I'm not usually the sort to be posting rumours on my blog, but this one just seemed too good to not contemplate - if only for a moment at the very least.
According to 'reliable sources' speaking to gaming news site Kotaku, the new PlayStation 4 - or Orbis, as it is possibly going to be named is possibly going to be due for release in the 2013 Christmas season. Aside from the intriguing name (which, when put in conjunction with Vita, forms the Latin phrase Orbis Vita, or Vitae to be precise, meaning Circle of Life), there are two rumoured 'features' that are really rather concerning, at least how I see them.
First on the list is the supposed out-of-the-box incompatibility with PS3 software. Now I know, I know, the PS3 swiftly eliminated backwards compatibility with PS2 software, and the world kept on turning. However, I am getting increasingly unable to see my television set amidst the wealth of cables, transformers, adapters, and indeed hardware itself that surrounds it. I physically have no room to keep other consoles in the living room. For me, my Wii's backwards compatibility with my Gamecube software is brilliant, I can store the Gamecube itself away in the loft somewhere for posterity, but I just have one little console sat under my television.
|This is the most reliable photo I could find for the potential new console....|
There are bound to be plenty of sensible and well-reasoned arguments for leaving out backwards compatibility - a cheaper to produce and thus cheaper to buy piece of kit being the obvious one. However, cynical as I am, I can't help but think that there isn't somewhere, tucked away in the mother-ship that is Sony HQ, a little spark of 'genius' that says this just gives us a good reason to re-release PS3 games with slightly updated visuals a little way down the line and sap more money from consumers the easy way, as opposed to investing in innovation or creative, new ideas. As I said, I'm a cynical old git - and probably, most people won't care one iota about not being able to play their PS3 games on their shiny new Orbis or whatever it will eventually be named. We'll have to wait and see.
The second 'feature' - and I use this term, oh so loosely, is the rumour that the console will actually block users from playing used titles - if not completely, then very noticeably. The most likely application of this is that used software sold in stores will only be able to run in a 'trial', or 'demo' mode on any machine other than that to which it was originally registered. Users would have to then pay to unlock the full game.
In principle, this isn't a bad idea, let's be honest. This saves publishers having to implement and maintain their own 'Online Pass' systems, it means that developers get money from used game sales, and thus the industry itself makes more money all round - all fine and dandy surely? What is not such a spectacular product of this feature is that the rumour also suggests the Orbis will insist on an internet connection in order to play games - as, much like Steam, they will need to periodically check for the registration state of the software.
It does appear that Sony may have single-handedly removed one of the greatest bits of ammunition in the Console vs. PC debate - copy protection. The point of a console - at least in my mind - is to be able to plug in and play games immediately - no faff, no installation, no online checks, and no internet connection unless I want to play multiplayer. The Xbox dashboard and enforced PS3 installations are bad enough - if I am going to be forced to keep my console connected to the aether at all times, I surely might as well just invest in a new gaming PC and retire back to the small office I crawled out of around the N64 era when consoles stole my interest. I'm already beginning to spend more and more time on Steam than I ever have done - if this rumour were to be fact, it would certainly give me a major kick further into Valve's realm.
|Personally, I think this concept is a thousand times more awesome...|
I am in complete agreement that developers should get some return from used game sales, no question - especially when stores push preowned over new so freely. However, I think the hardware-level is the wrong place for this. It needs to come from the retail level. A percentage of sales should go directly back to the relevant developers and publishers. It's not a difficult bit of mathematics really. A console-wide lockdown on used game sales will put off a huge number of potential buyers. I for example, have bought preowned games at knock-down prices only to discover hidden gems that I otherwise would never have played. I'm much more likely to then buy further titles either in the franchise, or from the same developer. I'm sure I can't be alone in that purchasing pattern. What will happen to that market if buyers know they may potentially be buying something that they won't even be able to rinse for trophies, at the very least, if they find they can't stand it.
How much will used games even sell for under this new scheme? £1? £5? How much would they be to unlock? Paying the full original retail price would be stupid, as you might as well just buy new. How will a value be placed on an unlock code?
What happens if Microsoft's new console doesn't have a similar system? Why would people buy an Orbis if they could buy the new Xbox, safe in the knowledge that they can still buy preowned?
It's a very interesting situation to consider, and could drastically change the face of games retail and consumer buying. I know it would have a huge impact on my own personal buying habits that's for sure.
However, this is obviously still rumour. We don't even know that Orbis is the definite name, let alone any of these other potential sticky issues, so I won't throw my toys out the pram just yet. We'll wait and see how it all goes down in the end...