Well the big day is here. We're six hours into the Playstation launch (well, you're six hours into it, I'm writing this recap on Thursday evening) but before we talk about how the launch is going, let's recap the last week's worth of PS4 news. There's a ton of it, and a lot of it is about to become less relevant as we start to experience the system ourselves, so I may skip some stuff.
Like Microsoft, Sony shared a list of entertainment apps available for the PS4 at launch. Not counting their own Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited services, eleven apps should be ready today. YouTube is missing (same as on the Xbox One) and the PS4 doesn't have HBO Go (the PS3 doesn't either), but otherwise we're fairly well covered: Netflix, Hulu Plus, Redbox Instant, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Epix, and Crackle are all there, plus some others including NHL GameCenter Live and NBA Game Time. And don't fret anime friends, CrunchyRoll is there too.
If you haven't tried Music Unlimited you'll get a free 30 days with your PS4 purchase (new accounts only). You'll also get a free 30 day subscription to Playstation Plus, which is required for online play for many games, plus your PS+ sub gets you two free games on Day 1: Resogun and Contrast. Not a bad deal. You'll also get a voucher for $10 of Playstation Store Credit. You can get all the details on the Playstation blog.
One big change comes to Video Unlimited with the PS4: all your content will now be stored in the cloud. Sony says content will start playing in 7-10 seconds after purchase, and with the PS4's puny 500 GB hard drive you probably don't want a lot of video files taking up space. On the other hand if you live in an area with spotty Internet, you may have liked the old way of downloading a video and then watching it from your drive. If you're in that situation, you're kind of out of luck. According to a post on Polygon Sony is "looking into" allowing you to download your content and story it locally.
Here's a video talking about why MU and VU are better on PS4:
There was a little bit of back and forth around Blizzard's PS4 port of Diablo 3. Initially a news story was going around saying that Blizzard wasn't going to support Remote Play. Turns out that was a mix-up during an interview at BlizzCon and you will be able to play Diablo 3 on your Vita via your PS4. Blizzard also said there'll be some way to transport your PS3 Diablo characters to the PS4.
Here's a Diablo 3 PS4 'sizzle reel.' The game should be out sometime in 2014 and will include the upcoming Diablo 3 expansion pack.
Earlier this week someone spied a new Sony UK Software Usage Terms document that had some potential PS4 owners feeling uneasy since it talked about Sony monitoring PSN activity. If you read the full text (it's section 14 on the document linked above) it pretty clearly states that they'll only monitor for purposes of enforcing the rules of conduct. Here's the juicy bit:
[your information] may be used by us or our affiliated companies to enforce these Terms and the SEN Terms of Service, to comply with the law, to protect our rights and those of our licensors and users, and to protect the personal safety of our employees and users. This information may be passed to the police or other appropriate authorities.
Personally I'm OK with this. Online gaming communities tend to get pretty unsavory at times and if Sony can help keep things a little more civil by monitoring, I think it could improve the service. Just don't ever treat PSN as a private channel and you should be OK.
Another snippet (section 7: Resale) of the same document talked about used game sales and said that you couldn't resell a game without authorization from Sony and the publisher. Was Sony pulling their own 180 in the last days before launch?
Apparently not. Sony says this is just legalese and they're not planning any change in their policies. You're still free to trade-in or re-sell any of your PS4 games. Polygon has more on this topic.
That topic deserves a palette-cleansing trailer. Here's Free-to-Play Blacklight: Retribution:
So now we know how using your real name will work on the Playstation Network. In order to use someone's real name in your Friends List and so forth, you have to request to use it, and they have to approve your request. In other words, both parties have to want to use a person's real name. While some are calling this onerous, I think it's a good privacy guard. How about you?
Now let's talk about your profile picture. You can use a Sony-supplied avatar, or you can pull in the profile picture you use on Facebook. Don't have a Facebook account? Tough luck. That $60 Playstation Camera you bought? Nope, you can't just take a picture with that. The upside of this is you won't have jokers using selfies of their privates as their PSN avatar. (Apparently Facebook has really good tech for discovering that kind of thing and putting an end to it.)
