Kotaku recently got their hands on some documents outlining the specs of a PlayStation 4 (or Obis, if you will) dev console. Of course, we expected all the basics of a brand new console to be represented, and they were. As a quick run-down, the PlayStation 4 will have 8GB of system memory, 2.2 GB of video memory, a 4x Dual-Core AMD64 Bulldozer processor, an AMD R10XX GPU, four USB 3.0 ports, two Ethernet ports, a Blu-Ray drive, at least a 160 GB hard drive, and finally HDMI and optical audio outputs. Remember, this is just the development kit. The finalized specs of the console will likely include a wi-fi adapter, a larger hard drive, and a whole bunch of other bells and whistles that come with a retail console release.
So the PlayStaiton 4 is faster and stronger than its older brother the PlayStation 3. Of course this means better graphics and faster loading times, but graphics and loading times alone won’t sell a console in today’s market. We have gotten to the point where every single triple-A title for every single console is a graphical feast, so new graphics engines just aren’t mattering as much. Instead, if we can take the Wii’s success as an indicator, the current market is all about innovation, and Sony seems to know that.
First of all, Sony’s new console will innovate on the current DualShock 3 design by adding even more methods of input. The PS4 controller will feature a capacitive touch pad, much like the one you would find on the PS Vita, and the pad can be clicked in, much like you can click in an analog stick, to provide another digital input. The pad will also be able to recognize two point multi-touch, which will be incredibly useful for games that require a mouse-like interface.
The standard PS3 controller will also integrate motion control, which at this point seems to be rapidly becoming the industry standard. The controller will feature tilt correction, linear motion sensing, and more, but it seems as if the controller will still be a two-handled classic DualShock-style controller, not a wand controller like the PS Move or Wiimote. The controller will also feature standard vibration function like the DualShock 3.
However, the biggest piece of innovation that the PlayStation 4 has to offer is the genius new way that it will handle accounts. Ever since we entered the digital distribution age, we have been looking for ways to legally share our downloaded content with others. Back in the days of the SNES, you were simply able to bring your cartridge complete with your save data over to a friend’s house and play to your heart’s content. However, the introduction of discs—and, more specifically, hard-drive save systems—has made it harder and harder to transport your data from one console to another. Now, digitally distributed games are nearly impossible to share with your friends without running into DRM systems. Sony and other companies have attempted to institute policies, such as the ability to game share between a limited number of consoles, that restore some ability to share your games with your friends, but the PlayStation 4’s approach is one of the best we have seen in a while.
The PlayStation 4 will shift accounts away from consoles and instead link them to controllers. Consoles will essentially be blank slates that any account can sign in on. When you get a new controller, you’ll tie your account to that controller. Then, when a controller uses a console, it will automatically sign in that account to that console. This means that every controller that is using the console will be signed in at once, something the documents called “multi-user simultaneous logins.”
User accounts will, first of all, have access to your save data. This fixes the somewhat tedious issue of transferring your save file from one console to another. As soon as you connect your controller, you will have access to your save files, unlocked characters, and more. User accounts will also have access to your trophy data. So, for example, if you unlock a trophy during co-op play, all currently active accounts tied to all currently active controllers will gain the trophy.
Now, your local account is linked to your SEN account, which does require online authentication, but is also linked to all the “rights” to all of your games. So as long as the console that you are playing on can access the Internet, you can access all of your digitally downloadable content. Presumably, access to this content would just shut off as soon as your controller is no longer present. This would theoretically allow you to bring your controller to as many consoles as you like and put your content on as many consoles as you like while still providing easy copy protection that doesn’t require you to do more than simply stuff your controller into a backpack. This could also allow you to trade games, like you could back in the days of the SNES. All you have to do is trade controllers.
In fact, the PS4 might make sharing your content even easier than this. According to the documents, each controller will have a “share” button. The functionality of this button wasn’t detailed, but one would assume it has something to do with sharing content. Perhaps you will be able to transfer digital content between accounts at the push of a button. Once again this would allow you to you to theoretically “swap” games, granting access to your friend’s account while cutting off access to yours. Of course, it could just mean something like “share on Facebook.” We don’t yet know.
Sony has not yet commented on these supposed leaked documents and a lot of what was outlined in the documents was still vague, so take all of this information with a grain of salt. Still, if even just a portion of these specs turn out to be true, Sony will have made huge strides forward in the realm of non-invasive copy protection. It will have captured the ease of sharing and moving content from the days of cartridge-based systems while adapting for modern digital environment. I don’t know about you, but I’m very excited to see what the PS4 holds in store for us at this year’s E3.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
Date: January 25, 2013