We're just five days away now from Sony's big announcement in New York City, which is likely to revolve around the PlayStation 4, the company's latest video game console. We've already seen pictures of the controller prototype, and heard about projects that could very well be coming to the console, including sequels to LittleBigPlanet and Killzone.
Even with this information on hand, we can't help but be hopeful that Sony will have learned from its past mistakes with previous systems. There's some items that need to be avoided – beyond the giant crabs, obviously – and also some considerations to make when it comes to attracting both its hardcore audience and new casual players, those of whom will help push the system to great success.
Here are a few tips we can give to the company before it jumps forward with its huge announcement. Hopefully, it's listening to some extent…
System Pricing: Be Fair
I can't begin to tell you how much the audience was chuckling during the initial PlayStation 3 press announcement at E3. While the system is impressive, to say the least, it's kind of hard to believe that Sony would charge a staggering $599 for the highest end model – in this case, something under 100 GB of memory. Even with built-in Blu-Ray and the promise of next-generation, the system would flop for several months before Sony eventually dropped the price and saw success.
Sony, you need to keep good pricing in mind. We know that your next hardware is going to blow the doors off of conventional electronics, but that doesn't mean it's going to be worth a grand. You need to price this in a fairly good range – we're talking $350 to $400 at best. Otherwise, you're bound to hear a few more of those chuckles during your showcase next Wednesday.
Include Backwards Compatibility, Because People Want It
Sony, you might think that no one wants backwards compatibility, but come on. PlayStation 2 classics are selling better than you think in the PlayStation Store, and a lot of people are seeking out older models of the PS3 just to have the comfort of playing their older games. With the PlayStation 4, you shouldn't be so stingy to shut out the generation that made the PS3 popular to begin with.
Include backwards compatibility with your system. Allow users to transfer over any and all purchases they made from their prior system to their new hardware with ease. And open the door to releasing even more classic games from the PS1/PS2 era for the PlayStation Store. You're not going to give us a new Crash Bandicoot anytime soon, so why don't we enjoy the older ones for a while?
Remember, if you limit the system, you limit what we play on it – which is the last thing you want to do.
Don't Make the System All About Move Technology; Make It Optional
Let's be honest, the PlayStation Move was kind of a bust. There were some games that made novel use of it – shooters and the Sports Champions 2 collection come to mind – but, otherwise, it's a niche market at best. It's obvious Sony wants to use this technology to some extent on the PlayStation 4, but here's the thing – it shouldn't be the big draw.
Sure, Sony, you can include an option to have PlayStation Move support in there, but don't make it the norm. The prototype controller shows that some sort of Move peripheral will be built in – not a prime candidate for best controller design, by the way – but we like the good "old-fashioned" feel of games just fine, and you should keep this in mind with your new model.
That's not to say we wouldn't try the Move if it could somehow be integrated the right way into the gaming structure, but it shouldn't be something that's an absolute – which is sounding like what Microsoft has in mind with its Kinect 2 technology in the Xbox 720. Optional is better.
Take a Chance With New Franchises, But Adore the Old Ones
With the PlayStation 3, Sony's managed to pull off a great trick in terms of game releases. It's stuck to its guns with some of the bigger series out there, like Uncharted, Sly Cooper, Motorstorm and Killzone, but it's also lent support to independent developers, like the teams behind The Unfinished Swan and Dyad, to make them shine on PlayStation Network.
Sony, you should definitely keep this up. This kind of rhythm gives everyone something to play, and with the integration of touch-screen controls for the PS4 (based on what we've seen anyway), you can easily open the door to even better independent development. Introduce some kind of "indie network" that supports developer-to-gamer releases as well…something along the lines of what Xbox did with Indie Games, but with better promotion and easier interfacing.
Bring the games, and people will play them…even if they are a bit more expensive than usual. Maybe introduce a $5-$10 initial pricing structure for certain ones, and take it from there.
Introduce a Better Interface For Your Network
Sony, you've done a pretty good job fortifying your PlayStation Network (following its hacker-led crash in April 2011), and giving users something to keep them around with PlayStation Plus. But, honestly, your new PlayStation Store is kind of a bust, taking a while to load and find what we're looking for.
With the PlayStation 4, you've got a strong opportunity to redesign the store from scratch. Sure, give us key offers on things that you think would be to our interest, but also give us the choice to look around specifically for items we want, like Shooters or movies that don't star Adam Sandler (after we saw Jack and Jill, we're definitely doing that more often). And, for that matter, work on better network speeds. The time it takes to download patches and such is ridiculous.
Do Away With Game Installs
One huge problem with the PlayStation 3 that's incredibly hard to overlook is the fact that some games require more than 2 GB to install. Seeing as how most Xbox 360 games run on the system without the need for an install, isn't this a bit ridiculous? Here's hoping that the PS4 has the kind of memory set-up that doesn't require a huge chunk of your hard drive, instead utilizing the built-in hardware to process at the right speed, and maybe even some cloud support to handle the rest. Just an idea, and I think it's a good one, Sony. How about you?
And Finally…The Last Guardian?
Please? We have been waiting like an eternity for it. PS4 launch game? Hmmm?
We'll have full details on Sony's PlayStation 4 details next week.