birth complications

Tomorrow, the anticipated PlayStation 4 will finally make its way off shelves to waiting buyers’ hands (in America, at least). Players will head home, plug in their new consoles, and get ready to exchange intellectual debates via PlayStation Network. Next week, the event will repeat with the Xbox One.

Or, maybe not. Turns out there’s a snag with the two consoles’ launch processes. Just a minor snag.

The PlayStation 4 will require a day-one patch to be applied before the console can be used. Note the choice of words here–it’s not that it can’t go online, or make use of certain features like Remote Play, or share screenshots and videos (although those are also covered). It can’t be used. The day-one patch, which updates the operating system to version 1.5–implying that it encompasses a number of semimajor updates–must be applied to enable the Blu-ray drive. Repeat: The Blu-ray drive is not a functioning feature out of the box.

In the same vein, Microsoft has announced that the Xbox One will require a similar patch to be applied on launch day. They haven’t gone into detail, but according to a senior director, the unit will be capable of literally “nothing”, being “required for your Xbox One to function.” If what Penello said is accurate, the console will simply not work at all without this update.

No two ways about it, we live in the era of the day one patch. There is some justification for it–if release day is looming, and features are still missing, it’s a perfectly valid tactic to work on the missing content and push it out on launch day. But this is getting ridiculous. Both systems fail to function entirely without the update; the PS4 specifically mentions that its patch enables the Blu-ray drive, which is what the entire system is built around. It’s akin to selling a car without a transmission, and telling potential customers to have their dealer install it when the car is purchased.

Part of me wonders if this isn’t some twisted anti-piracy scheme. A measure like this effectively prevents anyone from making use of their system before launch date (although Sony has made the 1.5 patch available for download now, to be executed from a flash drive and save the user the trouble of downloading it through the PS4). With a number of recent incidents of retailers breaking street dates on both hardware and software, I can see why Microsoft and Sony would be concerned with it. The practice of banning users who log on early doesn’t go always go over well, and this provides a method to keep people off. But it’s still a load of shit.

Or, I don’t know. Maybe it’s related to other issues.