Sony's press conference left more than a few unanswered questions about the PlayStation 4 (PS4), especially for Australian consumers.
Sony's launch of the PS4 this morning was. But there were more than a few questions left hanging at the end of the proceedings.
What does it look like?
There were literally no mentions or images about the appearance of the PlayStation 4. Will Sony keep the general form factor to keep it feeling like an AV device? Or will its desire to "make the gamer the centre of the Sony ecosystem, not the lounge room" inspire a new form?
This is a fairly odd omission for a launch event and could suggest that Sony has seriously jumped the gun on the launch. It's entirely possible that the final designs of the PS4 hasn't even been decided upon. In that scenario, it's even conceivable that the processor hardware itself could change before launch. Is the PS4 still nothing more than a dev kit?
When will it launch?
"Holidays 2013." This would traditionally mean anywhere between November 2013 and January 2014. But when the PS3 was put on sale, there was a five month gap between when the US got it and when it arrived in PAL regions (including Australia). While the PAL/NTSC split no longer influences gaming, there's been no commitment from Sony for a worldwide single launch. In fact, it's quite possible that Australia will once again lag behind the rest of the world.
Will there be multiple versions?
Some of the lead up rumours includedfor the PS4 — that is, two lots of pricing, indicating that multiple versions of the PS4 would be available. These would traditionally be for different size hard drives, but other than mentioning that a hard drive would be present, Sony didn't talk about sizing at all. Also, when the PS3 launched in Australia, only the more expensive 60GB model was available — will only a single model PS4 come down under?
How much will it cost?
When the PS3 launched in the US, it cost US$499 for the 20GB model and US$599 for 60GB. Australians got to pay AU$999 for the 60GB. Sony has a history of price increases in Australia that aren't in line with the exchange rate. Back in 2007, a US$599 model was roughly AU$740, making the grand that Australians had to pay a little on the steep side. These days, the US$529 price that's been mooted as the more expensive option for the PS4 would be just AU$515. Let's assume we'll still be paying more than that. In fact, EB Games is assuming we'll be paying quite a lot more — they're offering pre-orders for the "placeholder" price of AUD$899
Is it going to kill my data allowance?
Sony made a big deal about how much of the gaming experience will be cloud based via Gaikai, how you'd be able to upload videos and online play where you actually control a character for a gaming friend. They also talked up the PlayStation Store, suggesting that full new game releases would be available via digital distribution, in much the way Steam nearly controls PC game shopping.
It even said that the PS4 would pre-download games it assumes you might buy, based on your gaming habits.
That's a lot of bandwidth and a lot of data. Much of what Sony wants to do seems to require fast connections with big data allowances, and most Australians don't have those available yet.
There are many who are concerned, including Tim Norman from Rocket Chainsaw:
Oh cool, you can download 20 gigs by pressing a button. WELL THAT’S 10% OF MY MONTHLY ALLOWANCE GONE.— Tim Norman (@TimGNorman) February 20, 2013
Add in the hardware supported capacity for background downloading, and the PS4 could be problematic for many Australians data plans.
Will Aussies miss out on some features?
Sony didn't go into a lot of detail on the entertainment side of things, but they did of course talk a little about video-on-demand services, mentioning third party like Netflix and Hulu, which aren't available locally. Will the current deals that Sony Australia has for catch-up TV and the like make it across for the PS4 in time for launch? While we're at it, will all the social and cloud gaming functions be turned on at launch? Or will we need to wait for local server rollouts to support these?
We don't expect any more answers on these in the near future. We imagine that any reveals of the console design might not happen until E3, just so that Sony has something to make a splash with. As for the rest, we'll need to wait and see.