We re-cap Sony’s new hardware and software reveals during their E3 2014 press conference.
When Sony exec Shawn Layden took the stage at the company’s E3 press conference, we were sure that something important would be announced.
Layden, who took Jack Tretton’s place as President and CEO of SCEA when the latter stepped down back in March, delivered some hefty updates on how Sony plans to further the PlayStation brand with new hardware and software–PS Now, new sharing features, and a little something called the PlayStation TV.
PS TV: Remote Play without the Vita
The PlayStation TV is essentially a Westernized version of Japan’s ultra-popular PS Vita TV. The slim peripheral is so compact it’ll fit in the palm of your hand, but its game streaming capabilities have some powerful implications for convenience and utility.
“This little gem will be able to pair with your PlayStation 4 allowing you to play your PS4 games via Remote Play on a second television in your home,” Layden announced.
If that wasn’t enough, the PlayStation TV will afford a “huge” library of games with PS Now integration and can also play “most PS Vita titles as well as PS One and PSP classics”. The peripheral taps one of the PS4’s major selling points for cross-platform game streaming and will assuredly be tethered via WiFi network connectivity similar to the PS Vita’s functionality.
The PS TV will be available in the United States and Canada for a price point of $99, with an optional $139 hardware bundle that includes a PS TV, an HDMI cord, a DualShock 3 controller, an 8GB memory card and a digital voucher for The Lego Movie video game.
The inclusion of an 8GB memory card in the bundle is curious, and it hints that the PlayStation TV requires those same overpriced memory cards that have haunted PS Vita owners everywhere.
Hopefully we’ll get some sort of discount when the device becomes available, but it’ll be interesting to see if the bulk of the data is streamed via Sony serverswith minimal data saved on the device via cached files. If so, the memory won’t matter so much, but if we have to save the entire download, gamers will need to pick up those wallet-breaking 32GB memory cards.
No release date has been announced for the PS TV, but it appears that Sony doesn’t want to release the device until the PlayStation Now service is up-and-running.
Layden affirms that the device will have “nearly 1,000 titles to choose from at launch“, which pretty much ensures that PlayStation Now needs to be ready for a catalog that diverse.
PS Now Beta: Coming Soon to a PlayStation near you
PlayStation Now is Sony’s answer to the PS4’s lack of backwards compatibility. The digital game-streaming service will feature a catalog of PS classics across all past platforms, from PS One titles to recent PS3 releases. So far, the beta has been closed and invite-only, but later next month we’ll all get in on the action.
Layden announced that Sony will hold an open beta for PlayStation Now will be available starting July 31st on the PlayStation 4. PS Vita and PS3 support will be added in shortly after, and later this year the service will be made available to select Sony-branded Smart TV’s.
During the open beta, PlayStation gamers will have access to more than 100 PS3 games from the industries best publishers, our own Worldwide Studios, as well as the best from the indie development community.
The SCEA CEO also discussed how PS Now will revolutionize the gaming experience across the PS Vita handheld:
“With PS Now, the Vita will have the best catalog of games available on a mobile device–and the only mobile device with access to the deep library of PlayStation games.
“In total there are more than 100 Vita titles in development today, including Tales of Hearts R, Child of Light, and Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands. Minecraft is also coming to the Vita, and it will be the full console experience with co-op included.
The PS Vita will continue to be a key pillar for [Sony], and we look forward to sharing more gaming experiences across Vita-dedicated titles, PlayStation Now, and PS4 Remote Play.”
Unfortunately Layden also mentioned that Sony will work with publishers to refine “rental durations and prices”, pretty much confirming that the service won’t be free. Nothing was mentioned about a discount for PlayStation Plus users, or if the digital PS Now games could be purchased rather than rented, and we still don’t know anything about rates for the open beta.
YouTube Clip Sharing and Stream Interaction
The Share button on the DualShock 4 has been pressed more than 220 million times. That’s an incredible number of screenshots and captured footage that PlayStation gamers are sharing with their friends or with strangers across Facebook and Twitter.
Sony is looking to amp up those figures and bring even more interactive sharing with the announcement that YouTube video uploading is coming to the PS4 later this year.
“With a simple press of the Share button, PS4 gamers will be able to quickly upload video captures to their YouTube channel.”
YouTube integration is something that gamers have been asking for, and its addition will allow everyone to become an amateur YouTuber. What’s more is that this will provide an easy option to embed videos in blogs and sites across the net, but of course upload times are a major issue.
Layden assures us that the uploads will be quick and convenient, but uploading 30 minutes of HD footage doesn’t go smoothly unless your connection is blazing fast. Maybe Sony will have a server boost for this very reason, but its likely that sharing whole gaming sessions will still take a while.
The next announcement is focused on new social interaction with broadcasted streams across Ustream and Twitch. Using these services, gamers can broadcast live gaming sessions across the net and also use their PlayStation Camera for picture-in-picture narration and interaction.
Up until now, viewers have only been able to interact with streamers and other viewers by typing messages. Sony wants to change this and has announced that spectators will be able to interact with streamers to help or hurt their gaming session. Layden didn’t have any real specific details on how this would function, but its presumed that the PS Camera would be involved in some way.
Sony will be rolling out a new DLC pack for the PS Camera-ready app The Playroom, allowing users to easily create their own custom sets to compliment their feeds.
Free-To-Play games have always been a focus for Sony’s PlayStation brand. Right now PS4 gamers have F2P titles like DC Universe Online, Warframe, and Blacklight: Retribution, but Sony plans to expand this lineup with a plethora of different games across all genres.
Right now Sony has over 25 free-to-play games lined up for release in the next year across the PS3, PS4 and PS Vita handheld. These games include the wide-scale fantasy game Kingdom Under Fire 2, the long-awaited MMOFPS Planetside 2, the deep WWII vehicle war game War Thunder and one of my all-time personal favorite new releases, My Singing Monsters.
Of course like every F2P game, these titles will feature micro-transactions and monetization in order to fund development, but we’ll still be able to jump in without having to shell out digital cash.
Overall Sony’s E3 press conference was smooth and filled with exciting footage and announcements. We were treated to new hardware reveals, game announcements, updates on PlayStation Now progress and Sony’s armament of free-to-play games.
The future is looking bright for Sony, and in the next coming months it’ll be interesting to see if they can stay on top. With Microsoft’s Xbox One now competing with the PS4’s $399 price tag, Sony will need to embrace variety in order to keep their place as king of the gaming hill, and PlayStation Now looks to be a great key to victory.
The PS TV will bring the widespread digital library in the form of a micro-console, powered by a huge offering of PlayStation titles. While the details of PS Now and the device are slim, Sony’s infrastructure looks promising enough, and certainly fits in line with their unified eco-system of PlayStation hardware and software.