indies. Despite the unpopular architecture of PS3, Sony was always spoken of as the better partner for indie developers, allowing self-publishing on PSN and avoiding much of the bureaucracy and cost associated with getting a game onto XBLA. Recognising the power of that showed a Sony ready to capitalise on its strengths and happy to dedicate a section of its time in the limelight to the people who make the games.

In a note released post-show, Jack Tretton reiterated the importance of this. "When we designed PlayStation 4," he wrote, "we focused on building an architecture that will allow the greatest game developers in the industry to push boundaries and dig deep within their imaginations to create the most immersive and unique games for you to enjoy." Obviously, developers were being courted here every bit as much as the consumer - a stance underlined by the swathe of celebrity coders singing the platform's praises. If Sony has in fact learned that lesson, and already has the ear of the people who'll be populating the PS4 catalogue, then it's moving in very much the right direction - now all it needs to do is win back that Monster Hunter licence from Nintendo...

Rachel Weber

I've always been a Sony fan girl. The original PlayStation was the first console I ever owned, I worked on the UK version of the Official PlayStation Magazine for 6 years, and I still prefer the sleek black curves of my PS3 to the chunky coffee table white sturdiness of the Xbox 360.

But it was with a belly full of butterflies that I watched the Sony live stream in bed last night. Would it be cool enough? Would it be, god help us, more Vita than victory? And it was an odd start, 40 minutes in and we'd only really seen an alarmingly wide-eyed Mark Cerny (is he a meme yet?) and a technically impressive but ultimately forgettable game called Knack.

Eric Hirshberg welcomed Bungie back into the lives of Playstation owners with Destiny, which will hit PS3 and PS4 on the same day.

Eric Hirshberg welcomed Bungie back into the lives of Playstation owners with Destiny, which will hit PS3 and PS4 on the same day.

But then the developers came on, and that was when I knew that Sony had us covered. Sure, no one is surprised that Media Molecule (hugs for everyone) or David Cage ("EMOTION") seemed excited by the machine, but Jonathan Blow does not strike me as a man who is happy to jump on stage and endorse a console unless he really means it. So many developers and publishers happy to put their name against it, some genuinely exciting and varied games, somewhere a Wii U product manager was weeping into their Toad plush.

The social stuff was impressive too, although I'm exhausted by the very thought of having to maintain yet another witty and endearing profile. And while it might not be for the misanthropic gamer, the video sharing suggests Sony has realised that it's not 2001 anymore, and that next generation of gamers only care about what they can watch and what they can play. When they're not sexting each other, obviously.

As for all the people moaning about The Last Guardian no show? It's time to let that catdogbird go dudes. I know what I'm asking Santa for this year, and he's going to need to pre-order.

More stories

Deathloop leads 2022 GDC awards with six nominations including GOTY

Adventure title It Takes Two grabs five as racing simulator Forza Horizon 5 follows with four category considerations

By Jeffrey Rousseau

Geoff Keighley says Activision Blizzard 'will not be part' of The Game Awards

Call of Duty is up for two awards, but no other games from the company will feature at this year's event

By Danielle Partis

Latest comments (18)

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
My Impressions were very positive... I just want to find out a bit more concerning backwards compatibility, with my PS3 games and evolution of PSN. I dont know if my current PSN account can be upgraded or will there be a new seperate network, in which case Id like my download list and purchases transfered to the new one. This is why I dont like digital downloads, cause once the network isnt supported you basically lose everything youve purchased from it. Im also awaiting news regarding price.

But honestly, when sony said that the living room was no longer the center of gaming and that the center was now the gamer, that was music to my ears, they hit the right notes with me, and too me this is a sign that they have learned from there past mistakes and no longer look at the playststion brand as just to make money but also satisfy the needs of a particular demographic of people passionate about one thing... playing games.

As of now SONY stated that they will not support PS3 backwards compatibility. The reason is because of the framwork and hardware arquitecture is different, because of the cell procesor. I understand that. But The way I see it, The console is powerful enough to do backwards compatibility through emulation. I was also wondering if Gaikai can run an app that can emulate a PS1-PS3 enviroment from the cloud.

I have a substantial PS3 library, would like to see it supported. It would be cool that with every new game purchase you had access to a digital version.

