Will New PS4 Struggle?

The new Playstation 4 from Sony is going on sale in the US tomorrow. There are plenty of reviews out for this amazing machine, but one common complaint is apparent: it is short on games. Could Sony have fixed this problem?

The Conundrum

I can imagine that the folks at Sony faced a conundrum: should the PS4 natively run PS3 games or not? When the Playstation 3 was released, it also played Playstation 2 games. The machine didn’t run some kind of software emulation layer to do this. Instead, it included the hardware for a PS2 right inside the case. That inclusion likely resulted in the higher-than-hoped-for cost of the PS3 when it launched.

But it had the benefit of allowing PS2 owners to continue to enjoy their library of games while the PS3 library started to grow. Instead of having to keep their PS2 connected, they could use a single machine. It may not seem like much, but as an owner of a PS2 with a modest library of games, it was nice to have a single machine do the work of both. It meant that we didn’t have to wait, we could at least play something.

But The PS4 Does PS3 (Sort Of)

There are two ways you can play your PS3 games on a PS4. Neither are ideal in my mind. The first involves downloaded games. If you bought a game via digital download from the Playstation Network, and that game is updated to the PS4, you can download the PS4 version for free. This will probably be fine for more contemporary games, but don’t expect a lot of the older titles (unless they are still popular) to be made available. I suspect that porting a PS3 game to PS4 isn’t a simple “recompile and you’re done”. I would be there is work, and work means cost, and doing something for zero revenue isn’t an enticing business proposition.

The other way Sony is making PS3 games playable involve using cloud services. Again, if your game is available as a digital download for PS3, Sony will run your game on servers located out on the Internet, as sort of a “virtual PS3”. Your input data is sent to the virtual instance from your machine, while the sound and graphics are sent back. All of this is over the Internet. But, given the unpredictable nature of data delays and bandwidth changes, this will likely result in less-than-ideal gameplay. Even if you have multi-tens-of-megabits of bandwidth into your home, you are still contending with other Internet traffic, as well as the load on the servers running the virtual instances.

Pay More For PS3 Support?

I know this solution is complicated, and the increased complexity in the machine presents various technical challenges, but here is an idea: offer a model of the PS4 with PS3 support, but for an extra charge. I’d pay an extra $100 to get a single machine that does both. I have a number of PS3 games that I still want to play, and some are old enough that digital download isn’t an option. But having a transition period, where I can still play my PS3 games while the new PS4 games arrive is something I would pay extra for.

I have no plans to get a PS4, because I simply don’t have the capacity in my AV system. But isn’t that a bit silly? Seriously, it should be a matter of connecting another machine into the home theatre system, right? Well, except that my AV receiver has all the ports occupied, and I don’t want to have to keep switching one of them (the PS3/PS4 connector) back and forth depending on the machine I want to use. It’s annoying. It’s inconvenient.

Do I want a PS4? Sure, I do. I’ve been very happy with my PS3 over the years. Having more power and better graphics is always welcome. But will I get one? Not for a while. Not until I see which my favourite games come out on the PS4 (assuming they ever do). Until then, I’ll sit on the sidelines and keep soldiering on with my PS3.