Daily Reaction: How Will Sony Change the PSN for the PS4?

After receiving countless entries for our Daily Reaction giveaway, we narrowed it down to a handful of our favorites, and chose one topic that will take away the grand-prize of a $20 PSN code. Terrell Smith asks – what will happen to the PlayStation Network as we move toward Sony’s next console, the PS4? With that, the Daily Reaction crew of Seb and Dan discuss what the future may hold for Sony’s online network, and just what are the problems we could see as we move forward.

Dan: Given that Sony has been trying to build up an online infrastructure since before the PS3 was even released, I find it hard to believe that we will see many drastic changes. Going back all the way to the PS2, when Sony required you to install a network adapter, their online services were very much barebones. As only a few titles actually supported online play, and even then there really wasn’t much else to be done with the service. Then, as Microsoft launched the original Xbox, and brought on Xbox Live, console gaming took a leap to standardize online capabilities. Sony had to match Microsoft as gamers quickly adopted the new format, forcing them to launch their own network on the PS3, a much lighter version of the PSN service we know today. Over the years, Sony has been trying to catch up to the the success of XBL, and have finally matched the capability of the service, and have always brought on a few new features of their own.

Now that we move toward the PS4, Sony will not likely change their PSN service on the backend drastically, as they will still have to try and get their customers to adopt their new piece of hardware. Chances are we will see a bit of change on the user end of styling, but that would just be to integrate the PS4 into the current store we use now. The best reason for this would be to show every PS3 owner what the PS4 has to offer them and, in a sense, show them what they are missing. It would be an obvious advertising scheme that would do wonders for Sony, and you can bet that Microsoft will also be doing a very similar tactic.

The real question that has yet to be disclosed, but might be on Feb 20th, is just what will happen to all of our digital content as we move to a new system? Will we still have the ability to play our PS3 games on a PS4? Well given the fact that Sony has taken out backwards compatibility of the PS3 to play PS2 games, it stands to be a possibility that we will not be able to, so that Sony can still drive sales for the PS3 console. While this is a good argument, I feel that by the time the PS4 launches, the PS3 will be at a price point that should drive itself, and that, given the level of expected competition from all sides, Sony really cannot afford to segment off its user base. Implementing a Cell chipset in the PS4, much like the original PS2s had with the Emotion Engine chipset, could allow backwards compatibility, while allowing the PS4 to move away from the design problems with the Cell itself. Will this be enough to solve the issues of backward compatibility? Probably not, but it just a concept that Sony has already done in the past, and hopefully they would be able to do it again without driving the production cost to $599.

Seb: Yeah, no, they’d be stupid to include the Cell chip in the PS4 just for backwards compatibility. That’s adding more to the cost of the device that I’d rather went to making the PS4 ultra-powerful, or was simply taken out to make the PS4 more affordable so it sold better. There’s a reason Sony scrapped the Emotion Engine in the PS3 – they needed to bring costs down. We can’t say for sure how much adding the Cell (and whatever else is needed) will cost, but even $30 adds up significantly when we’re talking tens of millions of units of the PS4 and the fact that Sony really doesn’t want to sell this at a significant loss.

The PS3 exists, people have it and can play games on it. If they want to play The Last of Us when the PS4 is out, they can always buy a PS3. Would I want backwards compatibility? Of course! Do I want the addition of it to hamper the rest of the PS4? Hell no.

I just hope that a software-based backwards compatibility is a possibility, just like current PS3s can play PS2 games with a few tweaks.

The PSN itself equally needs to drop the shackles of the previous gen. The idea of flooding the PS3 with PS4 ads makes sense, and I’m sure they’ll do that. But when people get a PS4, they’ll want something different. They’ll want something new.

The PS3 gen was mostly about playing catchup to Microsoft, while struggling with the lower revenue as a free service. They’ve mostly caught up, and initiatives like PS+ are far, far superior to anything that Microsoft offers. With the PS4, it’s time to definitively pull out in front.

First off, the obvious – sort the downtime out. With the PS4, it’s a chance for a fresh start, the baggage of the PSN hack is behind them, they can finally create a service that doesn’t need to take a nap more often than my grandpa with a chloroform addiction. Then there’s trophies, the digital golden stickers that everyone is so needlessly obsessed with, they’re going to stay for obvious reasons, but they will likely also be improved. I highly doubt you’ll now have to spend forever syncing your trophies, watching as the bar refuses to move and you begin to become conscious of the Earth’s rotation. That’ll likely be automatic and in the background, along with patch downloads and updates.

The other big rumored feature is the share button on the DualShock 4 that apparently allows people to post the last 15 minutes of gaming – Sony’s attempt to crash the internet by filling it with millions of utterly unremarkable videos of Call of Duty knife throws that Kotaku will post as news. We still don’t know if this is real, or how it’ll work, but if it is a part of the PS4 to such a large degree that it’s taking up important real estate on the controller, expect it to be a focal point of the new PSN – Play. Record. Share.

Looking further forward, they’re going to bring in Gaikai streaming to offer cloud gaming. Possibly as a way to be backwards compatible, and possibly more. But to offer this, the service needs to be robust and finding the games over the cloud needs to be hassle-free. Expect everything to be day one digital, day one stream, with the possibility of pre-installing.

The future of the PSN is a more seamless experience that minimizes the loading screens and unnecessary uploading, all while pushing PS+ more strongly. Unfortunately, they’ll probably stick with the new PS Store design while they’re at it…

Are you…buffering…excited for the…buffering…next generation of…error…restart… Are you excited for….80D3F33455…the next generation of the PSN? Let us know in the comments below or give Seb a platinum trophy and Dan a bronze on….you have been signed out of PSN.