Sony put its adoring PlayStation fans in a tough spot when it chose to make the PlayStation Camera an optional accessory for the PS4.
Sure, it kept the cost of the console $100 cheaper than the Xbox One. That entices buyers and has earned the PS4 plenty of positive buzz from the media and players alike.
But now that the new Sony console is finally out, you're faced with a dilemma: to buy the PlayStation Camera or not?
No matter which way you look at it, that's not an easy question to answer, even for the most hardcore PlayStation fan.
The PlayStation Camera is $59.99 - that's not chump change. In fact, it's the cost of an extra controller, which can be the difference between having fun with a friend or playing by yourself.
And PS3 owners probably remember how little they used their PlayStation Eye cameras.
But if no one buys the PlayStation Camera now, then developers won't bother to implement it in their games, and the accessory will stagnate on store shelves until the next gimmick arrives.
No, it's not an easy decision. So after playing with the PlayStation Camera over the weekend, we decided to break it down for you.
Luckily for those who decide they just can't live without it, the PlayStation Camera is a sleek little accessory.
It's an unassuming black rectangular cube with two visible camera lenses and multiple other sensors, including microphones. But despite its odd segmented form the PS Camera doesn't look busy or awkward, like the PS3's PlayStation Eye camera or even the Xbox 360's Kinect.
It's also much smaller than the Xbox One's new Kinect sensor.
The only marking on the new PlayStation Camera is a small "PS" logo on one side, where no one will ever see it. In fact, most people will probably never notice it sitting by your TV.
It should fit nicely into most players' entertainment systems, whether on its own or with the officially licensed (but not officially included) PS Camera clip.
The clip may be worth it if your living room setup doesn't have any room for the small Camera. It features a minuscule nub and a sticky pad that allow it to snap easily and securely to the bottom of the Camera, and three firm but adjustable segments that let it wrap around a TV's upper edge.
This should allow the clip to work with most living room setups. And between the old and new Kinects, the Wii/Wii U's sensor bar, the PS3 Eye, and the new PlayStation Camera, power gamers' environments are getting far too cluttered with cameras, so elevating one might be necessary or at least more aesthetically pleasing.
And even if the PS4 Camera is up high it will see your space with ease; it doesn't mechanically tilt on its own, like the old Xbox 360 Kinect would, but it can be rotated independently from the clip so that you can tilt it up or down to suit your setup.
Once the PlayStation Camera is plugged into the back of your PS4 you'll probably forget that it's there - until it comes time to use it, that is.
It's not a secret that the PlayStation Camera is not nearly as advanced as the Xbox One's new Kinect sensor.
But it does provide some of the same functionality for the PS4, albeit in a far more limited capacity.
When you log into the PS4 for the first time the console will check whether you have a PlayStation Camera and ask whether you want to run face recognition setup. It will tell you to brighten the room and sit a certain distance away from the Camera, and then away you go.
The Camera is quite good at detecting faces, even with multiple people in the room. Once it's had a look around it asks you to point out for it which face is yours, and then you're run through a one-time program that will help the system recognize your face automatically later on.
You're asked to follow along with an on-screen box as it tilts and rotates, moving your head so that the PS4 Camera can view your visage from multiple angles. It's painless and once it's done you won't have to do it again.
That said, if you do run the setup program again from the settings menu it will add to the face data for your profile, not replace it, so that it can recognize you with even more accuracy.
The PlayStation Camera won't automatically recognize everyone who walks by like the Xbox One Kinect does, but it does recognize you on start-up if the PS4 is not set to automatically log in one user.
When that's the case, the system asks you to choose a profile when you turn it on. But if facial recognition is on and the Camera detects anyone it knows, it will enlarge the image it sees and ask the person who wishes to log in to hold up a PS4 controller under his or her chin.
It's unfortunate that the PlayStation Camera can't simply log users in automatically when it recognizes them, and to be honest it's a lot easier to simply select your profile manually, even with multiple users in the room.
Anyway, after the log-in process the PlayStation Camera can recognize a few rudimentary voice commands.
From the home screen, you can say "PlayStation, start" to open the selected application, "PlayStation, log in" to change profiles, "PlayStation, take screenshot," "PlayStation, back to game" if you've already opened a game, or "PlayStation, power" to access controls that let you turn the console off or put it into standby mode. When in an app or game you can say "PlayStation, home screen" to go back to the dashboard.
These commands work pretty consistently. Unless the TV volume is up too loud or others in the room are speaking, the PlayStation Camera will almost always recognize your words.
