Why the PlayStation 4 should have Microsoft worried

first_imgCan the Xbox 720 match the PS Vita screen-sharing feature?Nvidia garnered attention last month with its Project Shield handheld announcement. With Project Shield you can stream PC games to the handheld device, or use Shield as a controller and play using a large-screen TV. It’s an interesting idea, and one Sony decided to copy.If you own a PS4 and a PS Vita you will be able to stream your PS4 games, movies, and music to the PS Vita, meaning the TV is freed up to do something else. It’s one of the better features Nintendo included on the Wii U GamePad, and it’s something Microsoft will have to scramble to compete with if the Xbox team hasn’t already done so.There’s a good chance the Xbox 720 will have a similar ability made available through smartphones and tablets, but Microsoft doesn’t have a handheld gaming device. That’s key, because if you stream a PS4 game to PS Vita you have access to a control set similar to a DualShock. Microsoft doing the same to touchscreen devices means limiting the player to using touchscreen controls. That’s not going to work well for a lot of titles.Verdict: By having a dedicated handheld gaming device Sony has a clear advantage over Microsoft for remote play game streaming.The PS4 is not an always-connected consoleRumors have been circulating that the new Xbox 720 is going to require an internet connection in order to function. There was also a worry Sony would require the same for the PS4. However, even though there’s a strong focus on online and social integration, Sony has confirmed you can use the PS4 offline.If the Xbox 720 does turn out to be an always-connected device, this is a big plus point in Sony’s favor. Nobody likes being forced to maintain a connection in order to play.Verdict: The PlayStation 4 is not an always-connected console. If the Xbox 720 is, Microsoft is at a clear disadvantage.Sony had Bungie and Blizzard working on PS4 gamesA few years ago talk of Bungie appearing at a Sony event would of had you laughed out the room. But yesterday that’s what happened. Bungie used to be a developer Microsoft could count on for exclusive, multi-million-selling games. Now it has to share them with a rival. To rub salt into the wound, Bungie also announced that they would be producing exclusive content for Destiny on PS4. It may be the case that the Xbox 720 also gets exclusive content, but Sony got to announce it first.Another first came in the form of Blizzard appearing on stage. Unfortunately, it was only to announce Diablo III is coming to PS4, but this is still a positive because this looks to be more than just a one-game deal. Blizzard stated a “strategic partnership” had been formed with Sony, paving the way for StarCraft and maybe even an MMO to appear on Sony’s console from the studio. With Sony’s embrace of streaming live feeds and game spectating at the push of a button, I can see StarCraft tournaments turning into a major event watched on a PS4 in the future.Verdict: Sony convinced Bungie and Blizzard to back PS4, removing any chance of Microsoft getting either studios’ games signed as exclusives for Xbox 720.A very healthy selection of exclusive gamesIt doesn’t matter how good your hardware looks, if you’re launching a console and don’t have any games people want to play your machine is dead on arrival. The good news is, Sony looks like it has a pretty strong line-up of games, and importantly, some strong exclusives, too.All the bases seem to have been covered — FPS (Killzone: Shadow Fall, Destiny), 3rd person action (Watch Dogs, InFamous Second Son, Deep Down), driving (Driveclub), indie (The Witness), action RPG (Diablo III), and a first-party title that can appeal to all age ranges (Knack). If they are all launch titles, we can already count Sony as having a strong launch.Alongside the games mentioned above, we also got to see some interesting games for the future. Quantic Dream demonstrated what the PS4 hardware could achieve in terms of believable character rendering, where as Media Molecule had a demo that seemed to excite the most people as well as managing to use the PS Move controller effectively.I’m sure many more PS4 games will be revealed over the coming months (such as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt which was confirmed as coming to Sony’s new console today). There’s no killer blow here for Microsoft, but Sony has some very strong exclusives that importantly cover a range of genres. That should help attract more gamers to the platform. It’s also a given that Sony will match Microsoft on the multi-format releases due to the hardware platforms being so similar.Verdict: Sony looks to have a strong line-up of games coming, including a number of exclusives that cover a range of genres. Microsoft needs to have a similarly strong line-up of Xbox-only games.No price announcement is a clever move by SonyWhen the PlayStation Meeting ended last night without Sony showing us what the PS4 console looked like or how much it cost, I was initially a little angry. Having slept on it, I’m still upset they didn’t show us the console, but not telling us a price actually make a lot of sense and is a clever move.The PS4 is using x86 components and doesn’t include any dedicated hardware simply to support backwards compatibility. That should keep costs down, and will certainly allow the machine to be cheaper than the PS3 was when it first launched. A cheaper machine gives Sony more room to maneuver on price point, which can be set much closer to the Holiday 2013 