Posted by John on August 23, 2011

Dissecting Sony’s ‘New Experiences’ For The PS3

Unless you’re a casual gamer, all the big raving news so far has been about Sony’s end of silence on the next-generation console issue regarding the PS4. And while it’s been almost six years since the release of the Xbox 360 and nearly five years since the release of the PS3 and Wii, Sony still believes that there is room for developers to further capitalize on the potential of the PlayStation 3.

Sony’s global boss, Shuhei Yoshida, basically stated in his interview with EuroGamer that so long as developers can bring gamers “new experiences” to the PS3 there’s no need to transition into the next-generation of PlayStation consoles. Hence, there’s no need to even bother announcing any news regarding a PS4. But what does that really mean?

To quote Yoshida directly, he stated that…

“…when you see games coming out on PS3, both the traditional type of games as well as new kind of games using PS Move, there is a lot more we can do from the game development standpoint.
“So as long as we and our developers can create new experiences that are more exciting to consumers, I see no need to transition into newer generation.”

It does make you curious about what he means by this exactly. From a hardware resource point of view, supposedly the developers of God of War 3 told UGDB that they barely used 50% of the PS3’s “potential” power. Now that would be an impressive feat if perhaps, the game wasn’t a string-along, strict, by-the-books hack-and-slash cinematic title, as opposed to say, KillZone 3, in which Guerrilla Games offered a different sentiment on the processing power of the PS3.

According EuroGamer Portugal’s interview with Guerrilla Games’ director of production, Arjan Brussee, KillZone 2 utilized 60% of the PS3’s SPUs and GPU and KillZone 3 supposedly made use of 100% of the system’s resources (presumably for the campaign co-op and stereoscopic 3D features). It definitely leaves you questioning what more then could triple-A, big-budget games get out of the PS3 if some of the first-party studios are already admitting that they’re maxing out the console?

Some third party studios, such as id Software and DICE have also run into trouble getting games like Rage and Battlefield 3 to mirror certain gameplay features on the consoles that are present on the PC versions of the game. For instance, Battlefield 3 won’t have quite the same destructible environment capabilities or amount of players and vehicles on the console version as it will the PC version, and added to this the game will be limited to running in 720p at 30 frames per second, as opposed to the 2560 x 1600 resolution and 60 frames per second on PC. Many of the graphical and AI capabilities of the Frostbite 2.0 and id Tech 5 engine also had to be left on the cutting room floor when making the transition over to the home consoles.

Even Epic’s Unreal Engine 3, capable of outputting CGI quality graphics in realtime is awaiting hardware to make use of the middleware because…you guessed it, the current-gen consoles just can’t handle what Epic could potentially put out using the Unreal Engine 3.
In this regard, one would have to concede that the PS3 is “maxed” when looking at it from the perspective of middleware advancement and what some developers are capable of doing on PC compared to what they’re limited to doing on consoles. However, is this really what Yoshida is alluding to in his statements?

For the most part, it seems as if maybe the Sony camp could be looking into the aspect of gaming that has been ignored for so long throughout this generation (save for indie developers) and that is the possibility of exploring the market of new ideas using current-generation hardware. In this regard, everyone would have to agree that there is a lot of life left in the PS3, especially if we go back to Santa Monica Studios’ claim that God of War 3 only used 50% of the PS3’s potential power. That doesn’t need to translate to “We need more graphically powerful games!” it could also mean “We can use various other tricks of the trade to capitalize on making original games without maxing out the hardware”. The latter sentiment is something rarely explored in mainstream gaming today but could be the route Sony might take for extending the life of the PS3.

It would be really interesting if Sony, for the next two years, stood behind publishing strictly original titles that pushed the PS3’s hardware in a different direction…potentially more games like LittleBigPlanet, Heavy Rain or ModNation Racers, but more daring or thought provoking.

Shuhei also mentions that part of their “new experiences” for the PS3 would include new kind of games using the PS Move, potentially those that aren’t just standard-fare run-n-gun shooters. While at E3 we didn’t see a lot of innovative new titles for the PS Move, there is StarHawk and Dust 514 on the horizon, but they still fit into the run-n-gun shooter category. Maybe, between this time and 2012 Sony will have more announcements for games that push the limits of the PS3 by focusing on utilizing the PS Move in a more pivotal game-changing role. However, if nothing groundbreaking emerges by this year’s Tokyo Game Show it’s probably safe to say that Yoshida’s inclusion of the PS Move being part of those “new experiences” for the PS3 was just PR talk.

As it stands, though, the PC gaming arena has far surpassed the console market where either PC ports are held back from taking full advantage of today’s hardware capabilities or the console ports become shallow figments of what they were intended to be (i.e., Battlefield 3, Metro 2033, Rage, Crysis, etc).

One thing is for sure, 2012 will be a very interesting year for gaming because it will determine if Sony holds true to maximizing the future-proof viability of the PS3 while the Wii U launches and Microsoft prepares to announce its new console, or if Sony is just blowing PR smoke and they have entirely different plans altogether.

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