Looking For Hits: It Only Does Orbis

Looking For Hits is a new weekly discussion between PlayStation LifeStyle’s Managing Editor Sebastian Moss and Game Revolution’s News Editor Daniel Bischoff that talks about the biggest news stories of the week.

Today, we take a look at the rumors surrounding the PlayStation 4 or “Orbis” and share our thoughts on anti-used game playability, no backwards compatibility, the silly name and much, much more.

One of the biggest aspects of the Orbis rumor is that it will have an “anti-used games feature”. What do you think an in-ability to play used games will mean for the console, and for gamers?

Daniel Bischoff: Console manufacturers have one idea in mind when they think about “anti-used game features” like those rumored to be in the next PlayStation: Control. When Nintendo revitalized the home console market in the 80s, the company used tight restrictions to ensure quality across the board. In this case, Sony probably wants to ensure that all of those online-passes and DLC bonuses stick to a guideline that they can control so customers know what they’re getting into when they buy a PS4/Orbis game at their local retailer.

It doesn’t hurt that there’s probably a great relationship to be had with publishers who are losing money on used games at every turn. How can the PlayStation brand continue to dominate all that “exclusive content” if publishers support the next Xbox instead of the next PlayStation? This is all about keeping in lockstep with the competition.

Sebastian Moss: I agree, I’m sure that, if this is a move Sony is considering, it’s one brought about by a lot of pressure from publishers. There are rumors that Microsoft is considering cutting out used sales on the Nextbox, so if Sony doesn’t want to lose out on the exclusive content they have to do the same.

Unfortunately, that means we suffer, used games are an important part of the industry. I’ve become a fan of a bunch of franchises after being hooked by a cheap second-hand game, and have gone on to buy first-hand versions of the sequels. I dread to think how expensive games will be next-gen, and with no used market, the cost is going to be all the harder to swallow.

What’s worse is that, currently, new games have to compete with used, that means that publishers have to quickly drop the price of new games to make sure that people buy them instead of used. If you only buy new games and think this won’t affect you, you’re wrong.

It’s also said to not be backwards compatible – is backwards compatibility that big a deal anyway?

SM: I’ll be honest, I had a 60GB PS3, but I rarely used the backwards compatibility. Sure, I played the odd game in the early days, when things were a bit dry, but I quickly became too used to gorgeous visuals and more streamlined game mechanics.

I’d rather have the option than not, and I doubt I’ll buy “Uncharted 3: Super HD”, but I won’t cry out in anger if it doesn’t have BC. If the PS4/Orbis is moving away from The Cell, then backwards compatibility is sure to be very complicated.

DB: I think you hit the nail on the head with your final statement. If Sony is deciding to completely change the guts of the next PlayStation, there’s no way backwards compatibility emulation will make it through to retail. I think part of the reason they included backwards compatibility at all in the PS3 is because it was such a huge feature for people when they picked up the PS2.

I bought a Slim PS3 just over a year ago and I’m not really missing anything without backwards compatibility. Very few gamers actually go back and play old games, so I would say no, BC is not a big deal.

What do you think of the name Orbis, and would you be happy or annoyed if it was an orb?

SM: I didn’t like Vita when I first heard it, but it’s starting to grow on me. For some reason, manufacturers seem to be moving away from numbered iterations – look at the new iPad, it’s just called “iPad”, not “iPad 3”. But if the Orbis isn’t an orb, it’ll be slightly confusing, it sounds like an orb.

Sadly, an orb is a terrible shape for a device, all my cabinets and tech towers are designed to support oblongs (Oblongbis?), so an Orb would be rather awkward. Perhaps the idea is that an orb would have to be on top of everything else, so at least it’d be the first thing you think of in your media center.

DB: Someone pointed out that Orbis could have a very real connection with the PlayStation Vita. “Orbis Vitae” in Latin means “The Circle of Life,” so I think that this codename for the next PlayStation could be telegraphing a big focus on the way the next generation hardware from Sony interacts with the next generation hardware we have in our pockets right now.

Please God, don’t let it be an orb shaped console, though.

Current spec estimates make it seem far more like a PC than the PS3 was, do you think this’ll be a good thing as it’ll make things easier for developers, or a bad thing as it won’t be anything special?

DB: I think that the current console generation has taught us that differentiating hardware just because it serves a singular purpose in the home isn’t going to win over any developers. If Sony can make it easier for an aspiring developer to create a new game specifically for the next PlayStation, they should take that step. In the same vein, if a developer knows that it’s really easy to port something over to the PlayStation platform, they won’t hesitate to expand their audience and market.

SM: Yeah, I’m fed up with having to write about this game being delayed on the PS3, or that one being slower, choppier and in need of a 40 min, 15GB install. The Cell was a fantastic idea, a truly bold and unique take on processing, something that only could have been done because of the PS2’s wild success, and Kutaragi’s complete control over development. It was a huge, multi-billion dollar gamble, but one that didn’t quite pan out.

The Uncharted’s and the Killzone’s might show off the power of The Cell but, to the average consumer, who just plays Assassin’s Creed, COD and Madden/FIFA the wonders of the tech are just lost. Developers generally aren’t “lazy” when it comes to programming for the PS3, they are understaffed, unsure how to use the unusual tech, and unable to make the most of it in the time they are given.

Look at the Vita – all of the tech inside it is ‘off the shelf’ stuff, it’s nothing wildly special. But that has meant that Sony has had to focus on a strong UI, pumped a lot of money into first party games, and somehow convinced over a hundred developers to sign up – all while keeping the costs low. Of course, it does help that the Vita has a few unique features, notably dual analog sticks.

So, what one unique feature would you like to see in the PS4/Orbis?

DB: Cross platform multiplayer is one of the most unique and challenging features within the PlayStation brand. Banding multiplayer communities together ultimately makes a game that much stronger in long-term value. While Valve has confirmed that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive will support mouse and keyboard on the PS3, in addition to cross platform multiplayer with PC and Mac, I’m not satisfied yet.

I want to see deeper integration between the Vita and Orbis as well. (Sorry, I can’t pick just one!) I’ve said before that when I can play my full-retail PlayStation games on my Vita, I’ll die a happy gamer. Hopefully the Orbis will realize this to its fullest potential.

SM: Yeah, I’d love better Vita-Orbis gaming, remote play on the PS3 still sucks. That said, I want something else unique that really blows me away. I’m bored of the standard controller – I want buttons, they rock, and I don’t want a giant, expensive touch screen like the Wii U, it doesn’t make sense. What I want is the next evolution in rumble. Rumble is lame, a bomb going off, a bullet hitting you or a man speaking loudly basically all feel the same. I want some kind of feedback that means I’d be able to work out what was happening even if my eyes were shut. I have no idea how that could be done, but it would be incredible.

DB: Maybe we should put you in a hamster ball!


SM: I’m sold.


Next week, we’ll be on Game Revolution to discuss the biggest multiplatform news, and back here the week after.

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