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Is The PS4 Ready For Launch?

Sony's PlayStation 4 is coming in a few weeks. Is it ready for this holiday season?

By Mike Williams. Published 5 months ago

Today, Sony revealed details of the PlayStation 4's day one patch, a 300 MB update that's required for certain system features to work. This update will include Vita Remote Play, second-screen features using the PlayStation Vita or Playstation App, always-on game recording, game broadcasting, voice chat, facial recognition via the PlayStation Camera, the play-as-you-download feature, online multiplayer, and even Blu-Ray/DVD player functionality. The system's Blu-Ray player being non-functional without the update is quite perplexing, as Sony's past systems haven't had this issue.

If that sounds like pretty much all of the PlayStation 4's features, you're mostly right. One feature that won't be a part of the update is the Suspend/Resume Mode, which allows you to suspend the system and then effortlessly return to the game you're playing, like putting a Vita into Sleep Mode or closing your 3DS. Sony is not clear on when that feature will be released in an update. It's a pretty cool feature that I'm sad won't be at launch.

It's not a huge update, but it suggests that Sony is still hammering out certain parts of the PlayStation 4 operating system. The company has probably used the time to manufacture a larger number of systems, while working on smoothing out the OS right up until launch.

Like the Xbox One, the PlayStation 4 will not support third-party headsets for voice chat and game audio at launch. Bluetooth headsets won't work at all, and a system update is needed for Sony-branded headsets, Sony Pulse gaming headsets, Sony Pulse Elites, and USB headsets. The description for the voice chat feature in the PS4 day one update is very specific about the use of the pack-in mono headset for chat.

The delay of Driveclub and Ubisoft's Watch_Dogs have also dampened some of the enthusiasm for the system's launch. DriveClub was originally intended to be the first free game available for the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection on PS4, but the game has been pushed back to 2014. In my article about the Xbox One's launch, "early 2014" pops up a lot, and we're starting to see a bit of that on Sony's side. Early 2014 is when it looks like both systems will be approaching full functionality and a robust "launch window" lineup. In DriveClub's place, PlayStation Plus users gets Resogun and Contrast; both look to be solid games, but are little comfort for racing fans.

Not this year...

Many will point out that Watch_Dogs is also coming to the Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, and PlayStation 3, so the delay affects all the systems. The problem is Sony and Ubisoft have some sort of alliance leading to heavy cross-promotion between both companies. Watch_Dogs was in the spotlight at the PlayStation Meeting press conference in February and again at Sony's E3 2013 press conference. The game has 60 minutes of PlayStation-specific content. When Watch_Dogs ended up on Jimmy Fallon, the PlayStation 4 box art and PlayStation 4 controllers were front-and-center. Most of the demos I've seen and the content on the official Watch_Dogs YouTube account, like this 15-minute gameplay video, are of the PlayStation 4 version (or at least a PC with a PlayStation 4 controller). Sony even had an official Watch_Dogs PlayStation 4 bundle, shown above.

Watch_Dogs may be a multi-platform title, but the promotion of the game is heavily tied to the PlayStation 4. The loss of Watch_Dogs hits the PlayStation 4 harder when it comes to retail, since most of the system's exclusives are digital-only. To many, it was the game that justified the next-gen purchase in either direction. Without it, Sony has to rely more on Killzone, Knack, and the $100 price difference to sway consumers.

If anything, the launch of the PlayStation 4 is a more muted affair than I originally guessed after Sony's E3 2013 presentation. Microsoft has successfully gained on its rival, even if it's still behind in fans' hearts. In either direction, a launch day purchase of the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One is more a purchase of potential than of the realities of launch. Features are missing, titles are delayed, and $400-500 is a lot of money. It's all about who you believe will bring you to a better place in two, three, or five years. Who is that for you?

The best community comments so far 10 comments

  • bradgrenz 5 months ago

    With the way expected functionality has exploded for consoles it isn't really surprising that new consoles will launch in something less than a mature feature set. That said, I think this is a pretty uncharitable view of the PS4's day one capabilities. When you compare the state of various features directly with the state of the Xbox One like those you noted in your companion article it's pretty obvious who is further along.

    While headsets designed for previous gen systems won't work if they rely on USB for chat, any standard 3.5mm headset will work just fine plugged into the DualShock 4. Contrast that with no 3rd party headsets whatsoever for Xbox One until their adapters ships in 2014. PS4 will also stream to Ustream and Twitch, plus allow video and screenshot uploads to both Twitter and Facebook day one. The Xbox One will presumably support Twitch day one, but Upload Studio will only be able to share clips on Xbox Live, with no way to get them to external services until some time in 2014. PS4 will also support real names day one, another nebulous 2014 feature for Xbox One. HDD will be upgradable day one on PS4, Xbox One does not support upgrading the internal HDD at all, and support for external USB3 drives is, you guessed it, expected some time in 2014, along with Indie game support and PC drivers for the Xbox One controller. PS4 will have numerous Indie titles before year's end and DualShock 4 controllers that are already on store shelves work out of the box on any PC, Mac or Ouya, and even some PS3 games. And a feature like RemotePlay has no analog one Xbox One to begin with.

    And this is without delving into the murkier subject of the development challenges currently being faced by 3rd parties, many rumors of which paint a picture of the Xbox One being in dire shape, resulting in unexpectedly wide quality gaps in launch titles between the PS4 and Xbox One versions.

  • touchofkiel 5 months ago

    I'll be going with Sony, but who knows how long it will take for the library to build up so that a console purchase becomes worth it to me personally? Usually that means when there's more than a handful of quality RPGs... which usually takes a few years. I have plenty to play on my PS3 and portable consoles now... what's the rush?

    Is the console ready for launch? Are they ever? Kotaku's Totilo had pretty much the best metaphor I've heard, to paraphrase: a console doesn't launch, it slowly wakes up.

    You can wake me up when MGSV, FFXV, and KHIII are here.

  • docexe 5 months ago

    @CK20XX It’s funny but very spot on. From a purely pragmatic and utilitarian point of view, I don’t think there is much justification in being an early adopter these days. The only justification I find is if there is a game that you have to play no matter what and that you can’t play in any other platform, but in the case of the XBOne and PS4, I honestly don’t think any of their launch games are essential. Infamous and Titan Fall, the closest things that look like killer apps to me, won’t appear until 2014.

    Plus there is all the drama that’s going to happen in the first months with bugs and glitches in the OS, unexpected manufacturing defects, busy servers for the mandatory downloads, etc., etc., etc. The Wii U was bashed to hell and back at launch because of this kind of issues, yet many people forgot that they are common with modern consoles.

    Considering all of this, the fact that games and consoles tend to be overpriced in my country, that I just won’t have enough cash available on the holidays for a new console, and that I also have a massive backlog of current gen games that I have to play… Well, I’m not in a rush to get any of the next gen consoles. I can wait for another year or two.

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