PlayStation has held the spotlight for the past couple days due to their official unveiling of the PlayStation 4, the DualShock 4, next-gen games and all the new online goodness they have planned. While watching the PlayStation Meeting 2013 livestream, I couldn’t help but think of how their online features could change the ways many have become accustomed to playing online. I have broken down four aspects of Sony’s new network goals and analyzed the impact I believe it could have on us individually and/or the online community as a whole.
Less Anonymity, More Accountability
If there is one aspect of Sony’s next-gen venture they made perfectly clear, it’s that they want it to scream “social”. They’ve gone as far as to integrate Facebook and bring players’ real names into the network, although the current IDs will still appear as well. By merging these two profiles, PSN and Facebook, people may find themselves running around with “John Doe” or “Jack Jackson” rather than “l33th4ck3r”. If Sony pushes the combination of the networks, I believe this could have an interesting effect on player behavior. Think about this for a second: Would you really feel comfortable shouting racial slurs or going on about random people’s mothers if your real name and Facebook page (along with all of your other info) was only a few clicks away? People have sought out online trolls in real life and the result is usually violent. Now imagine a scenario where a young kid spews hateful comments at someone over the internet while his name sits above his in-game avatar the whole time.
People are most comfortable telling off others via the internet when they believe they are completely anonymous. Eliminate the anonymity and now a face can be tied to the words coming out of the virtual character. Best case scenario, this causes people to bite their tongue or, you know, actually say something meaningful while they’re playing with people online. Sure, fake Facebook accounts can be made and Sony probably won’t even require the tethering of both accounts. But in the event that they did force the connection, we might see the more intelligent portion of the online community speaking up and the griefers piping down. It’s a lot to hope for, I know, but it is a possibility.
Game Together Regardless of Location
Online gaming has been inching out couch co-op over the years, but the PlayStation 4’s new social features — more specifically, it’s “Share” button — could emulate the feeling of gaming with friends in the same room. I’m sure we’ve all hung out and played games while our friend(s) watched. This friend may, at times, provide input on what you should do or where you should go, much like a backseat driver. As cinematic action sequences played or near death experiences occurred, you and your friend(s) would comment (usually with “oooooohhhh!” or “That was awesome!”) on these events. With Sony’s new sharing options, friends can come watch you play and chat with you. If you happen to pick up a game that one of your friends is holding off on, they can watch you progress through it and you two (or more) can discuss everything that’s going on, regardless of your different geographical locations.
You could even “pass the controller” between the two of you if you wanted, much like you would if you were sitting side-by-side. The PlayStation 4 is incorporating a feature that allows friends, with your permission, to take control of your game over the internet with their own controllers. Sony stated that this could be used to aid someone in completing a difficult level. However, I could see this being utilized to have a gaming session with a buddy as if you two were physically hanging out.
Furthermore, the spectator feature could lead to more in-depth clan procedures. Clans looking to recruit new members could observe potential candidates duking it out online to see if they’re a good fit. Looking at it from the other side, people looking to join a clan could share the videos of their multiplayer dominance that they’ve made using the new share features and send said videos to the clan leader, almost like a resume. The “Share” button could open the door to many new options.