Microsoft has spent a lot of time talking about voice commands for the Xbox One. The PS4 has voice commands too; just not nearly as many of them, and they seem to only work with the dashboard itself. Every demo I've seen uses the Playstation Camera (and if you have that, the PS4 can log you in based on facial recognition) but I've heard that you can use the included microphone as well.
But really, if you're seriously into voice controls you probably are going Xbox One anyway. Oh, that reminds of of this South Park clip:
One of the drags about being a PS3 owner was getting home with a new game and then finding out you had to wait 10-20 minutes (or in some cases, more) as the system transferred crucial data from the Blu-ray disk to the hard drive.
That transfer still happens with the PS4, but it happens in the background. Reports are that Killzone: Shadow Fall, for example, is playable within 3 minutes of popping in the disk for the first time. Considering the 500 GB drive that comes with the PS4, you're probably going to be nuking and re-installing this cached data fairly often so it's a good thing it happens in the background.
Oh, and here's some good news. It turns out the Day 1 Patch for the PS4 enables USB headsets. Those of us with Blu-ray headsets are still out of luck. (You can read my post about this issue from last month.) Also Sony is having internal discussions about how and when the PS4 will get the ability to play MP3 and CDs, according to Engadget
Earlier this week Sony released the Playstation App for iOS and Android devices. I'm not sure about this one...when I went to download the apps I could only find an iPhone copy on iOS. Sure I can run it doubled up on the iPad but I wouldn't want to do any kind of 'second screen' work that way. Maybe this App is just for chatting with friends and such. That, at least, works well. The Apps have a link to the PSN Store but the Store itself opens in a mobile browser (on Android at least, it works well). It's a free app of course, so why not download it and give it a try.
Oh and as long as you're downloading things...if like me you're still waiting for your PS4 to be delivered, you can download the 300 mb Day 1 patch now. That way if Sony's servers are getting hammered this evening you can install the patch from a USB drive. Sony has a page up that includes a link to the download, how to set up the USB drive and how to force the PS4 to patch from it. Better safe than sorry, I always say.
OK time for another trailer. A Killzone: Shadow Fall launch trailer this time:
The embargo on PS4 reviews expired on Wednesday and suddenly the web was awash in reviews for the launch games. The bad news is that a lot of the reviews were fairly tepid. Resogun seems to be the PS4's Geometry Wars: it's a download-only title that is getting better reviews than many of the bigger games. Knack seems to be getting bashed the hardest, though even it has its fans, and Killzone reviews are pretty mixed but no one seems over the moon for it.
So apparently we've got a batch of mediocre launch titles, like we do with almost every other console launch. No one has been talking about the free-to-play games, though. Maybe those will be our salvation!
As for the hardware itself, that seems to be doing better. I liked Engadget's review myself. Digital Foundry also did a review that some friends have recommended to me but I have to be honest; I haven't found the time to sit down and read it yet. They're usually pretty objective, basing their findings on numbers rather than feelings.
Jimmy Fallon likes the PS4 (though most or all of what they're doing requires the $60 Camera add-on):
And here's a new walk-through of the PS4's UI:
Last night I stayed up to watch Spike TV's awkward Playstation 4 launch event, and we did get a few new announcements. There was a teaser trailer for a new Uncharted game for the PS4, but I don't think anyone was very surprised that Naughty Dog is bringing their hit franchise to the system.
We got a launch date for Sucker Punch's Infamous: Second Son. It'll be arriving on March 21st. Bungie announced the Playstation owners (3 and 4) will be the first to get into the Destiny beta, and Hideo Kojima announced there'd be an exclusive mission for the PS4 version of the next Metal Gear Solid gaming, coming out next spring. And for the Indie folks, Towerfall (arguably one of the best games available on the Ouya console) is coming to PS4.
And that was it. The clock struck midnight and gamers started buying their PS4 consoles.
Did you get yours yet? As I think I mentioned, I went mail order so I'll be eagerly awaiting the arrival of the UPS truck. I'll check back in with any news of the launch and initial thoughts of the system once I'm up and running.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.