Sony’s Shuhei Yoshida recently confirmed that remote-play via PS Vita will be mandatory for PlayStation 4 games. While this has prompted many predictable and boring discussions about who ripped off who and which company is responsible for what, Nintendo fans in particular should be thinking about what this means for the nature of third party cross-platform development in the coming years.
Like Wii before it, one of the roadblocks to developers including Wii U in their multi-platform releases is the unique controller. The remote and nunchuck were the only controllers packed in with Wii, and the gamepad is the only controller packed in with Wii U, so naturally Nintendo needs developers to make their games take advantage of those devices.
After this move from Sony, every single PS4 developer will have to consider the logistics of streaming their game to a smaller, touch-enabled screen, as well as the possibility of running optional supporting gameplay features on the smaller device. Figuring that out means one less step between their game and Wii U compatibility, which means more third party games for Nintendo’s console.
We could have seen a similar thing last generation when, encouraged by Nintendo’s success with Wii, Sony introduced the Move controller for PlayStation 3. As we all know however, the fact that Move was expensive and not bundled in with the hardware meant that pretty much only Sony made interesting games that used it, and the device kind of faded away.
This time the playing field is more even. Every Wii U owner has a gamepad and every PlayStation 4 game (except those that use special PS4-only peripherals like the PSEye) will need to have Vita stream functionality.
The only way Sony could shift the Wii U and PlayStation 4 closer to input parity would be to lower the price of Move controllers or pack one right in the box with the PS4.
Of course there are deep differences between Sony’s upcoming device and Wii U.
There’s platform-specific functionality like Miiverse to consider for one thing (although current third-party games have done well at showing us how easy it is to ignore that feature altogether), plus PS4′s architecture is shaping up to be simpler and obviously more powerful than that of Wii U. It remains to be seen, but I think this will be less of a problem than we might be lead to believe.
Not only have we repeatedly heard about Wii U’s yet-to-be-realised processing capabilities, but the huge casual install base generated during the last generation means third parties will be developing for 360 and PS3 as well as PS4 and Xbox One for at least the next few years. In many cases this means developers will need to design PlayStation 4 games with off-tv play and scalability in mind, which bodes well for Wii U owners who would like some third party love.
What do you think? Will the need to support off-TV play on Sony’s device encourage developers to make games for both PS4 and Wii U, or are the differences between the consoles so great that devs will have to pick a side?