That said, most of those actions can be carried out just as easily, if not more easily, using a controller. Taking a screenshot is just a matter of holding the Share button on the DualShock 4 controller.
At this point there are no gesture controls, so the minimal voice commands and face recognition are all the PlayStation Camera gives you at a system level. That's a shame, since the Camera seems to be quite good at detecting players' movements.
The PlayStation Camera seems to be about on par with the original Xbox 360 Kinect in terms of recognizing players' movements. Granted, that's just based on a single game, and it's a game that was designed to use the PlayStation Camera in the first place: The Playroom.
The Playroom is included on every PS4 by default. This is where Sony's decision-making gets foggy; was The Playroom always meant to be a pack-in, from a time when the Camera would have been as well? Or did Sony decide to include the game on every system in order to entice more early PS4 buyers to purchase the PS Camera as well?
Either way, The Playroom should have been included with the PlayStation Camera, not the PS4 itself, if anything.
It's not even really a game; it's more a tech demo. It has five functions, only three of which are actually interactive. Of those, only one is really a game, and it's entertaining for about five minutes tops.
The Playroom has two setup applications that show off some of the new PS4 controller's functions, including its light bar, touchpad, rumble feedback motors, motion controls, and speaker, and help you configure your room so the Camera gets the optimal view.
Beyond that, two applications let you play with virtual robots and a final one is a quirky version of two-player Pong.
AR Bots is easily the most entertaining of these. Swiping up on the controller's touchpad causes small robots to jump out of it. The TV shows an image of your living room, which you can populate with the hapless little buggers.
People in the room can then flail their limbs around, kicking and punching the robots as they're hurled around the screen.
Pressing the touchpad in (it clicks like a button) vacuums the bots back into the controller. You can join them with a downward swipe on the touchpad; the inside of the controller looks strangely like the inside of a controller, and you can jostle the little guys around by tilting the gamepad.
Once in a while, a giant rubber duck comes out of the controller instead of a robot. It's not clear why.
The other robot-centric application, Play With Asobi, is less entertaining. A cute droid named Asobi flits around your head, reacting to your "touch" with a variety of facial expressions and motions.
Punching Asobi will make it angry, and it often responds by zapping your head with electricity, frying it with a laser, or freezing it in place. Yes, the PlayStation Camera is good at recognizing faces. We get it!
Finally, the Pong game is just that. It requires two controllers and the PlayStation Camera, or in other words over $120 of additional accessories that don't come with the console.
Both players control their paddles using the gamepad's touchscreen, and tilting the controller warps the play area accordingly. You won't be showing this off to your friends.
The Playroom is cute - especially the AR Bots application.
But is it worth buying a PlayStation Camera for? Absolutely not.
So what is?
The only other game that makes any extensive use of the PlayStation Camera at this time is Just Dance 2014, and that's not a good sign.
Keep in mind there are a full two dozen PS4 launch games (including The Playroom). And Just Dance 2014 is available on multiple platforms.
And as if that wasn't bad enough, the Camera isn't even required to play Just Dance 2014 on the PS4. PS3 owners can just use the old PS Move controllers they may or may not have lying around.
So The Playroom is amusing but shallow, and Just Dance 2014 is relatively niche and doesn't even technically require the Camera. Anything else?
Actually, NBA 2K14 will reportedly give you a penalty for swearing if you yell out a curse word during a game when the PlayStation Camera is plugged in, according to this Reddit thread.
But is that something you even want happening? We think not.
The PS Camera is more than functional; it actually works quite well when it comes to recognizing users' faces and voice commands. Telling the PS4 vocally to turn off or perform other functions can sometimes be more convenient than pressing buttons.
In fact, from what's currently available to test it seems to be more accurate at detecting players and recognizing voice commands than even the Xbox 360's Kinect was.
In addition, The Playroom provided some solid entertainment, however short-lived. It appears the device has some potential.
There is simply not a single real game that uses the Camera in any essential way, and there are few games that use it at all.
The lack of gesture controls is also disappointing, and the voice commands are extremely limited.
Plus there's the fact that developers at this point have little reason to add PlayStation Camera support to their games, since the peripheral isn't included with the console. That's not going to change unless adoption is high right off the bat, but again, there's no tangible reason to get the Camera at all.
The bottom line is that right now it's just not worth it to buy a PlayStation Camera.
Go ahead and give the new PS Camera a try if you're a hardcore PlayStation fan who want to see more developers utilize it down the road, or if you simply need to have those face and voice detection features going from day one.
Otherwise, you might be better off if you pass for now and wait to see what happens.