Sony unveiled the PS4 at a press event on February 20, and while it boasted impressive visuals and some top-notch internal specs, one of the most awe-inspiring reveals was its revamped network capabilities. One of the system’s new online features stuck out in particular as an ingenious idea that could lead to a whole new line of business opportunities for skilled gamers.
I’m referring to the PS4’s ability to remote control, or shadow another gamer’s session on the fly from any location that has internet access. Just think of what achievements and trophies did for this console generation: all sorts of websites entered the ether to vie for user clicks to figure out how to nab those pesky in-game rewards. Sites like Xbox 360 Achievements and its sister site, PS3 Trophies, have thrived throughout this generation of gaming. They have a rabid following and a dedicated user base, all due to the invention of ultimately meaningless in-game rewards.
Now, just imagine the types of websites that will spring up to take advantage of the PS4’s shadow play function. On paper this feature should allow skilled gamers the ability to sell their services to other gamers who may not possess the skills needed to conquer a tough section in a game, or don’t want to spend the time required to nab every achievement or trophy that a game has to offer. You may balk at this thought, but we all know at least one gamer who takes the idea of completing a video game to a level that could lead to paying for a little bit of assistance to obtain perfection.
The PS4’s shadow play feature will only expand the market of achievement hunting and trophy guides to the point where gamers could pay a “pro” for their services. These highly skilled gamers for hire could be called upon to complete a difficult challenge for other players that may yield previously unobtainable achievements/trophies that the customer would not have been able to unlock on their own.
Shadow play pros could also be hired to complete sections of a game that give their customers fits to the point of wanting to quit the game for good. We’ve all experienced moments like this throughout our gaming careers, and while I pride myself on conquering the challenges that video games throw at me, it would be comforting to know that I could save myself a mental breakdown by hiring a more skilled gamer to help me out.
Obviously this new feature of being able to hire outside assistance will present all sorts of moral and ethical conflicts for gamers. It’s essentially cheating, when you really think about it. It’s not like cheating on your taxes, or a test, because in the end we’re talking about video games, but if you don’t actually complete the entire experience by yourself, did you really conquer the game? Would you be able to brag to your friends about your conquest when deep down you knew that you weren’t the gamer you were making yourself out to be? It’s definitely a dilemma to think about in regards to the future of online gaming, and the potential of the PS4’s shadow play feature.
I believe hardcore gamers who take pride in their video game accomplishments will be less likely to pay for outside assistance, and they’d be the first to tell you that you’re a cheat for using a paid service. At the same time you have the casual crowd who probably wouldn’t think twice about paying for a little extra help so they can enjoy the entire experience that they paid upwards of $60 for. The idea of this type of service for gamers is definitely a double-edged sword, so it’ll be interesting to see if it gets turned into a new business model in the near future.
The invention of achievements and trophies and the plethora of sites that sprung up to support them this generation only leads me to believe that the same trend will take place with the PS4’s shadow play feature. I imagine a world where a gamer can go online and pay a small fee to a service provider who, in turn, would hook the customer up with a pro to help them with their gaming needs.
Regardless of the moral dilemma this service presents, I applaud Sony for thinking outside of the proverbial box, and providing innovative network features like the PS4’s ability to be remotely controlled by gamers not seated in the same play space. It’s a service that could revolutionize how gamers play video games with their friends, as well as one that could enable more skilled cyber athletes to make a living from their passion for video games. In the end, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with making a living doing something you love, so if the PS4’s shadow play feature can provide this for just a few gamers, I would consider it to be a success.