They no longer are out to just create a box that can do everything and be the center of a household. The whole conference... the feel i got was just right... it was PERFECT... it was centered around players/gamers and satisfying there needs, wants, wishes and desires. And everything revolved around that. It was great... i have many more thoughts but i feel i laid it all out in a post I made here incase you wanna read... its pretty long.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rick Lopez on 22nd February 2013 12:32pm

5Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Caleb Hale Journalist 8 years ago
It was the best next-gen console introduction I've seen so far, although I only have Nintendo's Wii U announcement by which to judge.

I'm glad Sony focused on the games. Of the titles they showed, there didn't seem to be a throwaway experience in them. The talk about developer-centric and consumer-focused hit all the right notes, but it is nothing but talk until PlayStation 4 delivers on this interconnected, quickfire ecosystem of gaming.

If Sony is going to relegate the PS Vita to an extension of the PS4, I don't know that's going to do much to help sales of the unit as a standalone device. Even if the promise of streaming the entire PlayStation library to a handheld comes true, it still doesn't make the Vita an essential piece of the puzzle.

Personally, I'm sold, but I've enjoyed the PlayStation brand since the late '90s. Now, I don't know the PS4 is necessarily going to sway people dedicated to the Xbox platform. You've got to imagine Microsoft is building a machine with similar capabilities. Ultimately, I think this has become, not necessarily a battle of exclusive games, but of ecosystems, where you and your friends prefer to play. In that respect, the heavy social media features built into PS4 aren't just something for gamers to share personal achievements, it's a way to put game footage mixed with peer pressure out onto the social networks, where they are bound to profit from the exposure.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Al Rhodes Web producer/designer 8 years ago
You cannot watch the trailer for Killzone: Shadow Fall without a slight gasp of awe (blood and violence aside, it looks like a Pixar movie) and the prospect of playing Bunjie's Destiny has now become an ever present itch in the back of my mind like the first time I played Phantasy Star Online on Sega Dreamcast. Yes I am not all that concerned about the launch games as I already feel developers flocking to the platform following last night's dev fest of a presentation. Destiny and a PS4 would suffice enough for me for a start.

That said, Infamous: Second Son and Deep Down left me cold and a bit meh! What impressed me most of all was not the tech spec or the blurry looking (in my browser anyway) showcase renderings but the gamers' wish list:

always online - super-fast starts - caching the machine exactly where you turned off - asking friends to jump in and take control of your game when you are stuck (or help out if asked) - instant sharing of gameplay video - in effect the complete social integration of the machine

I even liked the glimpses of interface, rare as they were. I may (and I repeat only MAY) actually consider getting a Vita at some point, now I can see there is a genuine benefit to owning one beyond playing cut down versions of better games. I have always thought the PS3 desktop was looking very dated ever since Xbox launched avatars and revamped the 360.

It would be inconceivable that you cannot simply transfer your PSN ID over to the new network and unlikely that they would not do a similar thing to your download list. Cost will have an effect of course but now we know consoles last 7 years or more, and not 2 or 3 like they used to, people will be more willing to invest. An iPad is £500+ and it doesn't even do half the things a PC can. Besides, I do not think people will let their PS3s go for quite some time yet.

The only thing I thought was weird was the camera to (did I get this right) 'see the controllers better'. Has anyone ever had their PS3 not see their controller? Notably I have not seen the outside of the box yet and do not care.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (18)
Yiannis Koumoutzelis Founder & Creative Director, Neriad Games8 years ago
am i the only one who saw non antialiased stuff and boxes as buildings in killzone? the hardware specs are impressive, but i can't remember a single game that stood out for its graphics except Destiny, Deep Down, and for its originality that very interesting media molecule creativity software. i am definitely hopeful, but i wouldn't say impressed.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paul Jace Merchandiser 8 years ago
I found the conference itself quite boring and way too long at 2 hours. But I saw some interesting things(an actual console wasn't one of them). Interestingly enough the only two games I cared about were multiplatform(Watch Dogs and Destiny) and in the case of Destiny thats suppose to be launching on the 360 a good 6 to 12 months before any other system. But the terms of that deal may have changed since it was first initially revealed.

As a core gamer I will absolutely be purchasing a PS4....eventually. But last night they didn't show me a single exclusive game/feature/reason that I would want to purchase this system at launch. I know there will be much more revealed in the coming months but I have a feeling this isn't going to become a day one purchase for me.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Set the bar quite low for MS to compete again.
Was surprised by the admittance the hardware is still so fluid!
Major questions of Cloud approach and the deployment in Online Poor territories
The low performance factor and the period of PS3 dependance in the sales plan against full PS4 support will haunt them.

