It’s official: after many months of speculation and rumors, Sony took the wraps off PlayStation 4, its next-generation video game console and home entertainment system.
Well, sort of.
As one of the audience members at the New York City event, no one actually saw the new machine – with the exception of the controller, pictured here – nor was there a price or launch date announced other than simply “Holidays 2013.”
Despite the lack of information, the 2-hour “PlayStation Meeting” did provide a decent peek into what Sony calls “the future of play.”
So, what can gamers expect?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way: with each console generation we see more impressive graphics, and the PlayStation 4 (PS4) is no exception. In fact, a tech demo from French developer Quantic Dream featured an elderly man’s face, and perhaps for the first time in video games there seemed to be “life” behind his eyes, instead of the all-too-familiar vapid, vacant look.
Other games – such as Ubisoft Montreal’s Watch Dogs, Capcom’s Deep Down (working title), Bungie’s Destiny and Guerilla Games’ Killzone: Shadow Fall – also showed what next-generation graphics are capable of, including near photorealistic characters and environments, Hollywood-grade special effects and ultra-fluid animation.
But this isn’t what makes the PS4 so promising.
Instead, Sony’s very ambitious plan is to build a connected, integrated and personalized experience that takes interactive entertainment to new heights. Let’s call it the three S’s:
Share: Access to your social circles will be built into the PS4. In fact, there’s a Share button on the controller that, when pressed, can perform multiple functions. For example, imagine you just completed a cool part of a game and would love your buddies to see it – press the Share button and it generates a video of your exploits and posts in on your Facebook wall or other social media site. Gamers will also be able to share other media (such as screen grabs), broadcast live games to friends (via Ustream), allow someone to take control of your PS4 to help you bypass a level, for example, and be a spectator in a video game competition while chatting with others.
Speed: Along with games that run faster and smoother, everything about the PS4 will be sped up, says Sony -- from waking up the console by simply pressing a button on the controller (called “Suspend” mode) to playing games bought at a digital store before it finishes the download to your console (similar to how video “buffers” on YouTube). Sony said it has installed a chip in the PS4 that’s solely dedicated to uploads and downloads, so it won’t affect gaming performance. On a related note, Sony says is goal is for players to try games via the online store, share it with friends and then “only pay for what you really want.” Sony also acknowledges no one wants to wait to install a disc-based game to the console’s hard drive before you can play it, which often happens with PlayStation 3 titles.
Second screen: The PS4 was also designed to extend the gaming experience beyond the machine itself. Sony announced its goal was to make all PS4 games playable remotely on a PSVita handheld gaming machine, via Wi-Fi, similar to how some Wii U games can be played on the Wii U Gamepad if someone wants to watch TV. Thanks to an ambitious “cloud” strategy, there’s also the possibility to access all of PlayStation’s previous titles on multiple devices, wherever you might be. The “second screen” experience also leverages the popularity of smartphones and tablets as the PlayStation App for Android and iOS devices can be used – such as playing an adventure game on your television while your iPad shows a real-time map of where you are in the virtual world. Mobile devices can also be used to download a PS4 game while away from home, so that it’s cued up and ready to go when you walk in the door.
While the PlayStation Meeting was enough to whet anxious gamer’s appetites, it did leave us hungry for more information. Perhaps Sony is waiting to reveal the look of the new hardware at the E3 video game expo in June, plus we should also know price, exact date of availability and confirmed line-up of launch titles. But lest we forget Microsoft will unveil its next-generation Xbox console by then with much fanfare, nor will Nintendo rest on its laurels.
Yes, you can already feel the heat from the next round of console wars. And if yesterday’s teaser conference is any indication, Sony is in it to win it.