The games announced at the Playstation 4 reveal last week were not a coincidence.
Oh no, each game was carefully chosen to market a specific part of the new console’s capabilities. And while that may seem obvious, we can look at these games to predict what kind of attitude and audience the PS4 will be targeting when it finally releases. Below are the 5 full games that were revealed at the PS4 announcement, and the impact they will have on the PS4’s marketing and future.
The sequels for Killzone and Infamous were both announced and are aimed at the ‘hardcore gamer group’ Sony has been keen to stress are the PS4’s core audience. The games are very cleverly both sequels and reboots, with a focus on new locations, new characters and new story themes. This means that not only do they attract their previous players, but the games are also easy for newcomers to get to grips with. While it may be obvious, these games show that Sony is still investing in single player experiences, something that has at times been put into doubt with the rise of competitive, co-operative and massively multiplayer games.
Knack was the all-ages-family-friendly announcement, aimed at families who buy the console for its home media capabilities just as much as for its games. Knack seems to be a cute game that tells the story of a small robot (Knack) protecting mankind from evil goblins. The trailer even shows twists in the narrative. It also quietly showed off the PS4’s physics engine, with hundreds of small robotic parts falling off and latching to Knack. Knack was the only game to hint at interesting new game mechanics, with the player having to collect parts to make Knack bigger.
DriveClub, at first, just looks like a car fanatic’s dream game. The attention to detail looks incredible: interiors, exteriors and engines of the world’s fastest cars are precisely modelled and the way they drive is marketed as the most accurate simulation in any driving game ever made. But then there is also a huge social component to DriveClub that Sony was no doubt keen to highlight in preparation for a cloud-based future. Players can set and partake in challenges for and from anybody across the globe. Evolution Studios emphasised team-play as a major component of the game, with ‘clubs’ being able to score points even if they didn’t win the race. This will be Sony’s first PS4 game to fully utilise the console’s increased social networking and cloud capabilities.
Deep Down, plain and simple, was shown to advertise the PS4’s hardware capabilities. It was incredibly vague what actually constituted as gameplay, if any of it. Once again Sony was appealing to the hardcore gamer group here, and Deep Down aimed to please with some ‘graphics porn’.
But what do these games say about the future brand of the PS4? Interestingly, the attitude these games present is somewhat old fashioned. Graphics, single-player experiences, big sequels and the ‘hardcore gamer group’ are all things that the previous generation of consoles were keen to advertise. The majority of games at the PS4 reveal didn’t show innovation but rather iteration: bigger set pieces and better graphics.
Innovations in the social and cloud-based capabilities were fairly quiet and only discussed in-depth in DriveClub. While DriveClub seemed to rightly place these new ideas at the forefront of their announcement, Killzone, in comparison, rather shyly tacked on a scene at the end of the demo where the player uploads a video of the play-through to Facebook. We’ve already seen hundreds of game previews that show a perfect slice of gameplay with the latest and greatest particle and physics effects: the social aspects of these games are the new bits, and were in most cases overshadowed by Sony’s assumption that we need more pixel porn.
…to show off their hardware and beautiful looking games…
What’s worrying about this is that this is the first impression Sony wants to give us of their new console. There may well be more reveals to come that highlight the PS4’s other, more innovative capabilities, but it was clear that Sony first and foremost wanted to show off their hardware and beautiful looking games. It’s not essential to show social and cloud-based innovations (they are after all just the latest buzz words in a long list), there could have been discussions into how we play games, how we play with our friends, new game mechanics, new game genres, how to address parents’ concerns with video games or our attitude towards the living room, to name a few… But nothing really, to me at least, felt new. I felt that I had seen this all before with the PS3 and Xbox 360 reveals
I hope that Sony’s marketing plan is tiered and the next reveal will target a completely different demographic. But this has shown us the new generation is here and so far Sony isn’t showing anything we haven’t seen before, it’s just a lot prettier.