While we're not expecting to see the PlayStation 4 on store shelves until late in the year, there's a lot we hope to learn before then. Even Sony doesn't have all the answers right now — the company admitted that many things are still being ironed out. With so many gaming options on the marketplace for 2013, including Microsoft's rumored next-generation Xbox, gamers have a lot of choice, so here are the biggest things we'd like to see answered soon.
1. How Much Will This Cost?This figure could be all over the place. Sony had the most expensive console by far at the last cycle; a PS3 was $600 at launch, a number plenty of people balked at. This was in 2006, too, a time before powerful tablets and cellphones took our gaming mobile, or Android-based consoles were on the horizon. While these might not have the processing power of the PlayStation 4, the market's diversity proves gamers can find content in a lot of places, and Sony will have to consider that in the price.
Along with the system cost, there are the potential extra monthly costs of playing. While the PlayStation Network has been free for years, with the exception of the premium PlayStation Plus membership, Sony might take another look at pricing. Its presentation confirmed free-to-try games in the store, a powerful social service that allowed players to share game video, and games served to other devices.
In a roundtable with journalists Thursday, Sony's worldwide studios president Shuhei Yoshida said the company was investigating a lot of different pricing structures dependent on what consumers want. He couldn't confirm if any part of the online experience would remain free, or if Sony would offer it all to gamers without charging them.
2. Will the PlayStation 4 Play Used Games?After Sony patents were uncovered last month that discussed technology that would associate a game disc's identifier with an account, there was speculation if the upcoming console would refuse to play used games. (Similar rumors are also circulating about the next Xbox.)
Sony didn't exactly put this rumor to rest. Yoshida says that "PlayStation 4 discs will work on any of the consoles." But then he added that publishers could decide to lock their titles, similar to what EA has already begun doing on recent games like Dead Space 3, which requires a code from the box if players want to play online.
When a reporter in the room pointed out the console maker was also a game publisher, Yoshida admitted Sony had not yet decided how to handle used games that it publishes. How Sony's first party games will be handled will likely set a precedent for others publishing on its console.
3. What Does The Console Look Like?Sony doesn't even know that yet, Yoshida confirmed. We'll probably see something closer to E3 in June.
We originally wondered if Sony would do something bold like ditch the optical drive, but Yoshida's other comments about used games dissuaded that idea.
4. What About Old Games?The PlayStation 4 is not backwards compatible, Yoshida said. Neither game discs nor old games bought on the PlayStation Network will work on the system. But Sony talked about the power of Gaikai's streaming services harnessed with PlayStation Cloud, and said that older generations of PlayStation games would eventually be accessible. While this is exciting news, it leaves us with two questions: can we re-download games we already own for free? It would be total gouging to have to pay full price for games twice. And when will these older libraries come to the PS4?
5. What Does the Touchpad Do?
A Killzone Shadow Fall developer said on Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel that the touch pad was useful for navigating between menus, but that's a lot of real estate to devote to that function. Will we see more games moving from mobile to the PlayStation Store that feature touch controls? Was this influenced by the OUYA design? We have yet to see this demonstrated with any of the game technology.
6. How Will the PS4 Support Indie Developers?The PlayStation 4 presentation focused on how great the console is for developers, and included a video talking to those working at studios large and small on how great the new features are. 2012 was also a big year for indie games in the PSN Store, with such massive successes like Journey and Sound Shapes. With a bigger store potentially coming to the PlayStation 4 ecosystem, how will Sony attract indies to provide quality content for the system?
Yoshida said he already respected the iTunes model, and hoped Sony could do something similar with the next-gen PlayStation Store, but of course couldn't announce any specific plans. With so many indies focusing on mobile because of the ease of publishing, can Sony attract them with a self-publishing model that resemble's Apple or the upcoming Android home consoles?
7. What Games Will Be Out at Launch?Launch lineups are ridiculously hard to set up, with games often taking longer to develop than anticipated. At the same time, launching with an anemic list of games doesn't help a console's chances. While lots of publishers and developers partnering with Sony spoke at the presentation, not all were even showing games; Square Enix, Quantic Dream and Media Molecule only showed concepts.
A couple of those titles have been confirmed for launch: first-party Killzone Shadow Fall and Ubisoft's highly anticipated Watch Dogs. While there are still many months for games to pop up between now and launch, Sony is also still promoting huge games for the current-gen PlayStation 3, including Naughty Dog's The Last of Us and Quantic Dreams' Beyond. Let's hope they fill out the lineup much more before launch.
8. When Will We See the Console?Holiday 2013 is the best answer we could get for that, which is reasonable. We don't expect to get a clear answer on this until June at the earliest, though it's worth noting that Nintendo announced its Wii U launch date only 80 days before it was to arrive in stores.
What questions do you have about the PlayStation 4? Let us know what you're curious about in the comments.
Controller and game images courtesy Sony Computer Entertainment America. Used games image courtesy wlodi.