In what comes as a big step (or a half-step at least) for consoles, it seems that Sony’s Worldwide boss let slip today that the PlayStation 4, while not entirely disc-free, will provide the option of buying and downloading digital copies of ALL new games from the day of their release.
“I believe it’s very important for the platform to have a wide variety of developers making things that are unique and creative. We’re shifting our platform more and more to the digital side – PS4 will be similar to PS Vita in that every game will be available as a digital download, and some will also be available as a disc.”
Of course, with internet connection speeds being all over the place, this isn’t an advancement that everyone can take advantage of just yet, but it’s a step in the right direction in a world of MP3s, eBooks and “the cloud”, a world where physical media is rapidly being rendered obsolete. Another promising improvement to come in the next generation is the remote access that the PS4′s low-power mode will bring.
“I find myself spending more time playing Vita games and I think part of the reason for that is it’s immediate. I can stop at any time without quitting and it’s instantaneous to start again. I don’t have to quit out or reboot. It’s wonderful. That’s one part of immediacy – the other is waiting for downloads. That’s ridiculous, that’s crazy! We want to get out of this madness with PlayStation 4. The games are big, they’re 50GB; download isn’t instantaneous. So we’re making purchase available from any device, so when you’re at work, you can spend a couple of moments looking at PlayStation Store and choosing a game, and straight away it starts to download at home. It may take a couple of hours but that’s okay because you’re still at work.
“Also, similarly to progressive download on some movie services, you don’t have to wait for all the data to download before you start playing. Once you have the minimum amount of data downloaded you can begin the game, and while you play, the remaining data downloads. It takes some engineering input from developers so we’re talking to the community. We’re evangelising it.”
Buy a game from work, set it up to download and perhaps even play it over streaming for awhile if the massive download hasn’t finished by the time you get home. Sony has made a lot of bold claims about the advancements the PS4 will bring, but it’s the little convenience-enhancing things like this that get me interested in the next generation of consoles, much more so than barely-noticeable graphical improvements. Consoles will never compete with PCs in that department, but they could certainly step things up on the distribution side. Services like Steam and GoG have quickly turned that platform into an almost exclusively digital one, and as the quality of internet connections worldwide improves, it seems very likely that consoles will eventually follow.