Here’s What PC Needs to Do to Beat Playstation 4
Last week, we got a giant rundown of how crazy awesome Sony claims the Playstation 4 will end up being.
Sony rolled out a whole bunch of features to make the Playstation 4 sound as amazing as possible. Tech specs like the use of DDR5 RAM, social features like the ability to share video instantly, and expansive features like “remote play” with the PS Vita make the PS4 sounds like an incredible console.
Except almost everything mentioned as part of the Playstation 4 reveal event on Feb. 20 is already available to PC players, just in a less-organized fashion. Really, while the PS4 is rolling out a lot of fancy bells and whistles, it’s not going to eclipse many of the capabilities PC players have had access to for a while now. The real name of the game here is not about carving 3-D sculptures and making puppet shows like Media Molecule’s demonstration, or hijacking your friend’s controller because he sucks at a game as Mark Cerny pointed out. The real battle is, and has always been, about content.
PC has been winning the content war in some key ways in the last few years of the current hardware generation. That PC renaissance you’ve been hearing about? It’s happening because indie developers are coming out of the woodwork to make cool games for PC, and platforms like Steam and GoG are making huge numbers of titles — especially old ones — easily accessible and cheap. And if they continue to do so, Playstation 4 is going to hang at exactly the same place PS3 has — fine for console players, but not the unstoppable platform Sony surely hopes for.
Here are a few key ways PC can beat Playstation 4 — not counting making better hardware available.
Play Up the PC Strengths PS4 is Stealing
Features like Remote Play — the ability to stream PS4 games to the PS Vita — are not new to PC. Before Sony got Gaikai for its streaming capabilities, the same options were already available from OnLive, and you can still stream PC games to devices such as tablets and even your TV with the service. The trouble for the PC platform is that a lot of these services aren’t unified: Sony is bringing streaming, social networking, games and other junk all to one place. It’s the strength of consoles that players don’t have to worry about separate systems.
But PC can present a unified front without sacrificing its ability to be a competitive, open platform, with a few key partnerships. Just as Sony acquired Gaikai to make its streaming capabilities a reality, so too could Valve or Good Old Games team with OnLive in tech-sharing or content-sharing initiatives. Neither has to sacrifice their independence, but bringing more games to more platforms isn’t a pipe dream, it’s an active reality that PC players already have access to. Competing with Sony on that front is just a matter of making more of it possible.
Valve has also already done some messing around with cross-platform compatibility between Steam and Playstation 3 in Portal 2, and this is another area through which PC could continue to extend, and not necessarily even in the realm of triple-A. Mobile is a burgeoning sphere in which many games are compatible across platforms — primarily between Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, but also jumping the gap to platforms such as Facebook. And we’re already seeing lots of these games ported from their mobile versions to PC and vice versa. Opening the conduits between Android phones and PC players seems not only completely doable, but like a major potential selling point for a huge amount of content across both platforms, and a great way to push back against Sony’s streaming and Vita initiatives. PC developers and publishers could easily bridge players’ existing hardware and sell content, while Sony wants everyone to own multiple Playstation-branded devices. The advantage is clear.