There is something to be said for being first to market, but being first doesn't automatically mean the product or content will be the best. The jury is still out on which next-generation console is the best for consumers. The answer to the question may never be definitive, as both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One offer some nice features for their respective owners.
What is relatively clear is that the PS4 has a few features that could make it revolutionary in the genre of sports video games.
Both the PS4 and the Xbox One offer next-level graphic options. NBA 2K14's amazing graphics showed us just what next-generation systems are capable of with the right artists in control. Of every next-generation title that released for both systems—exclusives included—no game better showed off the visual power of next-gen hardware like NBA 2K14.
Because sports games offer a clear frame of reference for fans of the genre to relate to, having developers recreate players, arenas and presentation with such meticulous detail is awesome. It's exciting to see what has already been done.
Imagining where the graphics will go from here is all the more encouraging.
Create-A-Player With the PlayStation Camera
Sports gamers love customization options. We understand that licenses and such limit what developers can put in a game, but wide open creation tools help to fill the gaps left by the business side of sports video games.
The PS4 camera has just teased sports gamers with thoughts of enormous player creation options for now. However, it seems almost inevitable that we'll see this peripheral used to recreate ourselves and others in the game.
Just imagine what it would be like to create a My Player in NBA 2K with the PS4 camera. The creation process could be very similar to the demos we saw of LeBron James as 2K's artists asked him to make several facial expressions.
Because the PS4 device captures such a wide range (85o field of view) and actually contains two cameras, per IGN, it seems as though custom facial modeling could be coming very soon.
While create-a-player options are awesome in any sports game, the sub-genres that benefit from them the most are wrestling, boxing and mixed martial arts games. We haven't even seen what the first next-gen WWE game will look like, but if NBA 2K's visual excellence is any indication, WWE 2K15 is going to lay the smackdown on us...in a good way.
If a facial modeler is put in the hands of the millions...and millions of WWE gamers out there, the community creations aspect of the game will be delightful. The same could be said for EA Sports UFC and any boxing title that one can only hope is at least being considered.
The Cloud—Extra Storage for Custom Rosters and Such
Few games tapped into the total power of the cloud storage in this first go-round of next-gen games, but when use of the feature becomes commonplace, the impact can't be overstated.
NBA 2K14 has all custom rosters and custom draft classes stored in the cloud with easy access to all online gamers. This is a great first step towards removing the stress for console storage. Gamers should be able to store rosters, creations and other non-mode saves in the cloud to conserve space and share with the community.
Ultimately, this type of option could lead to a developer creating a license-free sports title that relies heavily on crowdsourced content for teams, players, stadiums, etc. It would be a great way for the developer to have the freedom to make the sports game it wants. The shared creations could also establish an unprecedented online sports gaming community for one specific title.
Essentially, gamers could be more vested into a title like this because the content would be created and shared by the community. The game's servers would simply be the facilitator.
Share Button—Look What I Did
As a YouTuber, I understand how important online resources like Twitch, YouTube and UStream are to the sports video gaming community. Gamers watch other gamers play to learn new tips, check out new titles and/or to be entertained.
I can't tell you how many times I've received a message from one of my subscribers that said, "Man, watching you play this game made me want to go play it."
Though Sony dropped the ball a bit by making capturing such a chore early in the system's life cycle, the ability to share videos and screenshots to Facebook, Twitter, Twitch and Ustream is great.
No genre creates as many "look what I just did" moments like sports video games. With the share button, you're able to capture that nasty slam, sick juke, deke, header or knockout with the press of a button. It is a great option, and it screams "press me" to a sports gamer.
Looking Ahead to the Future
From the enhanced visuals to the share button and PS4 camera, Sony has laid the groundwork to keep sports gamers excited for the near future. The next time we'll get a chance to see what the system can do for sports video games will be in early March when the first next-gen version of MLB The Show hits the shelves.
In my Bart Scott voice, "can't wait."
Follow me for news and musings on sports video games.