Saturday Soapbox: Defining PlayStation 4's games

Sony's focus for PS4 is spot on - but without a definitive game, it's still yet to reveal the next-gen difference.

If there's one resounding positive to be taken from the PS4 conference that lurched into the early hours of Thursday morning it's that Sony placed an emphasis on games, and it delivered a message aimed square on at gamers. The conference may have lingered a little too long, but be grateful that in a running time that reached over the two hour mark there was barely a minute handed over to the new console's multimedia capabilities.

At a time when people are feeling increasingly marginalised by machines they bought to play games with, it's a welcome ratio - and come the revelation of Microsoft's plans for its future Xbox later this year, it's a ratio I expect to be switched. Sony's listening to us, it seems, and it's done well to align itself strongly with the core gamer. Like Nintendo, it's realised that it's the core gamers that are the early adopters - and unlike Nintendo, it's got the relationships and the processing power to craft a proposition that sticks.

And so the PlayStation 4 is a console that empowers the player, and although its philosophy was delivered alongside a bucket of corporate swash, I find the idea of a dedicated machine built with the modern gamer in mind quite intoxicating. Like Tom I think it misses Ken Kuturagi's buccaneering spirit, but these are more conservative times and we're more demanding players - plus the relative ease of development for the machine should ensure that the church of PlayStation is broader than ever before, which can only mean more of what we'll be investing in this machine for.

So if it's games that are truly going to define the PlayStation 4, it's odd that the one title I'm left wanting to play after the dust has settled is Bungie's Destiny - which is the one game I knew about days beforehand, and the one that I'll also be able to pick up on the PlayStation 3, the Xbox 360 and, in all likelihood, the next Xbox. For all the emphasis placed on software, and for the breadth they suggested - there's The Witness waving the indie flag, there's Knack shooting for the younger demographic and there's Watch Dogs which is the one game which actually may go on to sell in significant numbers - there was nothing that really defined the difference the next generation is going to offer us.

Sony's own offerings were an oddly limp bunch, all failing to tap into where exactly the PlayStation 4's appeal lies. I'm a fan of Sucker Punch and a fan of the Infamous games, but I'd convinced myself that the series was being quietly retired while the Washington state developer was freed to move on to exciting new ideas. Likewise, Guerrilla's new Killzone could be a stretch for a series that was already over-reaching itself come the third instalment, while DriveClub, Evolution's racer with a bombastically banal title, didn't suggest it was going to offer much more to its genre other than more authentic steering wheel stitching.

Switch back to the PlayStation 3's early days, and for Sony's assembled worldwide studios there was a sense of a generation change not only in terms of console power but also in terms of maturity. We went from Ratchet to Resistance, from Jak & Daxter to Uncharted, and I was hoping that some of the PlayStation 4's games would also have grown up with us rather than being suspended in adolescence.

I was, in fairness, perhaps being a little na´ve in thinking that the days of awkward launch titles were behind us, and that's at least one tradition that the PlayStation 4 will likely be carrying forward. We want the games that accompany the reveal of a console to define it, as Sony surely does itself - this is an opportunity to communicate what's so great about the PlayStation 4 through the glorious power of software.

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I've an unhealthy attraction to racing games, but right now DriveClub does little to excite me.

Era-defining launch games like Halo and Wii Sports are the exception, not the rule, and the PlayStation 4's line-up right now falls more into the same school that brought us the likes of Fantavision and Ridge Racer 5 on the PlayStation 2, or Resistance and MotorStorm on the PlayStation 3. The games that would go on to define the machines - GTA 3 or Ico with the PlayStation 2, or Uncharted 2 and Journey with the PlayStation 3 - only came when the hardware was already embedded in homes, and when their clumsy launches were firmly in the past.

With the next Xbox set to launch later this year and with Nintendo looking to have a stronger end to 2013 with a potential new Mario as well as any other surprises it has for us at E3, can Sony afford a slow start for the PlayStation 4? Come its release, I'm not sure if that'll be much of an issue; what we saw this week was only a sliver of what's in store, and - with the greatest respect to Evolution and Sucker Punch - we're likely to see what Sony's top-tier developers are up to this E3 with reveals from Naughty Dog and Polyphony.

Seeing as that's likely to amount in first looks at Uncharted 4 and Gran Turismo 6, perhaps it's silly to think that we'll be seeing the game that defines the next generation PlayStation experience any time before its launch. Still, with an emphasis on games, and a willingness to open up to even more of them, perhaps the PlayStation 4's library will be too broad to be defined by a small set of titles.

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