News, Views, and Reviews
At the beginning of the month, Sony announced they would reveal something new about “the future of PlayStation” on February 20th. This is going to be a big, private show, in New York City, attendance by invitation only. Naturally, those in attendance will be broadcasting what they learn on the internet, and I can’t wait! Many are convinced that Sony will show off their new PlayStation 4 console. I posted a blog yesterday and listed my predictions for Sony’s event, and I focused more on services and features than hardware. I still think some of these services will be revealed, because at this point, it’s rumored that there’s not much point in making a hardware announcement. The next Xbox and the next PlayStation are said to be so similar, the two brands will need other methods to differentiate themselves.
But then these photos surfaced, depicting a prototype for Sony’s PlayStation 4 controller. Recent rumors were confirmed by this photo, primarily, that such a controller revision was being planned in the first place. These rumors mentioned the possibility of a touch-screen panel in the center of the controller, and that seems to be the case. Another rumor deals with some sort of “share” button that will allow gamers to upload recent footage of their game playing sessions to the internet. The cloud-game streaming service OnLive has a “brag clip” feature already. Sony’s recent purchase of game streaming company GaiKai suggests that the PlayStation Network might get a similar feature, hence the rumors the new PS4 controller would have a “share” button on it. Personally, I think the two un-identified buttons flanking the touch-screen are probably just the Select and Start buttons, but we’ll see.
There was also a little speculation that the redesigned PS4 controller would include some sort of support for the PlayStation Move motion sensing system. The Move works by pairing the “Eye Toy” – a small camera and microphone device – with specially designed Move controllers. The Move controller has a brightly lit ball on the end, and that camera can track its location in 3D space. The controller is also motion sensitive. Combining the “ball tracking” and motion sensing of the controller provides Move enabled games to pretty accurately detect the player’s movements. Early design pictures were “leaked” depicting a normal PlayStation controller with bright balls on top, and that fueled the rumors the PS4 controller would include Move support. I thought those pictures were ridiculous. So, I’m glad to see a more streamlined, subtle light on the top of the controller instead. This does suggest, then, that Sony plans to continue developing games that have Move functions, and I would imagine each PS4 would have to be sold with the Eye Toy to make that possible.
I’m not aware of any rumors or speculation regarding the input and speaker at the bottom of the controller. That is a little bit of a surprise. One of the criticisms of the PS3 was that it wasn’t sold with a way of communicating with others online. Headsets were available, but they were sold separately. The Xbox 360 included a headset with each Xbox sold. Some may have chosen not to use it, but there was a higher number of people using voice chat on Xbox Live than on the PlayStation Network. It may seem like a small thing, but the fact that everyone that bought an Xbox had a headset probably was no small contribution to the huge success of Xbox Live. Sony would be wise to imitate that practice and include a headset with every PS4, or as it appears, even modify the controller to support voice chat.
There are things that I like: the overall size is bigger, the handles are fatter, and the analog sticks at the bottom are further apart. It’s hard to see the shoulder buttons on top and the triggers on the back, so I can only hope they are more ergonomically designed as well. But, frankly, I think this new controller design is too busy. Pointing a Move controller at the screen, for example, gives players a more intuitive “point here” experience than adjusting an analog stick. Similarly, swiping a touch screen on a smart phone is simple and intuitive, but this probably isn’t a display screen, it’s just a touch pad. That implies hand-eye-coordination instead of looking at a touch screen and directly interacting with it. Hand-eye-coordination is already provided…by the analog sticks. So, on one controller, we’re supposed to choose from either pointing at the screen, touching the touch pad, or adjusting the analog sticks? That just says “redundant” to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m open minded about alternative controls and game play options, I just think that one controller doesn’t need to have all those options.
Remember, this is just a prototype. These features may or may not be included in the final design. But we do have some very strong indications that the PS4 WILL be revealed soon, probably on February 20th after all. As excited as I am about what Sony Says on the 20th, I can’t wait to see what the new PlayStation Does!