Where does he get those wonderful toys?
Tonight at 11PM (Wednesday 20th Feb) the Playstation 4 is going to be announced at a special Sony media event. This isn’t official of course, but so much has been leaked it’s almost a certainty. You’ll be able to watch the whole thing at a slew of sites (we’ll be watching it at IGN or Gametrailers) but here’s what we expect to see.
I imagine today they’ll be showing off four things:
1) The hardware
This may sound obvious but console developers have often been secretive about the look of their console until quite late in the game due to manufacturing concerns and changing designs. With the big developers this isn’t really possible anymore as with a release this year the manufacturing process will already have started. Also, with Sony’s focus on the living room they’ll want us to know how the new hardware is going to look. We already know roughly what’s inside it and it’s not terribly exciting, basically a mid-range gaming PC except for the processor with many cores, with a 50GB Blu Ray drive and a bundled EyeToy. The specs don’t matter too much because it’ll be capable of the industry-standard DirectX11 at 1080p at 30fps and once developers start getting to know it we might even see some squeezing 60fps out of the machine which is all we could ask for. With those specs we won’t be seeing 4K gaming in any serious way or even 1080p60 3D, but it’ll be a nice step up from the current generation. Anything more powerful than this would lead to the console costing closer to £1000 and I’m sure after the last generation all the manufacturers are keeping a close eye on reliability. So no, the specs don’t really matter and won’t bring any surprises; what’s really interesting the look of the console. Will the EyeToy be part of the actual console? I’m guessing not as you really have to be able to move those things about, I’m guessing the PS4 will go for square angles like Sony’s recent Blu-Ray players. It’s a nice look and definitely something a little bit different.
The other part of the hardware is the controller, and that will be interesting to say the least. We’ve already seen the dev kit model and it’s got a Move sensor on the top and a 2-inch touchpad where the PS button used to be. Since those have basically been slotted into the Dualshock 3 it looks a little ugly at the moment. Here’s hoping for a more elegant solution, I’m rather taken by the Wii U gamepad and the 360 controller, Sony controllers have never felt right to me.
2. The Price
I wouldn’t have expected a price announcement yet, especially with the volatile financial sector and big sellers such as HMV and Game still on the ropes but we’ve heard the American pricing already and it looks like we’re going to be getting two models, one at around £300 and the higher one at something like £350-400. This is cheaper than I had originally expected but is a lot more affordable than the company’s past efforts. This isn’t the powerhouse that the PS3 was, and Blu-Ray players are much cheaper nowadays, I believe that has been reflected. For your money I’m guessing you’ll simply get the console, one controller, and one month subscription to the new PSN service that will require you to pay monthly after that. I can’t imagine you’ll get any games bundled with it unless it’s something like the welcome park you get with the Vita. No doubt when we get closer to the real launch there’ll be new bundles with some of the high-profile games. Expect games and controllers to be around £50 each.
3. The Release Date
From what we’ve heard, you can get your hands on the PS4 in November, now the exact date is a little harder to predict. Traditionally the new Call of Duty game will release on the 12th November, and I can’t imagine they’ll want to miss out on the new console, so my bet is that the PS4 and possibly even the Xbox 720 will both release in the first couple of weeks of November. Thanksgiving is right near the end of the month and no-one in their right mind would release too close to Black Friday, and I’m assuming they wouldn’t want to share a release date with COD. My prediction is 5th November for the US and 8th November for the UK.
4. The Games
For anyone who has been following the news about these consoles, the games are the only thing we’re really excited about. We’ve known about the hardware for a while, and the price and release date have been fairly predictable (although happily a little cheaper and sooner than expected) but what we don’t know is which games are going to be launching with the console. Nowadays developer’s like to use the phrase ‘launch window’ because inevitably not all the games being worked on at the moment will avoid any delays. But here’s a list of the games I expect to be playing on my PS4 before Christmas.
Wipeout – Nothing shows off new technology like a Wipeout game, and with the supposed social media functionality (being able to stream gameplay and watch your friends’ gameplay at will) I think a racing game will be a good fit. Gran Turismo 6 won’t be ready in time so Wipeout it will be. Expect 1080p60, full 3D, an array of different controls, a cockpit cam for streaming (superimpose a camera image of you playing into a cockpit in the corner of the screen) and microtransactions. That might sound cynical but I can’t wait.
Star Wars 1313 – This was the first next-gen game to be announced and I’m hoping that’s a sign that it’s not too far off release. I’m sure it will be a predictable 3rd person romp, but it’ll give us a chance to see what the hardware is capable of and everybody loves a bit of gritty Star Wars.
LittleBigPlanet 3 – I know it hasn’t been long since the second one but again LBP seems like a perfect vehicle to show off new technology, particularly online features. I’ve got no idea what they could do to expand on the slightly tired formula but here’s hoping for something special.
Call of Duty, Madden, Fifa – these games will be on it, although I doubt any of them (except perhaps COD) will be shown tonight. They’ll be announced through the usual methods and I’m sure they’ll be fun and uninteresting.
Something beautiful from ThatGameCompany – Journey was one of the standout games from last year and I can’t think of anyone better to get serious gamers more excited about a new console. I think they’ll be showing off something spectacular, possibly as the free ‘welcome’ type game that comes with the console, or at least a PSN exclusive to launch the new shop.
An MMO type game – This will be the big reveal I think. Consoles need to get on top of microtransactions and DLC just isn’t cutting it anymore. It’s clunky and awkward, check out our looks at Lord of the Rings Online for a glimpse of what real microtransactions should be. You pick something you want, you press a button and it’s yours. Yes it’s a dangerous way to spend money but it can really benefit a game and provide a decent revenue for more unusual games. Due to the inherent character customisation and grindy nature of MMOs they seem like the perfect fit. There’s not been many on consoles (I can only think of FFXI, PS:O and DCU:O) but I think this gen will see a few come to the home console space. It’s just hard to predict which one. It could be a new IP of course, but that owuld be difficult given the already crowded market. Timing wise it could be Elder Scrolls: Online, or much more likely in my eyes it will be something similar to DayZ, with a persistent world but without the tropes of the MMORPG genre. It could even be the DayZ Standalone.
Wouldn’t that explain why we haven’t heard much about it even though it was supposed to come out before Christmas?
Update: This is why I shouldn’t make predictions. I guess they want to save some announcements for E3 but really the only thing we got right was the MMO with Destiny. Thoughts on the announcement will be posted tomorrow.