Thursday, February 21, 2013

PS4 & The Future Of Videogames

As my sons pediatric dentist once arrogantly said to me, "you better start saving now."

SONY has announced the PS4. We knew it was coming so it's not much of a surprise. The specs put the new machine squarely in the realm of computers. A clever third world country could easily start WWIII with this.

The specs are as follows:
• X86 CPU - 8 cores
• Enhanced PC GPU - 2 teraflops  (1.84 to be exact)
• 8 GB GDDR5 RAM
• Internal HDD
The new DualShock 4 controller looks nice too. Similar but different. I was hoping for something slightly chunkier but it seems that the size will be relative to the one we have now. 
All the mumbo jumbo aside, you might ask, what does this mean for me? Well, you can expect something along the lines of a system that is an order of magnitude faster than the PS3. One day soon the hyper realistic SFX that drive our modern superhero films will meet up with the SFX in our videogames. The PS4 is clearly inching closer to that eventuality.  Also expect the brinkmanship between SONY and Microsoft to achieve cold war levels now as the desire for home game domination gets ever more intense. We at home know that it is possible to have a PS3 and an XBOX under the same roof and their fights only amuse us at best. 
Personally I expected home game consoles to die out sooner rather than later, or shrink to become more like the tiny blobs that are the Apple TV and the Roku box, but it seems I dont know everything. Personally I'm sick of going to videogame stores and having to hear the robotic (cooperate instructed/programed) know-it-all clerks tell me I need to pre-order plastic CDs months in advance because they will be hard to get. Seriously? They expect me to believe the game industry is going to make the one thing that makes them money hard to get? And make it difficult for me to fork over my $60? I think not. In my eyes those stores have been on their way out for some time now, and have Blockbuster written all over them. One new bump in internet speed delivery and we can kiss them goodbye forever. Skylanders is working to undermine this but with the possibility of 3D home printing eventually becoming as common as microwaves I may never need to ask another clerk for Ninjini ever again. And as well, I long for the day when they can stop hounding me to give them $5 for nothing special, hopefully, sometime in the very near future. 
My hunch now is that the two gaming giants will volley specs and CPU size back and forth for a while longer, much like the digital camera industry has done with megapixel size. Reality and industry inside decisions are rarely congruous. After dozens and dozens of frenetic games that all look and feel relatively the same almost as if nothing more then new skins were laid atop them, most of us are looking for something new. Great games like LIMBO and Journey did not, and do not require more gigantic processors and space heater-like CPUs upping my energy bill, but rather just new creative thinking. The technology for great games already exists. Making the vehicle faster might give you the ability to get to a destination quicker but sometimes driving slower allows for a more thoughtful and pleasant ride. 
I'm sure the PS4 will be fun, and I am excited for its release. I just hope the games manage to rise above the spec jargon clutter and give us something beautiful we can marvel at, and, ahem, actually enjoy. Multiple sequels to existing games are not what Im talking about. Something new. I want something new. Something new, something creative, something original, and something fun to play. I must sound so demanding. :)

–A