Thursday, February 21, 2013

PS4 Reveal (part whatever)

I talked about the PS4 from a consumer aspect on Tuesday. That's half a picture.

The other half is the business aspect, and Sony screwed that up in the PS3 generation, too. Their biggest mistake, undoubtedly, was the degree to which the PS3 was over-engineered. They tried to get ahead of the processor performance (not possible) with the Cell processor, which cost a fortune and was comparatively weak within two years. There's just no business reason to design a massively expensive CPU, no matter how brilliant, when an average CPU is going to be better (and far less expensive) in a few years.

The Cell, along with all kinds of Sony tomfoolery, also meant the PS3 was extremely difficult to develop for, which created another set of problems. It doesn't matter how theoretically powerful your console is when it takes 2x the amount of work to get to that peak compared to the competition (and I use "2x" not knowing a precise number, but there's no question that developing for the PS3 was more difficult).

So, having said all that, the most encouraging thing about the PS4 is that it's a PC. Basically.
--8-core x86-64 CPU using AMD Jaguar cores (built by AMD) 
--High-end PC GPU (also built by AMD), delivering 1.84TFLOPS of performance 
--Unified 8GB of GDDR5 memory for use by both the CPU and GPU with 176GB/s of memory bandwidth 
--Large local hard drive

Lower cost components, PC architecture--that's all good. Very good. So no matter how odd that presentation might have seemed last night, the hardware has a much better chance of being successful.

Also, and continuing the "odd" series, have a look at this exchange between Eurogamer's Tom Bramwell and Sony's Shuhei Yoshida:
I sat down with Yoshida a few hours after the PS4 reveal tonight and one of the first things I asked was whether used games would be blocked. 

 "Do you want us to do that?" he asked. 

No, I said. I think, if you buy something on a disc, that you have a kind of moral contract with the person you've bought it from that you retain some of that value and you can pass it on.

Do you agree, I asked? "Yes. That's the general expectation by consumers," said Yoshida. "They purchase physical form, they want to use it everywhere, right? So that's my expectation." 

So if someone buys a PlayStation 4 game, I asked, you're not going to stop them reselling it? 

"Aaaah," was Yoshida's initial answer, but seemingly only because he'd forgotten his line. "So what was our official answer to our internal question?" he asked his Japanese PR advisor. The advisor stepped in but didn't seem to answer clearly, at least to my ears. Yoshida then took control again firmly: "So, used games can play on PS4. How is that?" 

I said I thought that was fine.

Eurogamer's headline for the article was "Sony tells Eurogamer: PlayStation 4 will not block used games", but again (here comes that word), that seems odd. Yoshida, to me, seems to indicate that if Consumer A buys a physical game, he'll be able to play that on more than his own console.

It doesn't appear, however, that he answered the question about reselling. So this should be interesting.

Eurogamer did note that a source claimed the recent Sony patent that would block used games wouldn't be used with the PS4, so that's encouraging, at least.

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