Saturday, December 9, 2006

How can I Play Games on the PS4?

As many of you watching the latest PS4 news know, Sony's studios president Phil Harrison said he would "be amazed if the PS4 had a physical disk drive". Some have said that the 'only way this could be possible is if you downloaded games via the internet'.

Hello people… don't you remember Nintendo and Sega genesis?

The original gaming systems didn't have disk drives, they had cartridges. CDs, DVDs, and now blu-ray technology made it possible to hold much more information on disks, so systems have gone that route.

If you could make conveniently sized chips play high quality games, and either store them on the hard drive digitally, or run through the upgraded chip, they could easily run on non disk formatted software.

With the new cell chip, and Sony working on a future chip with less than half the size technology, it is more than feasible that the future will bring games via chips or memory sticks.

And while I'm not proposing that I believe that the PS4 will go back to game cartridges (at least in it's original form), it is entirely possible that with memory sticks and USB ports that the games could be featured without a physical disk drive AND without requiring people to download games via the internet. I mean if someone's going to talk about the future in an innovative market, you think that they could at least maintain an open mind and use their imagination a little bit.

One option is that gaming companies will partner with Sony, and the games will be featured on an upgradeable hard drive. From the software developers perspective it would make no sense to continue to develop games if their wasn't a contract in place to make a specific amount of games, however that would cause the Sony to be ultimately way too high priced. Unless...

Unless they have a monthly subscription price for ALL of that developers games. For example, if you wanted all of say Konami's games, you pay a certain monthly fee.

If you want EA games, another monthly fee. By limiting the hard drives to developers and combinations of games, or by types of games (sports games subscription, shooter subscription), they could mass produce hard drives with several games and upgrade them. This is most likely the most tedious option of all of them, but gaming developers would love a monthly check coming in, especially if they're featured with a top selling game.

Say there was a game with the popularity of Halo. All consumers would order a shooter game. All the shooter games would benefit from Halo's success. Of course the motivation to produce high quality games would be lower, and the consumers that prefer to play fewer game titles would probably dislike this option. However there is also the possibility that the larger game developers would team up to create even better games. Even if this is the least likely to happen, it is still a possibility.

Another option is that games are played on a network, not downloaded through the internet. This would mean that you would go online and either pay a subscription fee, or pay a one time fee to access specific games.

You would then play with others on a network, similar to games such as final fantasy 11, Warcraft, or Everquest. The game would not be downloaded, but it would be already stored on a powerful server, and the games would run from that server.

Of course I'm sure Sony will make it possible to play 1 player games as well. Since you would be playing primarily through the internet, as an added feature they would also being able to keep track of high scores, records, and other player's achievements or even enter time trials. This would allow competition with 1 player games for those with that competitive nature.

To gain access to the games, perhaps you buy a 1 time encrypted access code via stores so you can buy the software the traditional way, and perhaps you could also buy access to the game via the internet. Whether you have to download it or play it streaming or not is another story.

Then of course there is the PSP2 option. This is where Sony would basically require you to buy the PSP2 to be able to play the PS4. While it may not be the most favorable option for consumers, it would allow people to buy the physical disks, gaming sticks (or whatever is used for games), and upload them to the PS4. The PS4 would then be able to either connect directly via a link to the PSP2 for quicker download time, or use a wireless connection and download the games. If they go this route, you would think that they would have more possibilities.

If the PSP2 is involved, I could see them using some sort of memory stick type hard drive for entire games. You would then buy the sticks, and be able to upload them to either your PS4 OR your PSP2.

This would take backward compatibility 1 step farther as newly published games could be used on either system, whether you're on the go or at home... But unless there would be someway of converting your old discs to these memory sticks, this brings us to another common concern with a non physical disk drive.

The PS2 and PS3 have both been backward compatible. Recently Sony’s president Kaz Hirai said that 10 years is the general shelf life for systems, however as explained in a previous article, that doesn't necessarily mean that the PS4 will be released in 10 years). In fact, I still stand by that statement, and I think that it is very likely that the PS4 will have a separate disk drive accessory which allows you to play the PS3, PS2, and PS1 games. And perhaps you could even convert the games into rewritable memory sticks.

This will allow them to transition in less than 10 years if they wish to while still maintaining friendly relationships with the consumer.

However, it is also very possible that I am wrong and that a 10 year deadline is possible. If this is the case, the 5 year extension with IBM and Toshiba that they had working with the cell chips, and working on a chip by using technology less than half the size would clearly show that their original intention is to create a chip for the PSP2.

That way, if the best technology is the small version of the cell chip when the PS4 production rolls around, they can use it, but if technology changes, they can choose to use or develop something else.

While it's very possible that the PS4 is released within 10, 7, or even 5 years, we must still be prepared to go without a PS4 until 2016.

Mike Summers

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