A telltale sign in a promotional video for Sony’s PlayStation 4 controller has led video game fans to believe that the camera peripheral for the company’s upcoming console will be sold separately from the PlayStation 4 itself, contrary to initial expectations.
While this may seem like little more than a minor inconvenience at first, if found to be true the rumor may point to a key difference between Sony and Microsoft’s console strategies, as well as potentially having ramifications for how developers approach either platform.
With both Microsoft and Sony poised to bring their newest home consoles to the market by the end of the year, and with the E3 trade show kicking off in Los Angeles in just over a week’s time, gamers and industry pundits are currently going through every official video, press release and soundbite from both companies with a fine-tooth comb. Prices for the two new consoles have yet to be officially announced, and, with relatively few next-gen games glimpsed so far, people are itching to know what each of the platforms is capable of.
A message displayed at the end of a promotional video for Sony’s DualShock 4 controller, however, suggests that the camera peripheral with which it is capable of communicating may be sold separately of the console itself.
At the close of the video the PlayStation 4 logo appears, followed by the message that reads: “*DualShock®4 features may not be supported by all software titles. PlayStation®4 camera may be required and is sold separately.”
This could simply be a standard legal filler and Sony may well change any future messages or state this not to be the case, but for now it looks as if the company’s next console will support, but not come packaged with, a camera.
“Who needs a camera!? I don’t want my stupid face with its dead eyes scanned and pasted onto my on-screen avatar, anyway!” you may well cry. But this minor detail may impact on how both developers and consumers use Sony’s next console.
With its competing Xbox One platform, Microsoft has made Kinect–the intelligent camera peripheral that allows players to interact with the console using their body alone–standard across the board. Whether you’re interested in flailing around in front of your TV to control your games or not, if you want to use your shiny new Xbox you’ll need to connect that Kinect unit and do as it tells you. While this may seem a little totalitarian (or just plain worrying for those of us who like to play games in our underpants) at first, it makes perfect sense as a business strategy.
Unlike with both the original Kinect released in 2010 or Sony’s earlier versions of PlayStation Eye, by making the peripheral an integral, rather than optional, part of their next-gen console, Microsoft removes any risk of splitting its market in two. When it came to utilising these wacky camera add-ons, in the past many developers were hesitant to do so, knowing that they risked spending a significant portion of their budget on camera-specific features that those without the device would never use. Although Microsoft has side-stepped this issue entirely by bundling Kinect with every Xbox One console, Sony, if this rumour is to be believed, has not.
While Sony will likely be keen for game developers to include in-game features that make use of its own camera peripheral (indeed, why else build a dedicated sensor into every PlayStation 4 controller and tout its advantages so fervently?), knowing that not every PlayStation 4 owner is in possession of one, it’s highly probable that developers will shy away from doing so. If this rumour turns out to be true, the next generation of PlayStation Eye cameras may well end up as under-utilised as those that came and went before it, gathering dust on shelves and day-dreaming about their creators making them as vital a part of the console as Microsoft has done.
Would Sony really risk splitting its gaming audience once again and missing the chance to steal a little of Microsoft’s Kinect-flavoured thunder? Perhaps all will be revealed at E3.
In the meantime we’ll leave you with rumour-fuelling video itself. Admittedly, it’s little more than two and half minutes of men talking about a hunk of black plastic with buttons on it, but my goodness it’s a pretty hunk of plastic.
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