Posted Tue Dec 16, 2014 at 02:00 PM PST by Brian Hoss
Both 'The Order: 1886' or 'Little Big Planet 3' faceplates on-hand for review.
Announced on December 6th, Sony is finally offering interchangeable PS4 faceplates (full announcement here), and these faceplates (which are really hard disc drive covers) are one way to turn a hum drum, indistinct PS4 console, into one bearing a design worthy of distinction. There are no decals or questionable accessory makers here, these are products made by Sony (no warranty worries) that can be easily added or removed as the user's taste dictates.
Sony kicked the program off with "limited" offerings. One faceplate bears a full-on box art-like image from the upcoming PS4 exclusive 'The Order: 1886,' (available here) while the other features a similar box art-like shot from the recent PS4 & PS3 release, 'Little Big Planet 3' (available here). Furthermore, Sony has even begun sending out commemorative faceplates to various developers.
While the immediate effect of seeing these two faceplates may not illicit cries of "perfect" from those fans that have envied the stream of ornate and often elegant limited edition PlayStation models that have been offered in Japan, they still appear to be the first stab by the company to allow users to customize the external appearance of their console hardware beyond using a stand.
There is also the price to consider. Fans might be willing to shell out big bucks for numbered 20th Anniversary PlayStation 4 models, but the term "faceplate" (or again, "hard drive cover") exudes a sense of a low price. If a launch copy of 'The Order: 1886' is $59.99, Sony can't expect users to shell out a similar amount for a faceplate. Still, accessories, whether they are cables, DualShock4s, or Vita memory cards, tend to be higher margin items, and as such, a single faceplate checks in at $24.99.
At this phase of the product, Sony has elected to only offer the faceplates in their Sony store. This is the same store/website that turtled up in the face of the demand for the 20th Anniversary PS4. I happened to order the faceplates the morning of that catastrophe, a Saturday, and come the following Tuesday, I receive two separate emails stating that first the 'Little Big Planet 3' faceplate and then 'The Order: 1886' faceplate parts of my order were cancelled. The reason? The faceplates were out of stock. I was somewhat puzzled by this. Not only had I ordered right away, but it also took days for their system to figure out that it didn't have the product. More bizarre, both faceplates were still being offered on Sony's website. A call into the website's customer service did nothing to dispel the mystery as the agent seemed to think this was a frequent and reasonable occurrence. At any rate, I manage to place a second order that wasn't mysteriously cancelled, and sure enough, the faceplates appeared in the mail a few days later.
I had wondered how accurate Sony's pictures of the faceplates were, especially when it came to the torn look around the PlayStation logo. I must admit, these faceplates look pretty much as advertised. Using the included instructions, I popped off the normal black hard drive cover on the PS4. I then popped on one of the new faceplates.
These limited edition faceplates look to be identical to the ones that ship with the black PS4, only they have a design printed on top. It could be considered a sticker, though it's unlikely to have sticker-like issues. The faceplate has four sides that face out on the PS4, but only the long side that runs next to the PS4's light has any design on it. The other three sides, including the back vents, remain standard.
Aside from not loving the specific designs (I would prefer something more subtle, like a logo, rather than a whole picture), I continue to be struck by how they seem to favor a vertically aligned PS4. When the PS4 is horizontal as most are, the designs are perpendicular to a natural eye line.
Of the two designs, the 'The Order: 1886' is the less garish. What's nice about the 'The Little Big Planet 3' faceplate is that Sackboy and co. are iconic enough not to need the text printed out.
It's also funny to think of adorning a PS4 with 'The Order: 1886,' only to possibly find out later that the game is not to the user's taste. And yet, that's kind of the beauty to these designs, it's very easy to pop the new cover off and replace it with either the original or another new one. Ultimately, this feature may be like the original Xbox 360's faceplate feature, seldom used and even more seldom used in an attractive way. That makes these faceplates a bit of a curiosity. Future designs, that feature things like the Diamond Dogs logo, could be nice additions for fans.
Verdict: Not a bad start. Price is a little high, and the designs could use some refinement.
The latest news on all things 4K Ultra HD, blu-ray and Gear.