Sony used its Gamescom press conference to take the wraps off PS4 Share Play, a new feature coming to its latest console. PS4 Share Play will be part of PS4 firmware update 2.0, which is scheduled to release this fall. Yes, the PS4 system update will include broadcast and video-sharing features for gameplay footage and a dedicated YouTube app, but Share Play is by far the biggest feature.
In fact, it could very well be the best thing gaming has seen since Pong.
Before you hip-check me for hype, hear me out. Pong revolutionized the use of a computer to make television a truly interactive medium. Likewise, PS4 Share Play will revolutionize how people socialize online and forge cooperative experiences with video games, even if one of the people in that interaction doesn’t have the game in question.
Here’s how Share Play works technically, although I’m still struggling to see the business model for it. Using Share Play, PS4 owners will be able to invite a friend to play a co-op game online, while PSN “thinks” the game is actually a local or same-couch experience. On the surface this doesn’t seem all that revolutionary, but the kicker is that the person invited to the game doesn’t even have to own a copy of it.
Imagine there’s a particularly tough platforming section, or maybe a tough-as-nails boss battle, that you’re unable to pass on your own. Using PS4 Share Play you can ask a friend to join your game remotely, at which point they can use their own controller to virtually “take over” that portion until you’ve passed the obstacle at hand.
It’s unclear whether these co-op interactions will have time limits, nor has Sony yet announced whether the experience will apply to traditional two-player co-op games rather than simple controller-handoff interactions. Either way, the ability for a player who doesn’t even own a game to get in there, roll up the sleeves and play with a friend is truly revolutionary.
When you couple Share Play with the PlayStation Now four-hour trial concept, it’s clear Sony’s pushing the envelope with online games. The PS4 is quickly changing how we think about gaming and online interactions, and Share Play is the most notable innovation of the bunch.
Some may argue Sony’s pushing hard because their corporate woes require PlayStation to carry the financial load. More services and more features generally lead to more sales, which in turn drives more revenue. But as a gamer, I don’t really care about Sony’s motivations, just as long as they don’t compromise my own interests. Last time I checked, passing off the controller to a friend only compromised my pride. Being able to do that online, with someone who doesn’t even own the same game? That sort of innovation could have the most profound impact on gaming at home since we first watched paddles bounce pixels across the living-room TV.