A discussion brewed recently about the PS4 price vs. Xbox One price, and why Microsoft didn’t “cave” like they did on the Xbox One DRM and used-game policy. It ultimately came down to a decision that may have some ironic results for Sony considering their insistence on putting games and gamers ahead of entertainment. To reduce the PS4’s price to be $100 lower than the Xbox One MSRP, Sony may have neutered one of its most brilliant moves between generations: ditching PlayStation Move and including that functionality in the DualShock 4.
According to IGN, Sony decided very late in the game to remove the PS4 camera from the box in order to reduce the console’s MSRP. The goal was to come out of E3 the big winner, which Sony absolutely achieved. But some of the most interesting updates for the DualShock 4, aside from incorporating a touchpad area, was to move the PlayStation Move-like functionality directly into the PS4 controller. Doing this eliminated the need for a peripheral, which traditionally isn’t purchased at nearly the same rate as the core console, and it had some interesting gameplay implications when Sony debuted the system this spring. Yet removing the camera to get the PS4 price reduced may completely undo those sound decisions.
Removing the camera got the PS4 price down, which is great for gamers who can now spend more money on games at launch. Over the long term, though, there’s now a peripheral they’ll need to buy if they want to take advantage of some of those interesting motion-based gameplay mechanics. And the chances of people buying a peripheral are historically quite low, from the PS Move all the way down to the NES PowerGlove and Atari 5200 trackball.
For all of the grief it got for focusing on entertainment, Microsoft’s insistence on including the Xbox One Kinect to control all those entertainment functions means there aren’t any required peripherals for gamers to buy. Maybe an Xbox One headset — although the rumor now is that the Xbox 360 headset may work with the Xbox One via an adapter — but if you have an Xbox One Kinect there’s arguably no need to use a headset since it has voice functions built in. Again, Microsoft made this seemingly stubborn decision to enable all of the TV, movie, web-browsing and app functionality it showcased at the Xbox One reveal event. Games were arguably an ancillary consideration for force-bundling the Kinect. But that ancillary benefit may end up being significant to games and gamers now that Sony removed the camera to get the PS4 price reduced.
Without a camera to see the DualShock 4, there’s no way to pickup the multicolored lights on the controller. With no way to pickup the lights, there’s no way to enable gesture-based gameplay mechanics. The DualShock 4 still has a gyroscope, much like the Sixaxis and DualShock 3 before it, so some motion gaming is possible. It just won’t be to the degree that the Xbox One with Kinect will see, or even that PS3 with the PS Move currently employs.
What does this mean for next-gen games? If the PS4 is the base development platform for multiplatform titles, will Xbox One games have gesture controls that feel tacked-on and cheesy? If the Xbox One is the base dev platform, will PS4 games suffer from convoluted control schemes that force one-time gesture controls onto an awkward face button, trigger or touchpad mechanic? In other words, did the battle over posturing and pricing have the unintended consequence of harming the video game landscape? Will Sony’s seemingly simple removal of a camera to get a PS4 price reduction have negative long-term implications for gamers? That not something that can be answered for years to come, but it’s an intriguing topic worth discussing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.