Prepare to share

share-buttonFacebook has over 1 billion active users, Twitter has around 240 million tweeters and Twitch has over 600,000 broadcasters who draw in around 30 million viewers a month.

It’s clear that when Sony added the share button to Dualshock 4, they had a strategy in mind.

In fact, one of my biggest frustrations on the PlayStation 3 is the lack of support for the screenshot functionality. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gone into the XMB hoping to see the option to take a picture of an epic vista, cool in-game event or comedy moment only to be left disappointed at the developers choice not to implement it. To me, this has never made sense, it’s such a simple way to get players sharing your game directly with friends.

Thankfully, with PlayStation 4 Sony has taken this out of the developers hands. We can finally take screenshots – and record video – on every game on the PlayStation 4. While developers can limit where it’s used it currently seems likely this will only be implemented to stop recording of cutscenes or sections with spoilers. I really hope this is the case.

Take for example Rockstar’s ‘SnapMatic’ camera function in GTAV, it’s collected thousands and thousands of weird, wonderful and disturbing images taken in game which are saved on Rockstar’s Social Club and can then be shared with your friends and followers across social media and email. It’s not perfect but it’s a serviceable option – certainly better than nothing at all – and it works well in conjunction with the in-game customization options for characters and cars and to capture the amazing postcard perfect scenery, weather and lighting effects (or Trevor in a dress). For us we can engage with other players and our friends and for Rockstar the images have generated a buzz around the game beyond what can be achieved by traditional marketing.

In essence, this viral sharing is what Sony were likely aiming for on PlayStation 3 when they added the the option to allow screenshots. While it didn’t reach it’s full potential during this generation, on PlayStation 4 it’s supercharged and we’re about to see video and screenshot sharing explode into an essential part of modern gaming culture.

It’s quiet and unassuming but the share button, and what lies behind it, will define this generation.

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