What should we expect from PSN for the PS4
Sony’s press conference revealing the PS4 awed quite many including myself, and PS4 was warmly received by many developers. However, people expecting Avatar in real-time and PC elitists with thousand dollar rigs were too quick to dismiss the PS4 in multiple forums. We’ll see whether Sony’s choice of hardware is right or wrong in couple of years. I tend to think they have a winner in their hands.
One thing that was absolutely missing from the presentation was Playstation Home. Not a single word was spoken about it, and I think it is a good thing. Playstation Home’s goals for seducing the core gamers have not been met, it became a hub for meta-gaming and there’s a total disconnect between the Home and the core gamer. Unless Sony has some PS4 related announcement about Home, we can call Home good-bye on PS4. You won’t miss it either, the less time Sony’s engineers spend on Home, the more PSN features and enhancements we get. Even though Sony invested a lot in Home, it needs to let it go on the PS4.
Even launching a year after Xbox360, PSN didn’t support true Multiple Local User logins. While for lone players this is a non-issue, not all of us play games in isolation. Whether for adhering to personal control schemes, awarding trophies to nth player, or for a consistent gaming persona, multiple local user logins are required. It took several years before Sony came up with an incomplete solution to this, and then never enforced it on developers anyway, even for multi-platform games that already had the functionality on the Xbox360 did not have multiple logins. On Xbox, multiple logins for local multiplayer is mandated. Luckily, this will change for the PS4, as the whole user login system is designed around multiple logins. And it won’t be a wild guess that the developers have to design their user system around multiple user logins and on-the-fly user changes without exiting the game. No more having to reset the game just to play the game with your own user.
Keeping your gaming persona, your trophies, your friend list during the PS4 will be quite important. That’s why, PSN should let sub-accounts to be upgraded to Master Accounts. For a console with a supposed 10 year life-cycle, for people who turn 18, this should have been done automatically, or with at least by permission from the master account. Converting a sub-account to a master-account should be as easy as flipping a switch for Sony, however, for some reason this is not supported, just let them re-sign an agreement suited for master accounts when people turn 18 and you should be good to go. People who started their PSN gaming when they were 16 and did not lie about their ages will have problems declaring their independence while keeping their user and friends. I think it is not fair for Sony to ask people to acquire new user names just because some Sony lawyer is too lazy to write an upgraded user agreement. This should affect millions of players around the world. Do it Sony. Let us upgrade those sub-accounts to master-accounts!
Sony announced several interesting player and social centric features on the PS4. Just how much of these services will be free and how much of the features will be reserved for Playstation plus users remains to be seen. I won’t be surprised if Plus users are given luxury options, which will make it even more feasible than it already is. Perhaps every user will have access to most of the features, but bonuses may be given to Plus players such as longer recording of game-play, video chat overlay only reserved for Plus users etc.
Also, I believe a Global PSN without boundaries will be very beneficial for both users and developers alike. Steam can do it, why not PSN? Content can still cater to regional differences (like Steam does). Your game can have your French subtitles patched in later. For this, Sony should get its act together and unify all the online divisions. That said, current policy leads to multiple PSN accounts per user, which -although artificially- increases the PSN subscribers, something that Sony likes to boast in shareholder meetings.
Hopefully, we’ll have much more to talk about after E3.
In summary. Changes in PSN and User Interface:
- Mandatory local multiplayer login for games with local multiplayer
- Changing player identities without quitting the game
- No native Playstation Home support for PS4.
- Some core advertised PSN functionality reserved for Plus users.
Improbable but Sony should better implement
- Converting Sub-accounts to Master-accounts to keep Gamer identities.
- Global PSN.