Yesterday's PlayStation 4 event marked the first real step into the next generation of gaming. Sure, the Wii U is technically a next-gen system, but the specs are decidedly handicapped when compared to the PlayStation 4. And it's probably safe to assume that Microsoft's next-gen specs will be on par with Sony’s.
However, the hardware reveal wasn't the most interesting part of Sony's presentation. After all, the specs are practically identical to the information that had been leaked on the Internet months ago. The most intriguing moments in the PlayStation 4 event had more to do with functionality than power.
Video streaming, for instance, is a huge part of Sony's PlayStation 4 strategy. The console will have a separate processor that's dedicated to uploading and decompressing video on the fly. This means that players will be able select a recently captured video and send it to the cloud without even ending their play session. And, since these video processes use a separate piece of hardware, players shouldn't see any slowdown in performance.
This technology also allows players to broadcast their gameplay in real time. So, if you're an egotistical jerk who wants everyone to see how talented you are, the PlayStation 4 has you covered. Now you'll be able to stream all of your gameplay and invite less talented players to watch.
I'm sure women will be swooning.
I did find it strange, however, that Sony chose to partner with Ustream instead of Twitch for their streaming services. Ustream does have a much larger market outside of the gaming community, but Twitch.tv has become the de facto streaming service for gamers. It made me wonder if Twitch.tv is working on some kind of semi-secret partnership with Microsoft.
It would make sense for Twitch to sign a contract with Microsoft. Call of Duty and Twitch have been joined at the hip since Black Ops 2 hit the market, and, considering the DLC agreement between Microsoft and Activision, it might be in Twitch's best interest to just jump on the Xbox 720 bandwagon.
If Twitch and Microsoft are working on a partnership, it would mean that the 720 (or whatever we're going to call it) and the PlayStation 4 have a very similar set of skills. Perhaps we'll have another Blue Ray vs. HD DVD situation when it comes to streaming video, but that's probably unlikely.
Consumers prefer to use whichever technology requires the least amount of work, so they'll probably use the service that is pre-installed. If this weren't the case, Internet Explorer would have been discontinued years ago.
Either way, it'll be interesting to see that Microsoft has up their sleeves. Though, we may have to wait until E3 to get a glimpse.
Date: February 21, 2013