Shower thought incoming: How much of Sony’s revenue garnered from console and license sales is allocated to the development of operating system and drivers? Could the company ever find a way to capitalize on the far superior hardware specs of PC gaming without the dependency of Windows/Mac/Linux running in the background?
My theory is that this is absolutely possible and I’d be very surprised if the company doesn’t try something like this eventually… let’s say within 20 years. That’s not too much of a gap, is it?
This feat wouldn’t come overnight, as companies like Valve have been trying to eliminate the need for Windows for some time now with their support for Windows Emulator WINE. However, most of Valve’s library of games run on Windows natively and thus require developer support with this en devour. Mean while developers for PlayStation know what OS and hardware specs they’re using from day one.
The biggest problem developers face when publishing on the PC platform has got to be accounting for their software running on millions of different combinations of hardware there is available to consumers. Organizations and companies alike quickly jumped on API development to unify capabilities; OpenGL is the first API to comes to mind, initially launching in 1992 just before the 3D graphics boom. Shortly after, Microsoft launched DirectX for Windows 95 the same year idSoftware launched Quake. Since, we’ve seen the rise in Vulkan API, a successor to OpenGL that is being supported very well by AMD (who, I might add, has also seen tremendous support by monitor manufacturers with their Freesync technology.)
So lets say Sony wanted to revise their PS4 operating system to work with
different sets of hardware. What would they need? I’m no developer, but I think there’s only one tech step Sony would need to take for PC gamers to be playing those PS exclusives: Develop an API that accounts for hardware diversity.
How to Account for Hardware Diversity
If Sony unveiled their own version of DirectX or Vulkan and told publishers they’d just how to learn it and their games can be accessible to PC users in addition to PS Hardware owners, their market would grow practically overnight. This would be different to how Microsoft is attempting to bridge the gap between PC and Xbox users because M$ still has Windows they want to keep relevant to gamers and non-gamers; unless the new Xbox straight up is Windows 10 (or god-forbid, another new OS already) there’s always going to be a divide as games require porting to one platform or the other no matter how many similarities their are between the two operating systems.
An immediate burden I for see with PS OS (P-Sauce) is going to be the exclusion of low end PC gamers. However, this leap in hardware capabilities would be a hard fork in consumer expectation and I don’t think anyone with a GTX760 is going to find it unfair that they can’t run Bloodborne in some ultra diminished quality. In fact, I think that the solution would be as easy for PC gamers to grasp as it is for console gamers: have tiers for rendering capabilities.
Render Tiers Like the PS4, PS4 Pro and PS4… Pro X?
Say developers didn’t need to include the textures for Low/Mid/High/Ultra/MYGOD, sliders for AA, AF, Shadows, Lighting, God Rays, Particle, Vegetation, Hair™. Just like how it currently is for console users, it’s a hard limiter based on what your hardware can do with no benefits of exceeding those limits unless you tip into a different tier. Here’s a mockup of what a chart displaying those difference might look:
To put it simply, if you PC is this powerful then you fall into this tier without the ability to tweak graphical settings. This would make it to where the API could accommodate for different cards, chips, buses in a manner that consumers could easily grasp. Heck, the chart could be for advanced users only. It would be just as easy for Sony to build piece of software that runs on the desired computer for existing PC gamers to figure out what tier they would fall under in just one click. Additionally, YouTube channels and other content creators would have so much to work which when it came to building the optimal ‘PS Pro’ build and what not so consumers wouldn’t have to look that far to figure out what parts to buy, ultimately leading to synergy among brands.
Getting PS OS To Existing PC Users
So easily the hardest part about using multiple operating systems is booting into one without disrupting the other. My go to answer would be for Sony to sell an SSD or Flash drive with the PS OS installed and provided extensive learning material on how to access the boot menu on start up. Advanced users could also have the option to partition existing harddrives with a copy of the OS they download right from Sony. After getting over the mental hurdle of this step, I think booting into PS OS would be accessible to anyone who understands the benefit of modular, versatile hardware.
Once booted up, your system would perform identical to any other PS4 and assuming you’ve got a Bluetooth card or adapter, you could even use the PS4 controller. But let’s say mouse and keyboard was your thing — no worries! Sony could introduce a M&K wrapper to eliminate the need for that $200 M&K controller spoofers and companies could still choose to support the hardware natively like we’ve seen happen for games like Fortnite. The OS could also check for unused harddrive space existing on the computer (a free partition, second hdd or an external hdd) and format it in the same manner that the PS4 currently handles extra storage.
What Would Sony Lose by Creating This?
Obviously hardware sale would decrease but is this really a bad thing? From a recycling standpoint, absolutely not, as there are more PS1s and PS2s in the world than we know what to do with, but keeping in mind that Sony console are often sold at a loss with game purchases being where the companies start to see a profit again. The PS3 was probably the most famous case of this as not only did the console launch at a significantly higher price than the Xbox 360 but it also cost more than the sticker price to manufacture. If Sony were to sell licenses without manufacturing hardware, they would have extra revenue to spend on the betterment of PS OS and possibly make a new entry into their console lineup and *maybe* even make a return to Linux support like the PS3 had (before it was stripped away.)
Less positive note, Sony would create a divide in it’s user base. It’s unlikely that they would ever want to make it to where the PC users would have a, ‘better’ experience than what ever the top of the line Sony product is. If they did, those users might think not only is it optimal to play on a PC but realize Sony exclusives and multiplayer are the only benefits to PS OS. Also, console gamers who have an avid disdain for PC gaming might get the wrong impression that Sony is giving up on the console race. There’s a lot of weird grey areas a shift like this would create and while it might be amazing for existing PC gamers, it wouldn’t do a whole lot for console gamers.
Do I Still Want Something Like PS OS to Happen?
Absolutely. I still see more long term good in a solution like purely from a gamer perspective. One could easily cite that after the OS runs its course and Sony is ready to unveil a new iteration (say PS OS Vista) then compatibility issues could arise. I’d say something like that could be the biggest flop to the OS, siting how difficult it can be to play 32-bit games and just about anything published before 2004. Sony would be placed in a position where they would always be releasing updates for old OSs (kind of like how patches for the PSP are still coming out) or they would have to build a legacy OS. With all the paperwork developers have to go through to make their games backwards compatible, this could be a pipe dream but I’m also not working in the games industry so maybe there are minds already dedicated to solving this crisis.
Another reason I’d like to see something like the PS OS take off is because I think traditional game stores are about to become a thing of the past. Hardware moves from vendor to vendor to vendor; a new console you buy in your home town was probably purchased and shipped more times than you might imagine before you crack it open in your own home. Games work this way too; buying a new game from an independent shop is basically supporting the same wholesalers who sell to the major chain outlets. The only difference is your supplying purpose and like $2 to your neighbor. That’s why digital is sometimes cheaper than used, physical copies. It’s not because cases cost $10 more dollars but because of the ten hands that all want a dollar for touching the game.
Like I said, I’m skeptical that one of the three major console devs *won’t* try this out over the next few console generations. Marginally better hardware is getting harder and harder to sell as consumers are getting more wise to these tactics. I think Sony has the best shot of pulling this off successfully but don’t sleep on Microsoft either as they’ve got all the Windows source code in their Xbox arsenal! Would Nintendo ever try this?… they’re too much of a loss canon to give a definitive no but if their recent venture into iOS and Android means anything, they might have some tricks in a hidden block.
Have any points you’d like to add to this discussion? Thank it would be ridiculous for Sony to give up on their hardware development? Comment below or where ever you see this article posted! Thanks for reading through this think piece, I had a lot of fun writing it!