This was a two hour apology for getting PS3 wrong!
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Daniel Hughes Studying PhD Literary Modernism, Bangor University8 years ago
I'm excited by the potential, but not yet sold on the software, which ultimately means I won't be lining up to buy the system at launch. There's time for that to change between now and E3, but right now, for me, the highlights are Watch Dogs and Destiny, and I can enjoy those without purchasing a new system. That being said, it's great to see such a well-conceived message coming from Sony. This is far, far removed from the PS3 hubris and that can only be a good thing for the industry.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
John McCaul Web Developer, DevPhase.Net8 years ago
I'm with you on that Kevin. Downloads and installs simply should never have been an issue for a console. The improved caching doesn't sell me the system and I wasn't that thrilled on the games. It was good seeing support from devs like square enix, capcom, blizzard and I'm happy they showed us what Sony's own studios are up to but nothing got me really excited. In saying that it seems the system has a better focus than the ps3 had.
@Rick eurogamer have confirmed current psn games and save files will not transfer to the ps4. Which makes me assume they are creating a new network from scratch. For me that's a bad call. What was the point of an account system when you can't even take your content with you into a new generation of hardware?
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam8 years ago
@John - Given that PS4 isn't back compatible with PS3 games (which is really annoying), it's not surprising PS3 PSN titles won't transfer across either. However, the report is pretty brief and vague.

I would certainly hope that PS1 and PS2 games I own digitally on my PS3 will transfer across to PS4, as they should be able to emulate those fine. This is something Sony normally do - I can play PS1 games from PSN on PSP, PS3 and (if I owned one) Vita without having to buy them separately each time, so I assume they'll do something similar for PS4, if those games are available on PS4.

Also, as all my PS3 save game data is already backed up on the PS+ cloud storage, it isn't entirely outside the bounds of possibility that Sony may be able to transfer that data across from one server to another if and when they start supporting streaming PS3 games to PS4 through Gaikai.

Guess we'll have to wait and see what happens, but I very much doubt they'd create a whole new network just for PS4 when they have a large existing PSN user base on PS3, PSP and Vita that could transfer across to the new device, just like in the past, and Vita at least is still actively supported by Sony.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd8 years ago
@ Yannis You aren't the only one. KZ4 is technically incredibly unimpressive, with pre-rendered cloth animations (instead of calculated by any sort of actual physics engine), scripted smoke, scripted explosions, scripted everything... current gen games already are on a higher level than that. Watch Dogs as well is way above that.

@ Rachel Perhaps you forgot that Nintendo had that exact same developer reel in their conference, full of pledged support, claims of design excellence, and empty promises? Not saying that'll go as bad for Sony (it obviously won't, third parties kind of hate Nintendo and Sony caters almost exclusively to the teen-to-twenties males who they sell the vast majority of their games to), but developer testimonials are a silly measure of success.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nicholas Pantazis on 22nd February 2013 8:04pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
KZ3 [assuming you mean 4, Shadow Fall] is technically incredibly unimpressive.
Yeaaaah... whatever, mate.

Here's a 1080p version of the demo.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Laurens Bruins on 22nd February 2013 4:07pm

1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd8 years ago
I've watched it Laurens, and it looks good, but not from a technical perspective. There's nothing in there that wasn't for example, in Crysis 2 on PC (which was already not doing things that Crysis 1 did on PC). It's incredibly scripted, and lacks anything like the dynamic lighting and advanced physics I was hoping for.

I'm not saying there are no PS4 games that look better, but of the bunch Killzone 4 was the least impressive. Capcoms, Square Enix's, and Epic's tech demos were all better (mind you converting that into in-game performance is not always doable), and Watch Dogs was MUCH better. Just saying this is far from what the PS4 should be capable of, and I'm surprised people who develop games for a living or analyze tech for a living (like Digital Foundry) are not more savvy or aware of the faults. Do new systems really require we put on those rose-tinted fanboy glasses every time?
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
I don't know what to say. You are either blind or you don't know what you are talking about. ;)
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Private Industry 8 years ago
While there are some omissions regarding AA missing at times in the Killzone demo, based on a 9 minutes demo there is no saying if cloth animations are physics based or not although there where 1 or 2 non scripted grenade explosions that seem to have an effect on how the flags moved. For a launch game it shows a good improvement over Killzone regarding the visuals with the game looking a lot sharper, improved particle effects and the depth of field effects have been greatly improved. The last part of the demo was for sure not unimpressive as it highlighted that the city seen in the beginning doesn`t just consist of 2D backdrops but rather that it`s actually full with 3D objects (obviously I`m sure each building has only a small poly count). I like the Killzone series and I look forward to the game and what they showed was only a 9 minutes demo of a game that is currently said to come out Holiday 2013 and that means it`s like 9 months away.

