While the nitty gritty details about Xbox One are all out in the open the PS4 is still largely a mystery despite technically bursting on to the scene months ago. Here are just a handful of the unanswered questions surrounding Sony's next-generation console — and how we hope and think they'll be answered.
What does the PS4 look like?
We've got at least a hint about this one; Sony released a blurry teaser trailer that showed us glimpses that were too tightly shot to give any real indication of the whole.
Fortunately, though, when you add a healthy dose of wild, mass guessing to the quick cutaways you can wind up with something like this Redditor's jigsawed PS4:
All in all, we wouldn't mind if the new console didn't take any cues from the launch PS3's giant oval design. But if the PS4 wanted to take after the slim version's thinner look, that'd probably be slightly more OK. From what little we can piece together though, it's probably going to be squarish and black. Go figure, right?
Can we replace the hard drive?
On the PS3, you could not only pull out the hard drive yourself, but also replace it with pretty much any 2.5-inch SATA notebook hard disk you wanted. We're hoping that's a feature the PS4 will inherit, especially since the Xbox One is going to the built-in, irremovable route. The PS4 will have some storage built-in, but whether that's all the storage is still up in the air.
Sony has gone on record saying that the PS4 will have a "very large hard drive," which hopefully doesn't mean we're going to get stuck with zero DIY options. If it's big enough though (1TB?), and the price of the system is low enough, we could probably be convinced to not mind.
Is the PS4 Eye required?
While the Xbox One's mandatory Kinect can maybe be justified by playing the it's-HAL-in-your-living-room-but-not-homicidal card, the role of the Playstation 4 Eye is a little less clear. From what we know of it in action, there's a pretty big AR push, as well as some of the facial recognition stuff that the Kinect also implements. It's cool, but so far it doesn't seem super-duper integral to the PS4's gaming identity like the Kinect is to the Xbox One's big media push. So here's to hoping it's optional.
Even beyond the creepiness-versus-convenience issue, hardware costs money. A console with a crazy camera costs more to make (and presumably to buy) than a console without one. And history has shown over and over again that "hardcore gamers" couldn't care less about motion control most of the time. And it's always nice not to have to pay for things you don't want.
Besides, do we really need both of the two major consoles requiring a living-room staring contest, especially when neither has made motion control seem even half as cool as the Wii did without any cameras? Probably not.
Is online multiplayer still free?
Xbox Live Gold is an obnoxious expense, especially if all you want to do is use the console to watch TV. Meanwhile the PS3's gratis online functionality has been a great haven for the cost-conscious. But can it really stay that way forever, or is the currently optional Playstation Plus going to evolve into a mandatory service for online play? We're hoping really hard that it's that first one.
It's worth noting that — unlike the hardware jazz — this stuff is probably still in flux as we speak. Both Sony and Microsoft are waiting til E3 in June to share online content and pricing details, so there's plenty of time to pivot.
Basically, though: There's practically no way Sony could start charging for its previously free services without looking downright evil, especially since it's been eager to jab at Microsoft for doing just that. The only wiggle room might be if Sony makes Playstation Plus required — and costly — for multiplayer and sharing, but not for streaming video.
Best case scenario? Both Sony and Microsoft skew towards making/keeping more things on the free-side of the inevitable paywall. But we'll settle for Sony keeping Netflix on the outside if that's all we can get.
Will used games have a fee?
The state of used games on the Xbox One is a huge, indecipherable mess that's getting people awfully riled up. The PS4? Beyond the fact that it'll play used games, we don't know anything at all.
How the PS4 plays used games will depend at least in part on how the PS4 treats discs, and how the PS4 treats discs depends on whether or not installations are mandatory. Installation and used games go hand-in-hand.
On the Xbox One, all games need to be installed to the hard drive. No exceptions. And that being the case, the disc is just an artifice. The disc isn't where you play the game; it's just a really fast download. You know, like how disc versions of games work on PC. So mandatory installation and used-game confusion sort of go hand-in-hand, and Sony is keeping its lips tightly sealed on both counts.
That silence has left Sony a lot of room to manoeuvre, but the best-case scenario for cheap gamers everywhere is optional installation, games and discs work just like they used to! Hooray! No rules, just right. But the out-and-out death of used games seems like inevitable growing pain of going into the digital future. So even if the PS4 plays used games off the disc, fee-free, it can only last for so long.
Is the PS4 going to be the anti-Xbox One?
We're working with a whole lot of TBDs, but it all really comes down to this one question: is the PS4 going to position itself as the answer to everything that's frustrating about the Xbox One? Microsoft caught a lot of heat by going first, and some of its "mistakes" are arguably just unpopular steps toward an inevitable all-digital future.
Microsoft's pre-emptive flak-taking is going to make it a lot easier for Sony to sidle up to the exact same unpopular decisions without looking like the villain because it didn't make them first. But we're hoping the Sony will stick to its historic guns on this stuff and keep repping "free" and "open." Sony's CEO Kaz Hirai has come out and said that the PS4 is "first and foremost [a] game console," as far as Sony is concerned, which seems like something you'd say if you wanted to appeal to the Microsoft-doesn't-care-about-gamers crowd. But he also said Sony doesn't plan to stop there, and that could mean just about anything.
Sure, a lot of the Xbox One hate out there is totally bogus, but we still want to see the PS4 go its own way. The more of a choice you can make, the better. Especially when the game only has two main players already, and one of them is slowly angling further and further away from hardcore gamers. Let the market bare out which way is the right one. Come on Sony, let's make this a fight.