What the PS4 Can and Can't Do

This article was updated on 11/12/13.

With only two weeks left until the PlayStation 4 launches in North America, Sony has taken some time to set the record straight on everything the system does — and doesn't do. An extensive FAQ clears up a few of the PS4's remaining mysteries but has some bad news for day-one purchasers.

Most of the information in the FAQ is very straightforward: The PS4 will launch on Nov. 15, cost $399.99 in North America, and include a console, a controller, a charging cable, a headset and an HDMI cable.

MORE: PS4 vs. Xbox One: Console Comparison

Keep in mind that, unlike the PS3, the PS4 requires an HDMI connection, so SDTVs or HDTVs with only DVI or component connections won't cut it without some kind of adapter (which you'll have to purchase separately).

PS4 storage capacity

Sony has also set the record straight on external hard drives: You can't use them. The PS4's default hard drive is 500GB, and you can swap it out for other higher-capacity 9.5-mm hard drives. This capability will be handy, considering that many PS4 launch titles weigh in between 30 and 50GB.

HD and 4K support

Users hoping for the PS4 to lead the way in gaming applications for 4K TVs might want to temper their expectations, too. The PS4 supports up to only 1080p resolution for both games and video.

On the other hand, users no longer have to rejigger the system's resolution manually. The PS4 can automatically detect its optimal output every time it's connected to a new TV, eliminating some of the hassle associated with moving the system around.

Blu-ray and DVD video hassles

Like the PS3, the PS4 will support Blu-ray discs, but if you don't plan on hooking your system up to the Internet, you're going to have to do a little legwork. Neither DVD support nor Blu-ray support is endemic to the system, and both will require a day-one software update. Otherwise, you will need to contact Sony's customer service, which will send you an activation disc.

Reduced music playback

Speaking of discs, the days of listening to audio CDs on your Sony console are over. That may not sound like a big deal, but the system will also not support MP3s, either those loaded onto its hard drive or streaming from your computer.

No streaming from PCs

In fact, you won't be able to stream anything from your PC. The PS4 does not support media servers. This feature allowed PS3s to stream video and music from a user's PC, or a third-party service like PlayOn. Without media servers, you will be limited to the PS4's native video apps (like Netflix) or whatever runs through the system's built-in Web browser.

Virtually no free online play

As Sony hinted at E3, playing online for free will also be a thing of the past, for the most part. Only PlayStation Plus ($49.99/year) members will be able to play most games online with their friends and foes. Certain free-to-play titles, like "Blacklight: Retribution" and "DC Universe Online," however, will be accessible to the hoi polloi.

Limits on recording video

The FAQ also touches on the ability to record and share gameplay footage, and the feature is not as robust as many game video producers had initially hoped. The system will automatically keep in a cache the last 15 minutes of whichever game you're playing. You can then choose to upload and share this footage via Facebook (but not YouTube).

Aside from setting starting and ending points, though, your editing options are fairly limited. You can't add narration (unless you were speaking into a headset while you were playing), and you can't copy your footage over to a PC for editing, although Sony has stated that this functionality will arrive in the future.

The good points

Otherwise, all the good stuff is still good: The system has a large launch library with a number of Sony exclusives. Vita owners can stream PS4 games to their handheld systems to free up the big screen. The PlayStation Camera is totally optional, and offers some fun augmented-reality games, if you choose to invest in it.

One final thing to keep in mind: While many PS4 games are enormous, you won't be required to download or install each game before you can start playing it. Certain games, like "Killzone: Shadow Fall," will let you start playing before the installation is complete.

Beyond that, check the FAQ if you have a specific question. Alternatively, wait two weeks, buy a PS4, and see for yourself what it can and can't do.

UPDATE: Based on Sony's Software Usage Terms, we've added some additional information on privacy and reselling games:


Section 14 of the PS4's Software Usage Terms is titled "Are we monitoring PSN?" This details how Sony keeps track of users and user-generated media (UGM), including but not limited to written messages, voice messages and uploaded videos.

"We can't monitor all PSN activity and we make no commitment to do so," Sony states. "However, we reserve the right in our sole discretion to monitor and record any or all of your PSN activity and to remove any of your UGM at our sole discretion, without further notice to you."
In practice, this likely means that Sony will monitor players who have been reported for bad behavior or posting offensive content, especially since previous sections deal with negative online experiences and how to report them.

Reselling Games

Section 7, which deals with resale: "You must not resell either Disc-based Software or Software Downloads, unless expressly authorized by us and, if the publisher is another company, additionally by the publisher."
The message is clear: Lending PS4 games may be as easy as handing them over to a friend, but reselling them may require a few extra hoops. Sony and individual publishers may not put any restrictions on reselling games, but they have every right to.

At present, neither Sony nor any publisher has announced any plans to put restrictions on reselling games. By purchasing a PS4 and its associated software, though, you are agreeing to let Sony restrict how you sell your games if it ever so chooses.

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    Top Comments
  • I'll buy a gaming PC instead, I won't be tied to these can't do nonsense.
  • Other Comments
  • can it run crysis 3? hurr...
  • I won one from Taco Bell, should arrive right around launch day... but I want to know about backward compatibility... can Little Big Planet for PS3 run on it??? I've asked the question on their Facebook page both for PS4 and Little Big Planet...no answer.
  • @Dax

    There is no backwards compatibility. The PS4 employs Intel's x86 architecture as opposed to Sony's in house Cell architecture used in the PS3. The only way this could possibly be accomplished is if a future update brings software emulation to the PS4 which seems unlikely at this point in time.