Is The PS4 Ready For Launch?

Today, Sony revealed details of the PlayStation 4's day one patch, a 300 MB update that's required for certain system features to work. This update will include Vita Remote Play, second-screen features using the PlayStation Vita or Playstation App, always-on game recording, game broadcasting, voice chat, facial recognition via the PlayStation Camera, the play-as-you-download feature, online multiplayer, and even Blu-Ray/DVD player functionality. The system's Blu-Ray player being non-functional without the update is quite perplexing, as Sony's past systems haven't had this issue.

If that sounds like pretty much all of the PlayStation 4's features, you're mostly right. One feature that won't be a part of the update is the Suspend/Resume Mode, which allows you to suspend the system and then effortlessly return to the game you're playing, like putting a Vita into Sleep Mode or closing your 3DS. Sony is not clear on when that feature will be released in an update. It's a pretty cool feature that I'm sad won't be at launch.

It's not a huge update, but it suggests that Sony is still hammering out certain parts of the PlayStation 4 operating system. The company has probably used the time to manufacture a larger number of systems, while working on smoothing out the OS right up until launch.

Like the Xbox One, the PlayStation 4 will not support third-party headsets for voice chat and game audio at launch. Bluetooth headsets won't work at all, and a system update is needed for Sony-branded headsets, Sony Pulse gaming headsets, Sony Pulse Elites, and USB headsets. The description for the voice chat feature in the PS4 day one update is very specific about the use of the pack-in mono headset for chat.

The delay of Driveclub and Ubisoft's Watch_Dogs have also dampened some of the enthusiasm for the system's launch. DriveClub was originally intended to be the first free game available for the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection on PS4, but the game has been pushed back to 2014. In my article about the Xbox One's launch, "early 2014" pops up a lot, and we're starting to see a bit of that on Sony's side. Early 2014 is when it looks like both systems will be approaching full functionality and a robust "launch window" lineup. In DriveClub's place, PlayStation Plus users gets Resogun and Contrast; both look to be solid games, but are little comfort for racing fans.

Not this year...
Many will point out that Watch_Dogs is also coming to the Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, and PlayStation 3, so the delay affects all the systems. The problem is Sony and Ubisoft have some sort of alliance leading to heavy cross-promotion between both companies. Watch_Dogs was in the spotlight at the PlayStation Meeting press conference in February and again at Sony's E3 2013 press conference. The game has 60 minutes of PlayStation-specific content. When Watch_Dogs ended up on Jimmy Fallon, the PlayStation 4 box art and PlayStation 4 controllers were front-and-center. Most of the demos I've seen and the content on the official Watch_Dogs YouTube account, like this 15-minute gameplay video, are of the PlayStation 4 version (or at least a PC with a PlayStation 4 controller). Sony even had an official Watch_Dogs PlayStation 4 bundle, shown above.

Watch_Dogs may be a multi-platform title, but the promotion of the game is heavily tied to the PlayStation 4. The loss of Watch_Dogs hits the PlayStation 4 harder when it comes to retail, since most of the system's exclusives are digital-only. To many, it was the game that justified the next-gen purchase in either direction. Without it, Sony has to rely more on Killzone, Knack, and the $100 price difference to sway consumers.

If anything, the launch of the PlayStation 4 is a more muted affair than I originally guessed after Sony's E3 2013 presentation. Microsoft has successfully gained on its rival, even if it's still behind in fans' hearts. In either direction, a launch day purchase of the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One is more a purchase of potential than of the realities of launch. Features are missing, titles are delayed, and $400-500 is a lot of money. It's all about who you believe will bring you to a better place in two, three, or five years. Who is that for you?

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