For years we’ve gamed on various PlayStation consoles: namely the PS1, PS2, PS3, and its portable variations (PSP and Vita). With each system, we’ve seen PlayStation grow in many ways. Each system has had games that “wowed” us visually (at the time) and, in some cases, even “wowed” us emotionally. Each step along the way, Sony has introduced us to new experiences, both in terms of games and services. They’ve also introduced us to new media, with which to access our content (both games and movies).
Tomorrow, February 20, 2013, Sony will be having a PlayStation meeting that, by all indications, will be showing us the future of PlayStation, namely the PlayStation 4 (referred to as PS4 hereafter). Along with the many questions that are swirling in my mind (and many other gamers), one seems the most blatant: what’s the next step for media distribution?
Before we answer that question, let’s take a journey back and think about what steps the older PlayStation consoles took. If you remember back to 1995 and the PlayStation (PSX), the console that started it all for us Sony fans, that console made use of a CD-ROM drive. This served two purposes: One, it was of a higher capacity than comparable cartridge-based alternative at the time could offer (at any reasonable price). Two, it allowed for music CD’s to be played back on the console, thus further justifying the cost of the console. After all, the more features you can get for one price, the better, right? Right.
Following the success of the PlayStation (PSX), the PlayStation 2 (PS2) debuted in 2000. This console took us out of the realm of CD-ROM drives and into the new cutting-edge technology of DVD-ROM drives. Again, this served two purposes, the same two the PSX had, which was higher capacity discs for better games and the ability to playback DVD movies. It was fully backward compatible with all PSX titles and could also playback music CD’s.
Moving forward to 2006, we saw the release of the PlayStation 3 (PS3). The PS3 was a behemoth of technological advancement (to our 2006 selves, mind you). It offered everything that the PSX and PS2 had offered (CD music and DVD movie playback) and much more, including yet another step forward in media advancement: Blu-Ray Disc technology, capable of holding 50GB on a dual layer version. This was an unprecedented storage medium, which would allow for games and experiences unlike any other before it. Again, the dual purpose concept came into play as Blu Ray movies had launched not too long before the PS3. The ability to watch movies as well as play games on the new format was a highly-touted feature by both Sony and self-proclaimed fanboys alike.
Now, we’re back in present day. It’s February 19. 2013. We’re less than 24 hours away from seeing what the future of PlayStation holds. Again, the question raised is, “what’s the next step for media distribution?”
We’ve seen CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and BD-ROM all come and go. What might we see with the launch of the PS4? Another new media format from Sony? BD-ROM XL? BD-ROM Quad Layer 4K? The answer will probably be no, no, and…wait for it….no.
Sony, like many companies, are forward thinkers. They realize the eventuality of the phasing out of physical media formats. I don’t think that at this point in time, they’re going to launch yet another format. Instead, being the tech savvy company that they are, the PS4 (and indeed the PlayStation brand) will be moving forward to a higher realm of storage, to a place where dreams come true, a place where the angels sing, a place where the rain comes from…The Cloud.
Sony is no stranger to Cloud technology. They’ve offered Cloud storage for game saves in their PlayStation Plus service for a few years now. Furthermore, they recently purchased Gaikai, a video-game cloud streaming service, which has been regarded as the best option on the market (even better than OnLive, which was skipped by Sony for fiscal reasons).
They now are poised to take their assets in Cloud technology and put them to good use in the as-of-this-typing unannounced PS4. Cloud storage and streaming offer numerous advantages to physical media storage and playback, respectively. One advantage that Cloud offers is that your content never becomes a victim of newer hardware. Obsolescence becomes a non-issue, and backward compatibility an archaic concept. Servers in the Cloud will always stay current and will always be there for you to play your games. Another advantage that Cloud offers is that all of your content, presumably (rumored PS4 feature), is available to you no matter where you are or what device you are using. You could be in the bathroom at a Yankees’ baseball game on your iPad and you could have access to your PlayStation Network (or more broadly, SEN, Sony Entertainment Network) content. (Don’t act like you guys don’t play around on your smartphones on the toilet. You can lie all you want, but most people do.
All joking aside, the point is that Cloud is very advantageous to gamers. Now, what I would like to know is whether you guys are ready for such a leap or is the jump to the Cloud too big a step?
Let us know by dropping a comment in the comment section below.