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Gamed: The PS4 won’t support DLNA, media sharing or external storage

Earlier this week Sony released the PlayStation 4 FAQ. It wasn’t just a normal “here’s how you plug it in” FAQ, though. Instead it revealed a few things about the PS4 that we didn’t know, things that Sony wisely held back, likely suspecting that people would not like them. And they were right.

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If you have been following the escalation leading up to the next console war, then you’ve probably heard a great deal of people saying how Sony has had the upper hand in messaging, and there is a very good reason for that: because it has. That doesn’t mean the PS4 is better than the Xbox One. Deciding which console is better are what angry and irrational forum threads are for. But when it comes to messaging, Sony has clearly done a better job at telling people what they want to hear, while Microsoft has often stumbled; sometimes even contradicting itself.

Part of Sony’s success has been from being reactionary. Microsoft took the hits by announcing things like the Xbox One would require an online connection. Sony heard the reaction and then heavily touted that the PS4 won’t, and that is true – mostly. You won’t need to remain online or check in every 24 hours as the Xbox One originally planned (before changing its policies), but the PS4 will need to connect online initially to download a patch in order to activate and update several major features, like playing DVDs or blu-rays. We only found that out last week.

Now that the PS4 has sold out all of its pre-orders, and many gamers have made their decision on which console to support, Sony has let the other shoe drop. In the FAQ of Doom, Sony also revealed several last minute surprises, many of them not good.

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For one, you won’t be able to use USB flash drives or any USB connected external storage. This paired with the lack of media sharing from your computer, known as DLNA, means you won’t be able to play any content, video or audio, unless you buy it from Sony (or get it from an authorized Sony partner like Netflix). This either means nothing to you, or it is devastating news.

I cut my TV cable years ago, and since then I have relied on my computer to provide me with sweet, sweet media content. And no, I am not talking about legally murky bit torrent content (although I may once or twice, possibly, maybe known some people that had friends that have done that. Maybe.) I use the PS3 and 360 as my primary media devices, and I use them both for pretty much everything related to my TV and stereo. My house is wireless and connected through networks, allowing me to stream content from a central hub to multiple devices. It is the promise of the future I dreamt of as a kid, and it helps to make up for my heartbreaking inability to own a jet pack. Sony removing this feature, a feature that they have touted for years with the PS3 for what feels like a business-specific decision, does not make me – and others like me – feel warm and fuzzy inside. 

In a funny twist, Microsoft, perhaps taking a lesson from Sony, soon confirmed that the Xbox One will allow DLNA.

Yoshida tweetSony’s consistently entertaining worldwide studios president Shuhei Yoshida claimed this wasn’t a corporate decision on Twitter, but didn’t go into details or offer any other explanation. People on Twitter, unsurprisingly, weren’t thrilled. Of course, you could post pictures of puppies on Twitter and someone would hate it. But in this instance, Yoshida seemed to take the response under advisement, and posted that he shared the reactions to the dev team and they will take it under consideration for the future, which means that it could be changed in an upcoming patch. That also confirms that this isn’t a hardware issue at all since a patch could possibly unlock DLNA sharing, but rather a decision from Sony. 

Not having the ability to use the PS4 as a media server is distressing, and makes it slightly less attractive to cord cutters like me. It’s also annoying, but not surprising, that the news of what the PS4 can’t do is just coming out now. No MP3s, no USB, no media sharing, and more – plus a massive day one patch that you need just to make the system do most of what it should do out of the box.

It doesn’t mean PS4 isn’t still a great piece of hardware, and it doesn’t mean I won’t play it obsessively. This also doesn’t make it better or worse than the Xbox One, and all of the things we are just now learning may have very reasonable and logical explanations. It just would have been nice to know them more than two weeks before launch.

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[Update: This article has been updated to correct an error regarding the Xbox One's connectivity.)