One of the hardware differences between Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One consoles, is that the PS4 does not come with a camera accessory while the Kinect is included with the Xbox One. IGN reports that Sony sacrificed the PlayStation Camera’s inclusion with the basic hardware to bring down the price of the console.
According to multiple sources, in the months leading up to E3, Sony nixed plans to include the camera add-on with every system and shave $100 off its originally planned price of $499. Most importantly, it did so quietly, informing its retail partners only of the removal of the camera, not specifying the lower price so as not to tip its hand to Microsoft.
The absence of the camera in the PS4 box means that customers will have to buy the $59.99 accessory to push software developers to support its use. The PS4’s DualShock controller still has some integrated Move technology including LED lights that are used by the camera to track its position. Sony has said that even without the camera, the LEDs can be used to denote which controller goes with which player, and as status indicators. For example, taking hits in a shooter could result in a flashing light. These uses are limited however by the fact that the light is on the front of the controller, facing away from the player.
Sony released the specifications for the PS4 system early this morning and some of the details should please PlayStation fans. As previously revealed by Jack Tretton during the Sony pre-E3 stage presentation, the basic hardware will cost $399 in the US. A mono headset, HDMI cable, and a wireless controller are included in the box. An additional wireless controller will be available for $59. The optional PlayStation Camera will also be available for $59.
The launch unit will come with a 500GB internal drive and users can replace the drive themselves with a standard 2.5 inch hard drive. Always a nice touch when you’re installing multiple games from Blu-ray discs and need to cheaply expand storage.
In related news, Sony representatives verified that there will be no region-lock on the PS4. They also used Twitter to confirm that gamers without PS Plus subscriptions will not be able to participate in multiplayer gaming on the PS4, but that singleplayer games and media streaming will be permitted.
Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House closed out the Playstation 4 presentation with the following line:
Concepts like true consumer ownership and consumer trust are central to everything we do.
These words sum up how Sony cashed in on Microsoft’s ungainly fumbling as they tried to finesse various announcements about policies hostile to consumers. The words are a carefully crafted emollient that could only be made by listening to consumers, by being nimble enough to react, and by making specific and difficult decisions about whether Sony’s priorities are with consumers or with publishers. They chose consumers. By singling out the contributions of independent developers, by focusing on games over shoehorned transmedia and unnecessary proprietary interfaces, and most importantly by continuing the status quo on used games and DRM — two issues that go hand-in-hand — Sony has effectively won E3 before the doors of the show floor even opened.
The $100 cheaper price point is just gravy.
Does Sony’s new PS4 console have DRM to control games similar to the kind of plan we already know the Xbox One will have? Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida told Eurogamer in a February interview that a PS4 owner could “play offline” but “may want to keep it connected.” When Eurogamer asked if gamers could resell their PS4 games, the answer was a bit more vague.
Eurogamer: So if someone buys a PlayStation 4 game, you’re not going to stop them reselling it?
Shuhei Yoshida: Aaaah. [Asks PR adviser.] So what was our official answer to our internal question? [Consults adviser.] So, used games can play on PS4. How is that?
At the time, these answers were seen as a refutation of the rumors surrounding Sony’s next-gen console. In light of more recent revelations, namely the Xbox One’s plans and EA discontinuing their Online Pass program, these early Sony answers seem a little less convincing. In fact, there seems to be a lot of wiggle room in those answers. For example, Microsoft told reporters that the Xbox One “could play used games” but neglected to mention that they may have a fee or registration process that makes things more difficult.
Kotaku finally asked Sony for clear answers on the used game DRM and online connectivity issue and received the following response:
I looked into this, and at this point we’re not providing any additional clarification beyond what we stated around the PS4 announcement. If anything changes, I’ll be sure to keep you posted.
We always have E3 to hope for better answers!
Over the weekend, gamers disappointed by the Xbox One console’s DRM reached out to Sony representatives by sending messages to the #PS4NoDRM and #PS4USEDGAMES hastags on Twitter to urge them to not follow suit with the PS4. Their worries of the Sony console also incorporating similar DRM to block or monetize used game sales came to a head after a GameTrailers Bonus Round broadcast in which Geoff Keighley opined that the grass may not be greener on Sony’s side of the fence.
“Microsoft is getting beaten up a lot on it. Sony, I think, has been seen as this kind of white knight so far that’s not going to restrict used games. Based on some of the things I’m hearing, I don’t think that’s entirely true, because I can’t see publishers allowing one system to do one thing and one do another.”
Backing that up was the fact that EA recently dropped its own form of used game disincentive, the Online Pass. The theory being that EA wouldn’t discontinue the program unless they had some other plan in place. A DRM solution native to the consoles would solve that problem nicely.
In response, Sony bosses acknowledged the tweets, but the closest gamers got to an actual reply regarding the matter was from SCEA producer Nick Accordino.
“Humbled by the outpouring of passionate PlayStation fans and their willingness to talk to us directly. Please know that we hear you. <3"
Unfortunately for gamers concerned with ownership rights, “we hear you” is a far cry from a denial that used game DRM will exist on the PS4.