Oct 312013

Yesterday Sony announced an updated blog entry/FAQ regarding the upcoming launch of the PlayStation 4.  As is typical for the Internet, knee-jerk reactions abounded with complaints about functionality that will be “missing” from the PlayStation 4 at launch, such as support for external hard drives to expand primary storage, DLNA, and MP3 and audio CD playback. Although the need to download the new 1.50 firmware to enable something as basic and ubiquitous as DVD and Blu-ray playback certainly raised some eyebrows, at least the functionality will still be getting added on day one.

I still believe that people need to calm down, take a breath, and stop acting like Sony is out to screw everyone over. (Although I’m making an assumption, I’m pretty confident in saying that the vast majority of people who are looking to buy a PS4 or Xbox One already have either a PS3 or 360. So, I’m going to continue under that premise.)

Both Sony and Microsoft have been very clear that existing PS3 and 360 games will not work on the PS4 and Xbox One. The new consoles have moved to a completely different architecture and cannot run any games except through what would be horrendously slow emulation, which fortunately both companies have decided to forego. As such, anyone who wants to continue to play PS3 or 360 games will need to retain their PS3 or 360. What people seem to be forgetting is that all of the features that will not be available on the PS4 at launch are on the PS3/360 that they already own. Just because some functionality won’t be on the PS4/One does not mean that the customer is suddenly “losing” said functionality. The functionality simply won’t be on the console they might prefer.

People need to get rid of the foolish idea they seem to have that because a specific function is not available at launch, it will never be available. Have we returned to the days of 1980s handhelds where what you buy is what you get? All of the functionality that is “missing” at launch can easily be added later on either though a firmware upgrade or as a separate app that can be downloaded. We have become a very app-centric society. There is a very real possibility that Sony is already looking at adding DLNA functionality back in, but understandably it is low on their priority list, particularly when the PS3 and 360 already have DLNA and MP3 playback functionality.

The complaint about external storage is also puzzling because the PS3 currently doesn’t support external storage for game installations either, so nothing is being “lost”. External storage for the 360 and Xbox One is important because those drives are proprietary and cannot be upgraded with standard, laptop drives. However, both the PS3 and PS4 use laptop drives that can be replaced by the user. I’ve already done that on my PS3 by upgrading my original 80GB drive with a new 500GB drive. Sure, to add an external drive would be easier, but upgrading the internal hard drive is quite painless. (I did upgrade my 360 drive painlessly – sort of – by buying a 250GB Slim and giving the old 360 to the kids.)

Microsoft has stated that the ability to add an external drive for game storage won’t be available at the Xbox One launch but will be made available later. Where is the outrage against Microsoft for “removing” the functionality by not having this feature at launch? Inquiring minds want to know.

Maybe it’s only fair that Sony gets its share of knee-jerk reactions. After all, we know what happened when Microsoft made their various announcements without any clarification prior to E3. The difference between the two situations, however, is that Microsoft’s lack of clarity easily lent itself to the assumption by the gaming public that DRM and pro-corporate reasons were behind Microsoft’s decisions. It was only after a massive gamer outcry and full reversal of the controversial policies that Microsoft finally clarified their position, allowing all of us to say, “Hmmm. That actually wasn’t as nefarious as it seemed. So, why the hell didn’t you tell us all of these things in the first place?”

The missing functions from the PS4 launch don’t have the same pro-corporate, DRM overtones.  This is especially true when the missing functions are available in both the PS3 and 360, which the majority of PS4 buyers would already have.

Not supporting MP3 could be to save money or to show support for something like Ogg or AAC. (Sony would have to pay a license to the Moving Pictures Experts Group for every PS4 sold for MP3 playback.) Yes, you can argue that Sony is trying to force people to use Music Unlimited, but that would be a really stupid move that’s destined to be a complete failure.

Not supporting DLNA could be what I’ve been saying all along: the PS3 and 360 already do that, so it’s a low-priority function that can easily be added via a downloadable app later on. Even at that, it’s rather presumptuous, considering that Sony established DLNA, to assume that its unavailability at launch means that it will never show up at all.

I’m somewhat torn, however, about not allowing external hard drives to augment the internal drive. Upgrading to a 1TB drive (I refuse to use TiB, by the way) still allows upwards of 20 dual-layer Blu-ray games to be installed, but few games will require that much data. Many only come with single-layer Blu-ray discs that aren’t even filled to capacity. PS4 owners will have to purchase a large number of AAA titles to fill up a 1TB drive. But yet, considering how many people are blindly (and I believe foolishly) embracing all-digital purchases as well as the new requirement to install all of the games from disc, there is a real risk of hardcore gamers running into a space issue. Hopefully, the fact that Microsoft will be allowing this at some point will make Sony realize that such measures are foolish. I’m sure that the decision is from a needless fear of piracy, but it’s going to do harm to some of their customers in the long run and it’s not going to do a thing to curb piracy once the console is cracked, as all consoles eventually will be.

None of these issues, however, were truly deserving of the whiny, childish responses that Sony received on multiple gaming web sites.

Removing MP3 playback can’t compare to denying a user from playing games without a 24-hour check-in, as Microsoft originally tried to do.

Removal of DLNA is not as atrocious as requiring permission to sell a game that you own, as Microsoft tried to do.

Not allowing the connection of an external hard drive for media storage is hardly cringe-worthy when the user can pop-in any off-the-shelf laptop drive to increase capacity (although props go to Microsoft if they actually do allow external hard drives to augment primary storage in the future).

Complaining about needing to download a day-one patch is pointless when all of the current-gen consoles will require a firmware upgrade as soon as they’re taken out of the box. (Yes, the Wii U and Xbox One will require their own downloads.)

And it’s pretty idiotic to complain about missing functions that will still be on a console that you can’t get rid of because the new console is completely incompatible with the older games. Will it be inconvenient to have to fire up the old console? Sure, but it’s not worth threatening to cancel your pre-order as some have done.

But, hey, don’t let logic like that get in the way of your emotional tirade or your public dislike for anything less than instant gratification. Folks like you keep the Internet interesting for the rest of us.