Sony introduced the PlayStation 4 at a media event on Wednesday evening nearly seven years after launching the company’s current console back in 2006. Some 1,200 members of the press were on hand to witness the unveiling of a new era of gaming that features a very heavy emphasis on social.
Sony described the next generation console as a supercharged PC, powered by an eight-core x86 processor that can pump out nearly 2 teraflops of computational performance. The PS4 will contain an enhanced PC-style GPU and 8GB of GDDR5 high-speed memory – lending credit to some of the rumors we have been hearing leading up to today’s announcement. Detailed hardware specifics were noticeably absent from the press conference but we were told that a secondary processor will be used to allow gamers to download titles in the background and play them as they are being downloaded.
On a performance level, we are told that the system is capable of rendering 30,000 polygons in real time. For comparison, Heavy Rain on the PlayStation 3 utilized just 15,000 polygons.
Those hoping to get a glimpse of the new hardware left empty-handed as Sony failed to show what the actual console will look like. They did, however, show off the new DualShock 4 controller featuring a touchpad, headphone jack and even a dedicate share button. The gamepad also contains a light bar that’s used to identify players and allows a 3D camera to track its movement and depth.
Sony has completely revamped the PlayStation 4’s user interface which now features a notification bar across the top of the screen. The system will use real-name profiles that will more than likely be pulled from social networks like Facebook while other aspects like the trophy system appear relatively unchanged. Overall the GUI has a heavy social network feel and there’s even an app that essentially mirrors the look for your mobile device(s).
PlayStation 3 games won’t be backwards compatible with the new console natively although the company did say they are exploring advanced technologies that could bring PS3 games to the PS4 in the future. This could possibly happen through Gaikai, the cloud gaming service that Sony acquired last summer.
Officials confirmed that the PlayStation 4 will use Gaikai's technology to stream games over the web. Details were sketchy but it sounds like the service will be used to allow gamers to try a game demo through the PlayStation Store before purchasing.
The press conference gave everyone around the world a first-look at some of the upcoming games for the PS4 including Killzone: Shadow Fall, Deep Down, Watch Dogs, Knack, Driveclub, and Infamous: Second Son. Blizzard’s Chris Metzer was on hand to announce a strategic partnership with Sony that will deliver Diablo III to the PS3 and the PS4 while Bungie showcased their just-announced title Destiny. The post-Halo game will also arrive on the PS3 and PS4 with exclusive content for PlayStation gamers.
In addition to the updated user interface, the PlayStation 4 will include a number of social-focused features. Players will be able to stream games over the PlayStation Network and watch other players in action thanks to always-on video compression. Friends will be able to interact with you as you play by posting stuff to your screen or even take over control for you if you allow it. Sony is teaming up with Facebook and Ustream for even greater social interaction and sharing.
Gamers with a PS Vita will be able to use a new remote play feature that lets you stream games from the PS4 directly to the handheld. Sony said their ultimate goal is to make every PS4 title playable on the Vita. It sounds an awful lot like what Nvidia is doing with Project Shield where PC gamers can stream a game to the portable device.
At the end of the day, we still don’t know how much Sony plans to charge for the PS4 nor do we have an exact release date. We are simply told to expect the system to show up during the 2013 holiday season. This move no doubt gives Sony some leverage to respond to whatever Microsoft may announce during E3 and price their console accordingly.