While free-to-play games are already huge money-makers for mobile and browser developers, console developers are racing to secure their own piece of the pie. At this year’s E3 in Los Angeles, Sony announced a variety of free-to-play titles for its PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 home consoles and PlayStation Vita handheld gaming system.
Today at its PlayStation 4 announcement press conference, Sony revealed it’s getting getting in on the social games scene — sort of. Gaikai Founder and CEO David Perry took the stage to talk briefly about what this will entail, though he promised it would create “the first social network for gaming.”
According to Perry, Sony is partnering with an undisclosed number of social networks “including Facebook and Ustream” to include social networking with its upcoming console. As of right now, details are few and far between, but the Sony definition of social gaming is pretty broad: The web presentation shows a user’s ability to record and upload videos of their gameplay to share with friends, pass control of a game character over to a friend via PlayStation Network (as if they were sitting next to the person) and connect to real-world friends without having to deal with gamertags and/or themed profile pictures.
An early example of the new controller’s Share button in action came during the demonstration of Guerilla Games’ Killzone: Shadows Fall. At the end of an action sequence, the Share button was pressed and the audience was told the video would be loaded to the game’s official Facebook page and available for viewing after the press conference.
Partway through the presentation, Evolution showed off its upcoming racing title Drive Club, which will be built around social gameplay that rewards gamers for engaging in races with friends. The game will also include streaming features that allow users to watch videos of the gameplay as it’s happening, as well as shifting perspectives from one car to another.
While groups like Kongregate may take issue with Perry’s description that the PS4 will create the “first social network for gaming,” this is the first time we’ve seen console manufacturers really working to include social features and sharing.
While the current generation of consoles does include some social apps like Facebook and Twitter, these apps have generally been limited and don’t allow for seamless integration into games. These apps clearly weren’t all that popular, at least on the Xbox 360, as Microsoft announced it was going to remove the Twitter and Facebook apps. Meanwhile, social and mobile games are often notorious for prompting users to share their progress or ask their friends for help in the titles they’re playing.
Sharing progress and seeking friends to play games alongside has already arrived on consoles in limited forms. Microsoft’s “beacon” system (which launched in the massive Xbox update back in December 2011) made it easier to find people to play online with. If Sony is able to let developers include seamless social sharing in their titles, this could lead to an increase in user engagement and monetization on the PlayStation Network when players decide they want to play through downloadable content with their friends.
We’ll continue to update this story as more information emerges.
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