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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

(Games) 2013 E3 Pre -assessment - Part 2 - Sony

Sony's fortune reversal (at least here in the states) has been something to see.

They went from being the number one console with the PS1 and PS2 to being in third place behind Nintendo and Microsoft. The trash talking Ken Kuturagi and Kaz Hirai came out with towards the original Xbox and the Xbox 360 was just amazing in it's arrogance. This trash talking was followed up by the announcement that the next gen doesn't start till Sony says it does, that the PS3 was $599 US dollars, etc. Gamers were disgusted and fed up with Sony, and even long time Sony fans started migrating to the Xbox 360 as that is what their friends were playing. Xbox 360's one year start over the PS3 really helped MS capture a foothold in the market, partially thanks to the fact that the PS3 though being released one year later, wasn't actually that much more powerful than the 360. In fact, games looked better on the 360 thanks to its full use of all its 512mb of memory compared to Sony's halving it to 256mb of slower memory and 256mb of faster memory, the 360's ability to upscale without performance cost to 1080p, that PS3 had issues with antialising on it's initial releases, and that it's much more complex system architecture made it difficult for developers like Bethesda to make it's games perform as well. Games that were created for the PS3 and used it's resources looked great, but games porting between systems suffered.

That was 2006 and now it's 2013 and Sony is releasing the PS4 at the end of this year. Sony ate alot of humble pie and it was good for them. Ken Kuturagi is out, Kaz has been promoted, Phil Harrison works for MS now, and the arrogant rhetoric and posturing is gone. Sony is now a hungry company, eager to regain it's foothold as gaming's premier gaming brand, and MS is in Sony's old place, coming across as a company not listening to it's consumers and having an arrogant attitude that they know best.

When the PS3 was launched the idea was "it only does everything". With the reveal of the PS4, the motto was games, games, games, and that the PS4's focus was on games. Xbox One is now the media focused console that plays games, and does it all. What did work for MS, Sony is now doing, what didn't work for Sony, MS is now doing. It's just a strange reversal, and I think that Sony is doing the right thing.

Let's start with the PS4 hardware, we really know only specs and the controller. They did not show the console at the reveal, as they actually hadn't determined what design they were going with for sure at that time, What we do know is very promising however. The PS4 is going to be the most powerful console this time, there is no question this generation, We heard the Sony fanboys talk about how the PS3 was actually the more powerful console, which was only partially true. The PS3's Cell CPU was more powerful but complex, the RSX GPU though was not as good as the custom ATI GPU in the 360, simply in how the games looked. As the generation went on PS3 caught up, but not without alot of growing pains.

This time both the Xbox One and PS4 are based on x86 AMD CPU's, there is little difference between them per what we know right now. They are both 8 core compared to the Xbox 360's 3 core, and the PS3's one core and 7 SPU's. This should make porting games from PC to console much easier, and not as complex to develop for. The GPU is where it gets interesting, as the Xbox One's 768 SP unit's have been compared to a AMD/ATI 7770/7790 and the PS4 compared to a ATI/AMD 7850/7870, with the overall performance difference of 33% in favor of the PS4, and a whopping 50% difference in shading performance.
This is like upgrading a video card in performance, that is an amazing difference. The PS4 has the edge in memory as well, as it has 8GB of GDDR5 compared to the much slower GDDR3 in the Xbox One. The PS4's memory will have higher latency, but almost 3x times the bandwidth. I imagine the Xbox One and PS4's games will look very similar at launch, but a few years down the road, the PS4 is going to pull ahead in graphics and performance. This doesn't mean that the PS4 will outsell the Xbox One, the Wii outsold them all this gen and it was the cheapest and least powerful console.

The PS4's controller is interesting, as they made some major changes compared to the Xbox One's. The PS4's Dualshock has a touchpad now, which should be interesting for pinching and zooming displays in games, as well as being utilized as multiple buttons and swipe gestures. The new controller has a share button that allows you to create and share game videos with your friends. it uses the cloud and can also allow a friend to play a game on your console. MS hinted that the Xbox One would also be able to do this, though it doesn't have a separate share button. It also has a speaker in the controller which can be utilized for game voice, but that might end up being more of just a gimmick. Admittedly, I have never been a big fan of the Dualshock controllers as I never liked the thumb sticks right next to each other, preferring the angled sticks of the 360 and the Xbox S controller. I am looking forward to seeing if this one will work well for me.

I was really impressed with the gamer focus of the PS4. They came out of the gate being games, games , games, rather than MS's TV, TV, TV, Sports, Sports, Sports. I think Sony gets it this time, I hope MS learns from them. As of this writing, we don't know anything about the actual console design, except for a few teases. With MS going the big black box route, I am sure the PS4 will go the more slimmed and futuristic playstation look we expect.

Games shown were Knack (A Mark Cerny family friendly title), Killzone:Shadow Fall, Battlefield 4, Driveclub, Assassin's Cred IV, a new Infamous game, Deep Down, Watch Dogs, Diablo 3,. Destiny, The Witness, Quantric Dream's new game, Media Molecule's new game, etc.
It was refreshing to have real gameplay, the most notable was the Killzone Demo. It looked really good, like Crysis 2 or 3 on a high end pc. I didn't see any graphics that made shiver with excitement, but I think that is coming at E3. That will the real test of the new consoles, where MS and Sony show off their best games and titles. I think this could be the first gen in awhile that I may want to own both next gen consoles, They have such different feature sets and abilities. It depends on how Sony and MS listen to their fans and customers and if they implement DRM and have restrictive policies. I love Xbox's franchises, but I don't know if I want a Xbox One as it currently stands. I hope MS changes its tune. If Sony doesnt go the restrictive route MS does, it might force me to go PS4.

Regarding games Id like to see, My favorite ongoing PS franchise is Twisted Metal. I haven't played one in years as I haven't owned a PS3, but I hope to see it on PS4 since I may get one. A game that would sell me on a PS4 is a remake or sequel to Jumping Flash, which was a PS1 game I loved. 

In closing, I think Sony did a great job at their reveal and got their fanbase fired up for E3. The MS conference had the opposite effect. I hope Sony gives us alot to love about the hardware and show more on its games and cloud services. Having some PSplus subscriber game love would be nice too, something MS lacks!

next up - Nintendo

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