Beyond advanced graphics and always-on internet conections, the next hardware generation’s big focus will be on social interactivity. We saw our first real glimpse of that when Sony unveiled its PlayStation 4 controller, complete with an easy-access “share” button. Now gamers could upload images and video to their social feeds for everyone to see.
Only now developers can put the brakes on that at will.
Kyle Orland at Ars Technica reports that developers can disable the Share button to prevent part or all of their game being captured and uploaded to the Internet.
“There will be parts of a game that the maker does not want people to be able to see,” says Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida. “The creator may not want to make video of the final boss shareable, for instance.”
Certainly, that makes sense in the context of a game like BioShock Infinite, where the ending comes as a major dramatic twist. Even the generally eager-to-spill population on Twitter showed restraint when it came to discussing the details of Infinite’s conclusion. Disabling the Share button, however, takes those decisions away from gamers. More than anything, it seems like an option that’s likely to alienate and frustrate consumers when they can’t use the very features they’ve been sold on. As Wired Magazine’s Chris Kohler puts it;
“Hey, come watch my PS4 stream of this great new game!” “Wow, PS4 sure is great!” *stream ends right at the good part* “Wow, fuck PS4!”
— Chris Kohler (@kobunheat) May 6, 2013
Orland also points out that few people have any trouble uploading images to Flickr or YouTube without resorting to a convenient Share button.
Putting a top-line feature at the mercy of developers runs a strong risk of undermining the feature and possibly the consumers who want to use it as well. At minimum, the dozens of different companies will each apply different criteria when deciding whether to block the Share function. Some could even disable Sharing for their entire game — no restrictions seem to be in effect as yet. That could conceivably open Sony up to legal action for promoting a hardware feature that consumers won’t be able to use.
While it’s understandable that creators want to protect the integrity of their creations, they would do well to remember those creations serve an audience, not their own single ego. Ultimately, what the gamers want matters most. If they want to use a built-in feature, restrictions only get in their way. If they want to remain spoiler-free, it’s their own responsibility to do so.
If they want to share a video on the Internet, they will…with or without help.