I`m not sure what people expect from a launch game and I think people have unrealistic expectations. We are not talking about PC`s where a new graphics card comes out and you just adapt your Engine to what the new graphics card can do. We are talking about a console that changed from proprietary hardware to a new architecture that appears to be completely different. Companies like GG who had a highly optimized Engine just for the PS3 can scrap it and start at zero because the hardware is completely different and the Engine wouldn`t work. Watch Dogs runs on an Engine that`s not created specifically for the PS3 and they use it since AC and improved on it over time and they didn`t need to start from scratch for the PS4.

Just compare any launch game for any console with games that came out 2-3 years after the console launch or close to the end of the console and there is a huge difference in graphics and feature sets. I just need to look at Resistance the first one when it came out looked ok for it`s time, if you look at it now and compare it to Resistance 3 it doesn`t look good at all and doesnt play as well gameplay wise. All the games 1st Party and 3rd Party always make huge leaps between their launch games and the games that come out a few years after that.

I don`t see the problem with having scripted events in games. Killzone so far was always a focused singleplayer experience that was well directed and not an open world game where you could freely run around and do what you want. Even the Half Life games have a lot of scripted events. I like games that have a focused campaign with scripted events and I like games that let you freely run around in an open world with barely any scripted events. The game needs to be good at what it tries to be. If the game tries to be a well directed and focused roller coaster with lots of set pieces and achieves this by having scripted events that`s fine for me. You don`t like scripted events so it should have been obvious from the start that the next Killzone was announced that it wasn`t a game for you because it wouldnt have what you would be looking for. It`s like if you would go to the cinema and the only thing you want to watch is a comedy and you buy a ticket for The Impossible and complain about the movie afterwards for not being a comedy.

Crytek is working on it`s engine since over 6 years constantly upgrading it (similar to the advantage Watch Dogs has with using the Anvil Engine). Comparing it with a new engine for a game that is supposed to be a launch game for a new console with a completely new architecture compared to the last console is not a proper comparison plus the Crysis games are not well optimized. They are playable tech demos for what the best gaming PC`s can accomplish at the time of the game being released.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
GameSpot asked Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida in a quickfire Q&A not if PS4 would block used games but whether second hand games will require an activation code on the console.

His answer: “It's a publisher decision. We are not talking about it. Sorry.”
MCV 23/2/13

This kind of double talk and dancing round a lie is making me very sick of the current executive structure.

Now we hear that most of the cloud gaming presented over the 2-hour marathon was "aspirational" and may not ALL be ready for launch and I am getting that "Colonial Marines' feeling about a lot of the smoke and mirrors from the trade.

Face facts, Sony released a PC style console for simple development and controlled (restricted) player use allowing blocking of content but washing their hands. If they drop the ball then the audience will abandon them in droves for a super powered PC rig, while the less savvy will stick to casual gaming on decks!

It all hinges on XB720 teaser to see if E3 will be a wail or a whimper!

Edited 2 times. Last edit by kevin williams on 23rd February 2013 12:54pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
I'm not sure if its been discussed to death, but logically, why block out used content, if it helps entrench a existing user base?
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Private Industry 8 years ago
They already said during the event that it might not be all there at launch and possibly features will be rolled out later, they never gave the impression that everything will be there at launch. Given the amount and probably the complexity it would have been naive anyway to think it would be all there at launch even if they wouldn`t have pointed out that they don`t know yet what will be available straight away.

I don`t see what would stop any company now to block used games on current gen, technically you could make instead of an online pass just generally a code that you would need to download an unlock file for the complete game instead of just the MP.

So if the PS4 wouldn`t support used games it would force people to move to a systems thats a lot more expensive that blocks 100% off all used games?
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Jace Cisnero Games/Level Designers 8 years ago
The only thing I see is that they renamed Start and Select.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.