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PS4 haters: Simmer down and celebrate progress

Sony's PlayStation 4 demonstration is reason for everyone to celebrate, writes Tim Clark

Where's the actual box? How much will it cost? Why doesn't David Cage just make movies already? Does he have to be quite so French?

[PlayStation 4 - All the news | All the facts | Every video of all the games | Official pictures | PS4 Specs]

What the hell are they doing showing Knack first? Has The Last Guardian been burned in a giant wicker man as part of a doomed bid to restore Sony's balance sheet? AREN'T WE OVER POLYGONS YET? Diablo III? Diabl-no more like. Who cares about Killzzzzzone? Did mother ever really love me at all? Booooooooo! Waaaaaaaaa! Etc and so on.

Look, I get it. Half the fun of watching major videogame press conferences, especially momentous hardware reveals, is being snarky.

I've sat there in plenty, making whispered funnies with my colleagues. In ye olden days (two years ago) we'd write them down on our little reporter note pads and show them to each other and snigger. Being a wiseass is nothing new and gaming has long been a haven for wiseass - but holy smoke has Twitter and in-article commenting taken wise-assery to eye-watering new levels of tedious cynicism masquerading as analysis.

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Nice!

I think I logged out of Twitter for the night after seeing a tweet that simply said "SameStation" scroll past.

Does anyone actually think that? PS4 is literally just the same thing as PS3, is it?

I also get that some of the games - perhaps even most of the games - look like marginal improvements over ideas that have already been iterated on almost to the point of destruction. But guess what? Almost every console launch line-up has been a slate of unremembered mediocrity studded with one or two games that make the system actually worth having.

Here are some PS2 launch games: Eternal Ring, Orphen, X-Squad, Evergrace, Fantavision, Kessen. Here are some PS3 launch games: Full Auto 2: Battle Lines, Dark Sector, Genji: Days Of The Blade, Enchanted Arms, Tekken Dark Resurrection.

In amongst those has-beens and never-weres, you can find the occasional gem. An SSX and a TimeSplitters. A fl0w and a Motorstorm. Generally though, the initial wave tends to be conservative in terms of design, and certainly no long-term indicator of a machine's ultimate potential.

And of course bear in mind we don't even know what PS4 will launch alongside. From the early meetings we've had with third parties, I'd expect some very big names to arrive at launch, and that's with a standout new IP in Watch Dogs already confirmed.

I feel no shame in being excited by what I've seen. Just as I'll almost certainly be excited after Microsoft shows its next-gen hand.

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Image: Polygon

We're seven years into the current console generation, and for a neophyte like me that's at least a couple too many to wait for new home consoles. Ah, but the indie-loving hipsters and PC master racers will tell you the console model is dead anyway. And maybe in some senses they're right. Certainly, thanks to the proliferation of cheap mobile gaming, and the rising star of Steam, the era of iron-fisted console dominance is over.

Here's a thing though: I don't believe the thirst for AAA experiences - by which I mean beautiful-looking games, which last a significant amount of time, and feature deep mechanics - has gone away at all. I also think that a large chunk of core gamers like having those experiences on plug and play machines which don't require much thought to operate and maintain.

Fundamentally, I don't see what isn't to like about Sony delivering a new PlayStation that offers better performance with a far friendlier operating system underpinning it. If that was all they'd delivered last night, would it not still be good news?

In amongst all the slightly dry talk from men in open-collared shirts, oversized blazers and bad dad-jeans last night there were some hidden gems in terms of ideas.

Don't underestimate the potential of the touchpad and the share button. Wait until we see what designers like Hideo Kojima and the Naughty Dog team come up with. Ultimately, the platform holder has to show proof of concept - not exhaustively outline every single conceivable gameplay possibility. It's up to the 70-strong roster of developers to deliver those.

I also loved the notion of the network now using your real identity, rather than KillaHaXXXor69. Online abuse and trolling is endemic, and will continue to hold back gaming's evolution unless something's done. This seems like a promising first step in that direction.

If you're still struggling for reasons to be enthusiastic, try these: You won't have to be online if you don't want to be. PS4 won't block pre-owned games. You can try games before you buy. For free. Almost any game by the sound of it. FOR FREE! Not only were some of the key concerns over next-gen covered off last night, but we actually got more detail in terms of what the hardware will be able to do than surely even the most gloomy pundits could have predicted.

[Takes another look at Twitter.]

Or maybe not. Okay, one more go. Do you think games are going to be worse or better in the next-generation? Would anyone consistently argue that PS3's games were worse than PS2's, or that those were in turn worse than PS1's. That seems hugely unlikely.

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Last time around Sony made the near-fatal mistake of going last with the excuse that "the next-gen doesn't start until we say so." Oh Kaz! This time they've set out their stall early, and although it doesn't look like a paradigm shift in the way games are created and played (so far, anyway), there are improvements to be seen everywhere. From Gaikai streaming PS4 games to Vita, to the console booting almost instantly from 'sleep', and - *kisses lucky rabbit's foot* - an apparent end to onerous firmware updates every time you fire the damn thing up.

Speaking purely as a gamer, I care little for the fortunes of enormous corporations. On a long enough timeline I don't really care what happens to Sony or Nintendo or Microsoft. I don't Skype with Kaz Hirai. I don't play golf with Reggie. It is unlikely I will ever take a sauna with Don Mattrick. If all those companies ultimately fail, and get eaten by Apple and Valve's assault on the mainstream, then I imagine I'll look back on this generation and say: "I've played some brilliant games in the last few years. I'll probably play some more in the next few."

Will PS4 be able to pump out better visuals than a custom built gaming PC costing north of £1,000 in a couple of years time. No probably not. Does that matter? I'm not so sure. Despite a typically uneven stage showcase, overall this time Sony got it right. The next-gen starts now.

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