Holy dynamic duos, Batman! Imagine a portable companion device that could stream content from a much larger, bulkier game console without sacrificing visual quality or gameplay elements. Imagine a horrible scenario (think robot-zombie apocalypse) where every single television has been consumed for fuel by the forces of evil and you had zero screens in which to play the latest PlayStation 4 game.
Instead of going outside or possibly reading a book, you calmly retrieve your secret weapon: a PlayStation Vita. Yes, the PS4 and PS Vita were developed to support remote play, which allows users to stream video games from their console to their handhelds. The possibilities are endless. The pitfalls are many. Where is the future of gaming going with remote play?
Gambling on Gaikai
When Sony bought the cloud-based streaming service Gaikai in 2012, many video game journalists speculated that their technology would be integrated into a virtual console setup much like the Nintendo Wii console. However, when Nintendo introduced the Wii U platform, which allowed remote gameplay in addition to direct participation within games being played on a television set, the speculation quickly shifted to a new ecosystem of content sharing between multiple devices.
The PS4 will have remote play enabled when it’s released later this year and for people lucky enough to have a PS Vita, you’re going to have a good time... possibly. Depending on the configurations, one PS4 user could be sitting in his living room playing a co-op game while streaming content to another user in another room with a PS Vita. A player could also just stream games from his home console while in the outside world and be given access to his extensive library or games. Again, the possibilities are endless.
Wii U and Me Too
But it’s not entirely proven yet whether anyone would want to play the next generation of PlayStation games on a smaller screen. The PS Vita’s market share is not entirely encouraging and only saw a modest increase in sales when its massive price tag was slashed in half. While there have been some great gameplay elements from the Wii U’s gamepad (like ZombiU where players managed their inventory, played with the mini-map, and performed context sensitive actions on the touchscreen), it was not a major seller.
Did you know the PlayStation Portable had remote play with the PS3? Considering the PSP had less market share than the PS Vita when it debuted and the number of games capable of remote play was extremely limited, no one knew. No one bothered to stream games or access their console on a PSP. This presents a problem for a heavily promoted feature of the next era of gaming.
A recent article from The Escapist also pointed out the various problems with the Wii U’s development kit including technical limitations, lack of third party interest, and a small market share to sell finished video games.
While remote play does not take into account technical limitations (see below), there are issues with developers not bothering to design beyond core PS4 game mechanics to incorporate the PS Vita. The number of PS Vita owners who could stream content from their consoles is also ridiculously small.
This would not necessarily be a problem because remote play at this point is just another touted feature of the social friendly PS4. What happens beyond this cool trick is up to Sony and third part developers. Why not develop interesting ways to use the PS Vita while you play on the PS4? Mobility is definitely a popular answer because of the number of smartphone games and apps available, but will mobility be enough to entice people to buy a PS Vita?
Supplying Power and Play
The concept of streaming content, whether it’s from Gaikai’s cloud-based servers or directly from the console to your PS Vita, has always been about presenting uninterrupted gameplay that does not lag or overwork the hardware. Since Gaikai or the PS4 will be supplying the processing power for streamed content, your virtual library of games or gaming on the go will not be affected by the GPU/CPU combo in your PS Vita.
For the most part, Gaikai’s servers will be used to stream the content from your console when you use the “share” button on your PS4 controller. The console itself will stream game content onto your PS Vita while you presumably in the bathroom or deciding not to use your large televisions screen to do the exact same thing. There currently does not seem to be a strong reason to use remote play even if the game experience will be mostly the same.
Sony promises to have most of their PS4 games incorporate the second screen of the PS Vita into their games, but its effect remains to be seen. Like the Wii U’s gamepad, there is strong potential. Like the Wii U, it could end in a colossal failure because no one wants to buy the extra hardware or develop interesting ways to use it.
Does remote play have a place in the future of gaming? Possibility to a righteous “I don’t know.” Sony did not reveal how other apps could help bolster the idea of remote play and truthfully, there does not seem to be any bright ideas for smartphones or tablets. In the field of mobility, Microsoft and the PC developer Valve (creators of the Steam gaming platform) already have a head start.
They have apps that allow users to purchase games and download them onto their systems from anywhere using a smartphone. If the PS4 incorporates those same elements, they’re just catching up with the rest of the world. If they use the Gaikai service simply for streaming or emulating games onto different devices, they won’t win the next console war. For the future, Sony needs to think like Batman. Sony needs to outsmart every rival and show gamers a definite victory.
Article by - Collin Mak
Insert Date: 5/10/2013