The Playstation 4 – It’s about Games, mostly

A PS4 Glamor Shot

The Sony Playstation 4

The Playstation 4 has been out for just over a week, and that’s just about long enough to form an opinion on the beast, to see what it’s doing and begin to imagine where it might be going.

So, that’s what I’m going to do, in a rambling sort of way.

The first thing I noticed is how gaming centric the console is. It lists the last few games you’ve played in the large launch bar dealie. Yeah, there are icons for the various video services available, but the majority of space is given over to games.

Once you select a game icon/tile, the screen starts to show you what’s new with the game (updates, dlc, news) and what achievements you and your friends have made since the last time you played. It’s a huge departure from the PS3 era, and shows that Sony is very focused on putting the games first.

It also highlights another property of the system, how focused it is on the social aspect of gaming. By showing you right where you launch your game what your buddies have been doing – or maybe are doing right now – it encourages discussion of the games with friends. The fact that the system launched with live streaming support via Twitch.tv and UStream.tv is another example of just how focussed they are on making this a social system, not just something you play alone.

Hell, there’s a button dedicated to sharing, and it’s crazy simple to send a screenshot of whatever you are doing to Facebook and Twitter.

Not everything on the system is ready for primetime, though. Most notably, they aren’t quite there yet when it comes to media playback. Yes, it has all the usual streaming options (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon), but without any support for a media remote it’s less than intuitive for non gamers. There’s also a very odd lack of support for blu ray movies.

That’s not to say it won’t play blu ray movies – it does. It just does so very sluggishly compared to the PS3, and the little screen showing how to control it via the Dual Shock 4 just makes it seem all the more as an afterthought.

The surprising killer app is the PS Vita streaming this thing does. See, pretty much any game can be remotely played (via WiFi) on a Vita handheld, and they all work very well and look just as great as they would on the big screen. Even better, there’s no noticeable lag. It’s hard to describe just how neat it is to be playing something like Knack or Resogun on a handheld. Yes, I know the WiiU can do this as well, but 1) I don’t own a WiiU and 2) the Vita is much more comfortable to hold than the WiiU tablet, at least in my limited experience.

Truly, this is a great system – it’s very powerful and most games show this, which is great considering the level of effort most launch titles get. Everything looks great and loads fast, and if this is what the first effort rushed games look like, I’m very excited to see what we’ll be getting in a years time.

That said, I think that anyone who isn’t deeply tied to the Xbox ecosystem should seriously consider getting the PS4 this time out. It’s a great system with a great set of features which will only improve as time wears on.