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PlayStation 4: Why it won't be what you expect

The next gen will be born into a changing technological world. Here's what it'll do...

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REAL AS IT GETS

Atari founder Nolan Bushnell recently argued there shouldn't be another console generation, as the PS4 and Xbox 720 would be "So close to photorealism that it doesn't matter." When both would pump out as-good-as-looking-out-thewindow graphics, what would draw either developers or gamers to one or the other machine?

A straw poll of developers, culled from PSM3's recent interviews, suggests all would happily embrace a more powerful console - but that their main desire was for a system that made game development quicker. An ARM-based architecture would suggest an easier time, but even if Sony do stick with Cell, a simpler, more forgiving architecture is surely forefront in their minds.

The PlayStation 4 must tackle this tricky reality by encouraging creative risk and experimentation

Publishing a successful console game in the modern age is an issue of two things: money, and time. Publishers are loathe to spend cash on titles that might not sell, even though that's potentially harmful in the longterm; even if they've got cash in the piggy bank, tying up talented creators for four years just to turn a minimal profit doesn't make sense.

The system now only rewards the top tier of triple-A titles, and if that model continues, the market will simply stagnate amid copies of Call of Duty, Assassin's Creed and FIFA. The PS4 must tackle this tricky reality by encouraging creative risk and experimentation through ease of use and - ironically for a luxury electronic item - a lack of expense.

If, come PS4, publishers are still even releasing physical media. The recent launch of OnLive in the UK has proved that a cloud-based, discless gaming option is viable, if a little wobbly on less-than-perfect internet connections.

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Sensible wisdom would suggest Sony should unhook their claws from the kind of easily scratched shiny things that have held our games for the last decade, and rely instead on imaginary internet beams and tiny spots of data to stream our games from either a cloud service such as OnLive's, or a fat, solid-state hard drive sat under our televisions.

But, as with the Cell, Sony has its hands once again tied - they've already plunged millions into the development of Blu-ray. They fought hard to smother Toshiba's rival HD-DVD format with a beautifully-rendered pillow before it could even grow up, and they're not likely to abandon it now. PlayStations are the greatest driver of Blu-ray sales going. It's inconceivable they'd drop it from PS4, yet the world may have moved on already.

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