After more than seven years, the “next generation” video-game consoles PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are finally giving way to newer models this holiday season. First up is Sony’s PlayStation 4, which comes out at midnight sales Thursday night, a week ahead of Microsoft’s Xbox One. Here are five pros and cons to upgrading to the PS4, based on information released by Sony.
Unparalleled power: The PlayStation 3 was muscular enough to cluster with other PS3s for supercomputing applications. Sony says the PS4 has 10 times that processing power. One result will be graphics that look more realistic than ever — in actual game play, too, not just in cinematic cut scenes.
Fair pricing: Most PS4 games will retail for $60, the same as PS3 games; extra controllers and accessories such as the PlayStation Camera are $60 each, too. The PS4 retails for $400 ($100 less than the cheapest PS3 bundle upon its release in 2006 ) and comes with a 500-gigabyte hard drive, one controller, a mono headset and cables. Also, if you buy the PS3 versions of “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag” or “Battlefield 4” and then later get a PS4, you can upgrade those games for $10 per title.
More features: Your list of online friends can number 2,000 on the PS4, 1,900 more than on the PS3. PS4 users also can use mobile devices as a second screen for games, play while they download content in the background, stream background music during gaming, seamlessly record game-play footage, and use the PS Camera for facial recognition and the headset for voice commands.
Blu-ray flexibility: The PS4 plays Blu-ray discs of all sizes and reads them faster than the PS3.
Quieter operation: The PS4’s fans reportedly aren’t as loud as those of the PS3 and change speed more smoothly.
No backward compatibility: The PS4 can’t play games for the PS3 or older PlayStation consoles. The PS4 also doesn’t support most PS3 accessories, such as its standard controllers (other than the PS Move), Bluetooth headsets, Blu-ray remote and mouse. You’ll have to start from scratch in all areas — and keep your PS3 around if you want to play old favorites.
Music limitations: The PS3 is a beast of a media center, but the PS4 skimps on the music side. The new console won’t play audio discs, including CDs and SACDs, or MP3s out of the box on Day 1. Instead, Sony is pushing Music Unlimited, its cloud-based music subscription service. On a related note, the PS4 also won’t stream audio-video content from your home media server. After a backlash, Sony indicated earlier this week that it will reverse these limitations eventually, but it hasn't said when.
Weak inventory: Aside from two major Sony exclusives, the shooter “Killzone: Shadow Fall” and the action-adventure “Knack,” the initial game library for the PS4 is a ho-hum affair. The initial dozen or so big PS4 games from other developers — “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” “Assassin’s Creed IV” and “Battlefield 4” among them — are available for all the other consoles, too.
Online fee: The PS3 scored with fans by letting them play against others online for free via the PlayStation Network. Playing online with the PS4 will require a $50-a-year membership to PlayStation Plus, the same model that Microsoft uses with Xbox Live.
Early jitters: As with any new console, games released in the first year or so rarely exploit a system’s full capabilities because it takes developers time to master them. The PS4 boasts many cool features, but we won’t know how that translates to its games for a while.
What it all means
If you’re a hard-core gamer, you’ve probably already made up your mind about the PS4. There are enough cons, though, to dissuade casual gamers from jumping into the PS4 pool until the system proves itself and more games become available.