White Hot Anticipation: PlayStation 4

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Originally, this post was going to be a summary of what we learned about the PlayStation 4 yesterday, but all that changed by lunch time. Over on Kotaku, Gizmodo, Engadget, Joystiq and every other gaming and tech blog in existence, you'll find everything you could ever want to know about every little detail from last night's PlayStation Meeting 2013. You'll find all the press releases from all of the developers, a hefty portion of the specs of the PS4, nice pictures of the new controller and PS Eye and summaries of every game and every game engine running on the PS4 so far. But one thing is stunning to me - each one of these sites has asked why we didn't see the console, why didn't they give us a price, why didn't they tell us when it's coming. Beyond that, some of the sites are already calling the PS4 the loser of this generation...and all of this before even getting a hand on anything PS4 related.

So instead of telling you everything they already have, I'm going to tell you why they're mostly all idiots.

You see, I'm in a marketing gig myself, and when it comes down to putting on an event like the PlayStation Meeting 2013, you tend to look back at a few things. You look at previous product unveils to see what you did right and what you did wrong. You look at the industry to see if you can somehow do something different than the expected dog and pony show. You look at the rest of the year to see what other events you have to disseminate information across. All of these come into play when putting on a show like Sony just did for the PlayStation 4. When looking back, it's not surprising that Sony made the choices it did, even if they didn't go and show off the actual PS4 itself.

As history has shown, the typical first announcement/product unveiling doesn't include anything like price or release dates. Why anyone expected differently is beyond me. Sony has done this with the PS2, PS3 and PS Vita these last few years. Each console was announced at E3 where we got to see a conceptual console design, some fancy tech demos, and got to hear about a handful of specs. If it sounds familiar to those of you who watched the PS4 announcement, that's because it pretty much happened that way. But something happened with the PS3 between the time it was announced and the time it was unveiled that made Sony nervous this time around. They showed off prototype hardware. A near final shape was shown, but Sony promised two HDMI ports, something like 8 USB ports and a host of other features that never made it to the actual release product. You can bet your sweet ass (and SCEA President, Jack Tretton said as much in some interviews last night and this morning) that the PS4 design isn't finished and, thus, wasn't shown.

Surprising? Sure.

Insanity? Not even close.

Some of you may not remember that during the same PS3 launch, Sony was practically burned at the stake for not showing any real game play. They were caught red handed multiple times because developers only had pre-rendered cut-scenes. So what did Sony do this time around? They spent close to two hours showing us games. Games played in real time on what we can only assume is real PS4 hardware. Sure, we saw one or two tech demos from the Sony crew, but it was developer after developer on stage. There were first party developers, third party developers and even an indie developer. Sony made sure the PS4 was easy to develop for this time around and it shows. We even saw big name publishers like Capcom and Square-Enix showing off new gaming engines running in real time on the PS4. Sure, they may be conceptual in nature but what you see is what you'll get on the new box in your living room, not empty promises that may or may not show up 5+ years down the road.

At the end of the day, I want to see what games I'll be playing 1-2 years from now. I want to see new experiences and I want to see where my hours will be spent. I don't so much care about a plastic case.

Add to all of this that with the PS3, Sony was a year behind Microsoft's launch of the Xbox 360. It's been playing catch-up ever since, admittedly, and almost seven years on has finally come within spitting distance of the global sales figures of Sony's competitor. They wanted to flip things this time around and be the first out of the gate with this generation of consoles. Microsoft didn't announce the next Xbox at E3 last year so Sony had to get the PS4 in before Microsoft pulled the trigger this generation. Good, bad or otherwise, Sony has the world's attention for a while at least. We'll hear a trickle of game announcements over the coming months and probably a "leak" or two leading up to E3 and you can bet with as little as was actually shown by Sony, there'll be plenty of speculation and rumors to keep the buzz going.

On top of this, you have two events prior two E3 where some news will be unleashed, plus two others AFTER E3 where you need to keep the stream of consciousness alive. Next up is the Game Developers Conference (GDC) which takes place at the end of March. You can certainly expect the public to hear more about the games that were shown, plus more about games that have yet to be announced. Right around the same time is Penny Arcade Expo East (PAX East) where Blizzard has already talked about having the PS3 version of Diablo 3 available to demo.

E3, which takes place in June, will be the big event, however. You'll finally see the console there. You may even learn about the launch price and, if you're lucky, a firm release date. Expect a handful of launch titles to be confirmed and new ones from other developers to be announced at that time. When it comes down to it, though, there's still much to learn about some of the costs associated with the PS4. Things like controllers, the camera, other accessories and don't forget the newly enhance PlayStation Network (PSN) experience. How much will be free? How much will require a subscription? What will come with the subscription? You won't learn all of these things at this year's E3. Besides, there's still Gamescom, Europe's premier gaming event held in Cologne, Germany in August and the home turf event, the Tokyo Game Show (TGS) in September. You have to space out all of your announcements otherwise you'll have nothing left to show in the later half of the year.

I so far haven't seen much about the PS4 but I'm not worried. What I have seen is a chunk of features that I like if they're done well. The social aspects of the PS4 aren't fit for an introvert like me, but I know plenty of people who would ask me for help if they were having trouble with something, so being able to reach across the web and walking a friend through a particularly tricky spot intrigues me. I've also never really though about sharing an awesome coincidence with friends, but if it's there, I'll use it. Instead, what has me really excited is the concept of buffered gaming where you can start to play a game without having to wait for the whole damn thing do download and install. If Sony can pull that Gaikai magic off without requiring blazing fast internet services then we've got a big winner here.

So for those of you nay-sayers out there, I'll leave you with these last few sentences. Chill the fuck out. There's much more to come. Some will be great, some not. The early adopters will still buy early. The wait and see types will wait and see. The Microsoft fanboys will bash Sony and the Sony fanboys will bash Microsoft. Such is life. Reserve judgement for when the damn thing can be held in your hands and until then - sit back and enjoy the ride.

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