With the recent announcement of the PS4, what is in the future for Dust 514? If you look in the right places, all of the signs are there that Dust 514 could be one of the PS4s premiere launch titles.
The PlayStation 4 needs to have a good launch and Sony’s partnership with CCP through Dust 514 could be the ticket. The fact that Dust 514 is a groundbreaking free to play FPS makes it a perfect choice as a PS4 launch title. If Sony and CCP go down this route then we could even see Dust 514 pre-installed on every new console. With rumors that the launch campaign budget for Dust 514 alone exceeds the total PS3 launch campaign, it may be that Sony sees Dust 514 as title that will bring Halo-like launch success.
The progression of Dust 514 from closed to open beta is another indicator that Dust 514 is going to be a big cog in the PS4 machine. First, Sony specifically removed restrictions and made numerous exceptions to its normal approval process for new updates and builds for Dust 514. This allowed Dust 514 to be updated and tested by the beta community at a much more rapid rate. There was also a lot of internal pressure for CCP to complete the move from EVE Online’s test server, Singularity, to the main server for the EVE universe, Tranquility, early in the year. This move would put the build creation and release schedule for Dust 514 in line with both rumored expansions to EVE Online and the potential November release of the PlayStation 4.
If the move for Dust 514 to the PS4 is inevitable, what does that mean for the future of Dust on the PS3? It seems, from previous interviews, that CCP is keen to keep the game running on both devices. Hilmar Pétursson, CCP CEO, had the following to say to Develop a year ago when asked about the PlayStation 4:
“If there is a PlayStation 4 – which I can tell you now I have no idea if there is – but if there was, we would build Dust for that console as well. It will most likely be a revision of the experience, as with all updates, and could allow people to play across PS3 and 4.”
A lot can change in one year but it would be folly after having over 1.5 million characters created for Dust through the PS3 for it to be quickly abandoned. The future trends in streaming and rumors that the PS4 will be able to stream PlayStation 3 games with GaiKai (as a token of backwards compatibility) also indicates that the foundations are in place to keep the PS3 version of the Dust client alive for at least some time to come. The existence of dual clients on both the PS3 and PS4 also makes sense in the context in which CCP has operated EVE Online. The MMO has gone through massive graphical upgrades and, at one point, supported two clients at once on Windows with the different clients supporting the current and previous generation of DirectX at the time.
Another interesting indicator may be the way in which Tranquility was upgraded just prior to Dust 514 being moved to the main server from Singularity. Before the upgrade, Tranquility was running on 20 clusters and was upgraded with 20 additional clusters and then a further 20 clusters. At the end of the upgrade, the total hardware count was at 60 clusters. It could be that this was a simple upgrade to prepare for a large influx of traffic and players from Dust but it’s possible the reason for the upgrade in two stages could be tied to hosting PS3 clients on one group of 20 and PS4 clients on the other group of 20. If this is accurate then it may mean that CCP has dedicated resources at the hardware level to support both the PS3 and PS4 ecosystem.
Even with this history of dual client support and potential support at the hardware level, it’s possible that features of Dust 514 will only be available on the newer hardware of the PS4. For example, a player on the PS3 might be able to do instant battle match making and small 8 v 8 corp contracts but in order to get access to fully featured factional warfare, and even nullsec conflicts with larger maps and players counts, the PS3 player may be forced to upgrade to a Playstation 4. A division like this, even if it were for technical reasons, could lead to a huge uproar and cries of a money grab by Sony and CCP. The community outrage in this sort of scenario could end up making Burn Jita and Monocle-gate look like a picnic.
Despite these challenges in CCP’s future, it has already made history by bridging the PS3 and the PC with Dust 514 and EVE Online. Dust 514 seems like just the kind of material for Sony to use to make a successful, content rich launch for its next-gen console. CCP will just have to tread carefully as it journeys in the unknown with potential conflicts and split player bases among the current and next gen console. If done right, Dust 514 will be one for the history books.