Social Gaming and the PlayStation 4

Social media has become such an ingrained part of our lives that it’s become less a technology and more an extension of ourselves. Considering Facebook’s changing news feed, Twitter’s growing population, and Twitter’s development of fun, new toys, social media isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Sony announced the PS4 on February 20, releasing some scant details about the next-gen console to hundreds of journalists and adoring fans. Although Sony did show off a few games, potential titles, and graphics demos, they focused primarily on the social functions of the new system. Social integration proves to be a big part of the PS4 according to Sony. Although the PS4 plans to bring a lot of new social tools to the table, Sony isn’t the first to join social networking and gaming.

Out of the Console

Zynga's headlining game.

Social gaming companies have seen huge success in the last few years by integrating existing networks—mainly Facebook and Twitter—into their mobile and in-browser gaming experiences. Probably the most well-known of them all is Zynga, a company that has developed a wide range of social games for mobile platforms, social networking websites, and its own website, Zynga.com. You probably know them best as the people who created FarmVille. Three Zynga titles–FarmVille’s sequel, Zynga Poker, and ChefVille—are in the top five most popular Facebook games. As of early this year, Zynga games have more than 265 million monthly active users.

Despite the growing success, Zynga relies on other platforms. Sure, it has its own website, but the crux of its success comes from its cooperation with Facebook and the Android/iOS platforms. It’ll be interesting to see where Zynga goes, especially considering its relationship with Facebook is set to officially conclude at the end of this month.

To the Ends of the Miiverse

The Wii U came out last November to… an underwhelming response. Despite the lukewarm reaction to what is ostensibly the first of the next-gen consoles, Nintendo brought something really interesting with the Wii U: the Miiverse.

These guys.

The Miiverse is the first standalone social network on a big-name game console. No reliance on Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, or any other existing social media outlets. Through the Miiverse, players can make friends, interact, share their in-game experiences, and create communities all via their Wii U consoles.

It’s hard to say how the Miiverse is doing (mainly because I don’t own a Wii U), but from what I’ve read, it has a lot of potential to create some fun, interactive communities. Nintendo plans to extend the Wiiverse to smartphones, PCs, and the 3DS in the near future, which may give the Wiiverse network the push it needs to stay relevant in the long run.

And Now the PS4

Maybe Sony took cues from Nintendo, but the social aspects of the PlayStation 4 take some of the same aspects of the Wiiverse and adds plenty of upgrades. It has the same friend functionality—comments, messages, sharing achievements—but includes several features aimed toward pleasing gamers, like cross-game chat and easy drop-in co-op play.

The new DualShock4, complete with share button.

One big feature is the notable “Share” button on the new controllers that allows players to record, edit, tag, and upload gameplay videos on the fly. With a push of the Share button, players can even broadcast their gameplay live through uStream or straight from the console. Viewers of the stream can then join in, take over and play the game themselves, or buy the game if they don’t already own it. It’s smart design on Sony’s part and has a ton of potential.

For a more in-depth look at the PS4’s social features, check out Extreme Tech’s examination of the screenshots.

I’m not exactly a gamer—not as much as I was in high school—but I’d be lying if I said I won’t be getting a PS4 when it does eventually come out. I’ve owned it’s previous two generations and they have some great IPs. It’s interesting to see where Sony, Nintendo, and probably Microsoft are taking gaming, turning what is normally a secluded and isolated activity into a fully social experience. There’s no official release date on the PS4 as of my writing this blog, though Sony has reported that it will be available before the holidays, and Microsoft has not released any information on the next Xbox iteration, but I can’t wait to see what they come out with.

Do you play video games? Are you excited for the next-generation of gaming? What are your experiences with social gaming?

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