There's something incongruous about single-player video games. For thousands of years, games have inherently required multiple people. While computers do an admirable job of filling in for other players, Sony has designed its PlayStation 4 to inject a little more social interaction into single-player games.
"There's no doubt that 'play' is no longer an isolated pastime," says Mark Cerny, lead architect of the PlayStation 4, at the system's unveiling in February.
The previous generation of consoles from Sony and Microsoft appealed to hard-core gamers with baked-in online multiplayer modes. People can log on and compete against friends across town or across the globe. While online modes have popped up in many games, single-player stories are often still the main attraction for most games.
Sony can't do anything about that – it's built into many of the most popular video-game genres. But the PlayStation 4 introduces a number of ways for people to interact with each other even when they're playing on their own.
For example, the system's controller features a new Share button. After a glorious victory or hilarious defeat, players can hit the button to upload a video of their accomplishment to the Internet. "Just hit the Share button on the controller, scan through the last few minutes of game-play, pick a portion, tag it, and return to your game," says Mr. Cerny. The video will upload to Facebook while you continue playing.
While the current PlayStation 3 identifies players by their online screen names, Cerny says that the new system will focus on real names. Pseudonyms can still protect those who wish to remain anonymous, but Sony wants gamers to connect their PlayStation profiles to their online social networks. This will help friends find each other and, most likely, let Sony take a peek at who plays its games.
As new computers and video games lean heavily on online services, many assume that this increase in household bandwidth use will push Internet providers to hike prices. Already, AT&T and Verizon have ditched unlimited data plans for smart phones, and some home broadband providers have imposed caps on monthly data usage. Time Warner Cable chief Glenn Britt has called broadband caps "inevitable." This new generation of game consoles may accelerate that future.