launch date.By waiting to announce a price, Sony can play a wait-and-see game and counter whatever price Microsoft sets for the Xbox 720. Depending on what that is, Sony may be able to undercut Microsoft, or at least match its rival. Announcing a price now would offer Microsoft that advantage and therefore makes no sense to reveal.Verdict: By not announcing a price Sony is attempting to force Microsoft to jump first and then potentially undercut the Xbox 720. A clever tactic that could really pay off at launch.Sony has succeeded in putting all the pressure and focus on MicrosoftThe PS4 announcement can only be seen as a successful introduction to the new machine. I think most people will watch the presentation and walk away hopeful Sony has produced a console we all want to buy. And that’s all Sony could have hoped to achieve beyond announcing a price and a launch date.The pressure and focus is now firmly on Microsoft to not just equal, but exceed what Sony has promised. Can the Xbox 720 better the PS4? In terms of hardware I think Microsoft can only equal Sony. In terms of game streaming, sharing, and remote play I don’t think they have an equivalent to Gaikai, and for games, we have to hope Microsoft has signed some great exclusives to sit alongside the inevitable Halo and Gears of War titles.Verdict: Sony has set the bar high. Microsoft really needs to have a killer Xbox 720 launch event planned. The PlayStation 4 announcement yesterday was, for the most part, quite positive both for Sony and gamers. In fact, it’s fair to say Sony presented a compelling new platform, unlike Nintendo who left us scratching our heads after that initial Wii U announcement last year.Have no doubt that Microsoft was watching last night. The PS4 is sure to have the Xbox team worried because Sony seems to have delivered, and delivered potentially beyond what Microsoft can achieve with the Xbox 720.Lets take a look at what Sony did right and what should make the PS4 more than a match for whatever new Xbox Microsoft roles out in the next few months.The PS4 is a true next-gen machine in terms of its hardwareThe hardware specs of the PS4 have still to be revealed, but what Sony did detail paints a picture of a very capable, future-proof machine.Think about your high-end PCs today. They carry a 4- to 8-core processor, a graphics card with 1-4GB RAM on board, and 4-16GB of system memory. The PS4 uses an AMD 8-core CPU, a custom high-end Radeon GPU, and 8GB of unified GDDR5 memory. So it should easily cope with anything thrown at today’s gaming PCs and then some.An 8-core processor, high-end Radeon GPU, and GDDR5 memory is at the top end of what is affordable to include in a system today. You can spend a lot of money on a PC and not get better. It’s therefore highly unlikely Microsoft can better that, so at best they will match it. In fact, that’s what the rumors about the Xbox 720 have been predicting — an 8-core CPU, custom DX11 GPU, and 8GB RAM.Verdict: Performance of the PS4 and Xbox 720 is going to be very similar, neither system will have a clear advantage.Developing games for PS4 will be relatively easySony has dumped the Cell architecture and moved to x86, which will be music to the ears of developers. Developing games for the PS4 will be much easier because of this shift, and easy development means shorter development cycles, less reliance on getting actual PS4 dev kits for those all important early game releases, and therefore lower costs involved overall.For the larger publishers and developers out there, it’s not just important to have access to performance hardware, they also want development of a single title on different systems simultaneously to be as easy as possible. With the hardware in both the PS4 and Xbox 720 expected to be very similar, developing a game to launch on both systems should be much easier than current gen machines. Sony wins big here though, because it suffered early in the life of the PS3 when the same game was compared on both system and the PS3 usually came up short due to its complex architecture and difficult development process.Verdict: By moving to x86 Sony has leveled the playing field for developers. Expect multi-format releases to look and perform the same on the PS4 and Xbox 720.Gaikai offers features Microsoft simply doesn’t have access toIt came as a surprise when Sony decided to pay $380 million to acquire Gaikai last year, but yesterday’s unveiling made the reason why very clear. Simply put, Gaikai offers Sony access to technology that allows for some unique features on the PS4.The most compelling of these was outlined by Dave Perry: the ability to instantly play a game without the need to download or even purchase it. Stream-before-you-buy is sure to be very popular with gamers, and it’s something Microsoft won’t be able to offer for the Xbox 720. Unless they’ve been hard at work creating their own solution using Azure, Microsoft simply doesn’t have the equivalent technology Gaikai offers Sony.Backwards compatibility, although not a launch feature, was promised by Perry, too. And not just compatibility with some previous generation games, Sony wants all PS1, 2, 3, and PS Mobile titles available on PS4. Can Microsoft offer the same on Xbox 720? If it can, it certainly won’t be as easy or cheap as simply streaming games.Verdict: Gaikai offers PS4 something unique that it would be surprising to see Microsoft come anywhere near emulating on the Xbox.Next page: Xbox 720 vs. Vita screen-sharing…last_img read more

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