What new possibilities will be opened to game developers with the PS4? Also, what innovations might we expect within future video games as a result? Much has already been written about the somewhat upgraded “approachability” of the PS4 where game production is concerned. The common understanding here is that the PlayStation 4 is going to be a much more “friendly” platform for game developers to work with. In other words, there seem to be far fewer barriers to surmount - starting from the point where you’re staring at a completely blank slate, moving through the final processes and eventually rolling out that hot new title.
Why is this important, you ask? Well, the truth is, many companies within the game development industry have been waiting for one of the major console manufacturers to deliver a kit that’s easier to work with and directly publish their creations to market. In short, many people feel that the PS4 is going to open up a whole new branch of possibilities within the entire field of video games as a result of Sony’s efforts to appeal to developers.
First off, yes, the rumors are true. The Xbox ONE is going to function as a sort of self-contained dev kit, of sorts. Naturally, this also implies that Sony’s equivalent PS4 kit will be priced several times above that which is being offered by Microsoft. You know what, it’s ok. Maybe Microsoft and the Xbox ONE deserve a little bit of an advantage after the trouncing they’ve endured at the hands of Sony and the PS4 leading up to launch day? Nevertheless, Sony has already taken steps to ensure that they are not out maneuvered in this department by giving quite a large number of indie game development studios kits for free. Yes, you read that correctly…completely gratis.
Let’s not get the wrong idea here though, even though many groups might be able to access these dev kits for up to a year, the cost of buying one is already significantly reduced from that of the PS3’s. According to sources, the cost of a PS3 development kit used to be in the neighborhood of around $20,000. In other words, a significant investment - and a sum which only more prominent developers have a budget for. Recently however, that figure has gone down to $2,000, a large drop from where it originally started (keeping in mind that the $20,000 amount was halved to $10,000 in 2007, of course).
So what does this mean then? Simply put, it implies that we’re finally seeing a gigantic push to open up game development for consoles along a more public platform. Think of it this way – all the freedom, interesting mods, and independent software you might have downloaded to use with something off-the-shelf could be coming to a console near you (specifically, the PS4). Sure, it could be argued that there’s no true substitution for a well-designed corporate game, something done within the constraints of a well-oiled team of devs who are very professional in their approach. That’s largely true, and hopefully we won’t see any of the big studios slowing down or being affected by the efforts of more independent organizations. But the point to take home here is that it would appear that the big monolithic companies are finally trying to take advantage of the obvious expertise of their core audience.
Let’s face it, most people who are into video games tend to be more technically involved in electronics, software development and about 100 other things which directly impact the industry as a whole. By bringing more people into the general area of game development, Sony is tapping into what could be one of the most powerful assets at their disposal – the abilities, tastes and expertise of the gaming community itself.
For instance, let’s imagine that some great new game is being released in the near future, right? The premise of this title is that it’s a high-tech, very realistic shooter which is essentially open-world; just your standard plot will suffice for this example. However, instead of having a traditionally-accepted main game map like what you’ll find in virtually every other game within the genre, this title will make use of the of the indie game development community’s efforts.
Specifically, the environments created by random independent devs might be checked and approved by makeshift “testers” playing online via the PSN. After these hypothetical map segments are accepted they are stuck into rotation, maybe as part of a randomized system which seeks to create extremely unpredictable and dynamic gameplay. The critical factors here are that this could be done at an extremely low cost and in a fraction of the time it could take one company to generate a similar amount of content.
Moreover, if we’re talking about putting more dev kits in the hands of developers across the board, then you also have to assume that we’re probably going to see an increase in the number of annual releases as well. Seriously, who doesn’t want to see more games being released? Additionally, by opening up the industry a bit more we might also see newer, perhaps fresher concepts being introduced and explored. Since the incoming flux of indie developers have no real allegiances or political scruples within the main dev industry at large, they are free to investigate certain avenues which might otherwise be deemed “unprofitable”. Sony’s gestures toward all developers implies that many of these unexplored areas will soon have a new home on the PSN, which is probably very healthy for the industry in general.
So, where’s this all headed? It would seem that the end result of this might lead the PlayStation brand down a path toward a much greater end – the ability to harness “crowdsourcing”. The point is, this slight move could be the beginnings of what might lead to the next phase of integration, where people aren’t just playing the games, they’re also helping the brand to built new titles and content as well.