Why the PlayStation 4 Announcement Was So Damn DisappointingA column article by: Nick Boisson
We here at Comics Bulletin Games love video games quite a bit. We also have quite a bit to say about them, but are usually held to the restrictions of reviews, news and other various outlets. But, what if we were given a platform to discuss whatever we would like to about video games without the filter? A soapbox, if you will.
Welcome to Infinite Ammo, where we provide the weapon and the writer can load it with whatever words they choose!
The PlayStation 4 may very well be an interesting device, but if there were one company that left me feeling very underwhelmed the evening of its announcement, it was Sony.
On January 31st, the official PlayStation Blog announced that they would share with us all the “future of PlayStation” on February 20th at 6pm EST. The Internet ran rampant with speculation of what the new PlayStation system would look like, whether Sony would allow used games to be played on it, whether the system would use physical disks at all, if our PS3 and PlayStation Network games would be backwards compatible on the new PlayStation...the rumors and postulations were all over the Internet. Then, February 20th arrived.
Now, if you didn't see the announcement live that evening, some interesting things were said and shown off. Mark Cerny – a legend in the industry – is the PlayStation 4's system architect, a huge change since it was Ken Kutaragi who had designed the first three consoles and made a lot of Internet dwelling enemies after suggesting that those who wanted to afford the PlayStation 3 at launch should get a second job. Mark Cerny is easily a step in the right direction. He is not just one of the most knowledgeable persons in the video game industry, but just an all-around passionate one at that. He began talking about the PlayStation 4 being the console built for the game developer and even introduced a video with many developers giving their figurative approval stamp on Sony's newest box. He talked about the tech and Sony's new PlayStation Network that will go along with it. Mark Cerny had sold me on the PlayStation 4 by his mere enthusiasm for it on stage. Unfortunately for Sony, there were two hours more of that announcement that made me rethink everything that Sony said they were going to do with this console generation.
First and foremost, Cerny had said that this was a developer's console; that there would be a plethora of new and interesting intellectual property that would burst right out of the console at launch. And when Cerny showed off his new title, Knack, I was ready for all the other amazing content that Sony would be showing off. But, that was it. The next game following Knack was a new Killzone title from Guerilla Games, because a new PlayStation system can't be announced without a Killzone title slowly lurking behind it. Then, Sucker Punch's Nate Fox came out and started talking about a world where we have no privacy and the big brother is out to get you. I had no idea where he was going with it, but I was excited to see what new IP Sucker Punch was about to share with us in this new generation. But when the trailer starts to play, you realize what it was: a new Infamous title, Infamous: Second Son. Really, Sucker Punch?! Another Infamous game? Now, I like the Infamous titles. I really do. But I also loved the Sly Cooper franchise. When Sucker Punch announced that they were leaving my favorite video game raccoon to focus on a comic book superhero-styled action/adventure game, I was completely on board. New generation, new IP. What happened this time around?
And it didn't end there. Destiny, Watch Dogs, Square Enix's announcement of an announcement of a new Final Fantasy game? We have seen all of this before! Destiny has been in development for over two years, we knew that Watch Dogs was coming out and of fucking course there will be a new Final Fantasy title. If the Wii had taught us anything, it is that new hardware does not matter. They don't. What matters is software. The Wii sold a ton of consoles in the beginning, but was plagued by poor software sales its entire run. People want new games and they will not fall for buying a new system that won't deliver. Nintendo's Wii U is proving this point very well currently. The system launched with eighteen games and, four months later, there are still less than thirty on the system, and the Wii U sales are softer than Bill Clinton on a date night with the wife (making topical jokes like it's 1999!). Gamers want games! If this is the PS4 launch lineup, color me underwhelmed.
Before showing off the games, though, Cerny shared the DualShock 4 controller. Has Sony Entertainment been living underneath a bridge since the turn of the century? Beside the “Share” button and the touch pad (which we still know nothing about nor how a game will implement it), it's the DualShock 3. It still looks like an ergonomic nightmare. When Sony created the DualShock line, it was never intended to be comfortable. They needed to add two analog sticks and their only option was to place them in the lower middle area. This was way back in the late-1990s when dual analog sticks were just not done; there was no real need for them. But, as games have evolved, so have the controllers. All but Sony's, of course. The design for the DualShock 4 is the same as it was for the original DualShock. Now, I love my PlayStation 3, but I hate playing shooters on it. The analog sticks are too close to one another and the left analog stick has no business being so low. Not to mention that the controller itself does not fit to one's hands in any comfortable way. It sure looks pretty, but I will never select style over functionality. Had Sony simply switched the D-pad and left analog stick placements, I'd think that the DualShock 4 might be the best controller since the Sega Dreamcast (the VMU was the business). But keeping your old, uncomfortable design out of fear of alienating fanboys is not the way to make a new console. And really, this exemplifies what makes the announcement of the PlayStation 4 so disappointing.
Change is something that we cannot stop. We can't. All we can really hope to do change along with the times and make sure that you are not left twisting in the wind. What frightened me most about the PlayStation 4 announcement wasn't the lack of new IP or the stupid controller, but the lack of change that they were claiming to make. Sure, getting Mark Cerny to be the lead architect on your new system shows that you are leaning in the right direction, but this conference was just more and more and more of the same stuff I can play right now. What I fear about the overall statement that Sony was making here is that this is less a brand new generation with brand new concepts and brand new ways to make my games fun, but more an extension of the current console cycle. And with everything else in every other entertainment medium in an everlasting state of respite, I was hoping that the medium that has gone through many a permutation would do what I had desperately craved for: show me something that I had not seen yet. Other than David Cage having an old man digitally creep me out, I just didn't get that.
A special thanks to Rev3Games for the videos!
Pop culture geek, Nick Boisson, lives in front of his computer, where he is Section Editor of Comics Bulletin's video game appendage and shares his slushily obsessive love of video games, comics, television and film with the Internet masses. In the physical realm, he works in Guest Relations for Florida Supercon in Miami as well as a day-to-day job, which he refuses to identify to the public. We're thinking something in-between confidential informant and professional chum-scrubber.