For those of us whom are avid PC gamers, the latest spec release of the PS4 may not seem like something of major significance, but there is far more to Sony’s unveiling of last night’s news than may first meet the eye.
While most people who showed up to last night’s “teaser event” to see the PS4’s design were disappointed, those of us interested in what’s inside the box were very pleased by what we saw.
The biggest spec change, by far, is the transition back to an x86 processing unit – a departure from the (surprisingly flexible and powerful) cell processor technology found in the PS3. As SiliconANGLE’s contributing editor John Casaretto commented, “It appears that they are going to be running on standard PC hardware.”
So the first question that comes to mind is why is this reversal significant?
Ever since STI (Sony-Toshiba-IBM) started working on the cell processor in 2000, it was widely known that development for the cell processor would be quite difficult, especially at first, considering cell would be competing with an x86 technology that’s existed since the 70’s. Factoring in the pre-existing costs of licensing and engineering, the introduction of a new technology in the market raised production costs even more, and to a certain degree, one must wonder how many games simply were not made for the PS3 because of this technology. It was simply too bleeding edge for the application – like cutting paper with an argon laser instead of scissors.
But still, what does this have to do with us glorious PC gamers? The simple answer is really the one word we have all grown to hate over the years: Ports.
Say for instance you ran a low-budget game studio in early 2007 and you wanted to make your game available to the most people with the least cost, chances are you will make a game with some portability. The PC and Xbox 360 are quite similar, and though there’s some differences, your portability is only limited by the dev team’s cleverness. But the cell processor in the PS3 changes everything from the low-level assembly language, all the way up, making your modular, portable game seem wonky and buggy.
So given the regression back to x86, there’s no question that Sony is looking to resolve this issue. After all, as Casaretto said, the PS4 is effectively a “very standard Windows machine.”
Understandably, many people were expecting to get a little more than a spec sheet and a demonstration video on the PS4 last night, but as Casaretto commented, “The things that they did show were very interesting.” The new PS4 controller, for instance, seemed to be quite a highlight, as the new controller will be equipped with a touchpad, headphone jack, and interestingly a share button, which seems to indicate the next-gen console wars may take place on the Facebook and Twitter battlegrounds.
“With this feature you’ll be able to do a few things like streaming your play sessions and allowing input from your friends – letting them take over the game and help you if you’re having problems,” Casaretto continued, “I think it’s more of an evolution the way things are going overall when it comes to gaming.”
So not only is the new PS4 going to be more portable, but it’s going to cross into the realm of social media.
With proper integration to internet television services, in addition to the social media aspect, Sony’s 4th console may serve as one of the first truly viable multi-use living room entertainment devices, potentially replacing your DVR, living room PC, and Xbox all in one – or at least that’s Sony’s hopes.
As for us members of the PC gaming community, we’ll be sitting in the shadows and watching this development very closely, and frankly, this PC gamer can’t wait to see more from Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft at this year’s E3
See the entire segment with Kristin Feledy and John Casaretto on the Morning NewsDesk Show.