In case you've just emerged from under your rock or are trapped in a timezone that would've kept you indisposed when it happened, Sony's just announced its next console, as unsubtly hinted at over the last couple of weeks.
It's called the PlayStation 4, and it's due this holiday season. Funnily enough, we still don't actually know what it looks like, despite Sony having two full hours of most of the geek world's attention.
Instead, Sony opted to show the machine's controller, as well as trotting out a number of game demos and industry luminaries to hype the machine and the big ideas surrounding it, some of which might be very big indeed. Head on below for a quick roundup of what we know, or head over to Destructoid for all the nitty-gritty.
Though they didn't trot out the actual machine itself this time, specs-wise the PS4 has hardware akin to a current high-range PC, with 8GB of RAM and an x86 CPU from AMD. What hardware we did get a chance to see, Dale North scooped last week, as Sony's new DualShock 4 controller looks almost exactly like the prototype photos leaked. As expected, it's got a Vita-style touchpad at its front, and a funky light on top. Also shown were improved trigger buttons (finally), "grippier" analog sticks (yes!), an integrated speaker, and headset jack.
Also shown was the PlayStation 4 Eye, a stereoscopic camera that looks not unlike Microsoft's own Kinect motion sensor. The camera will be able to sense depth and use facial recognition as a login option, as well as be compatible with existing PlayStation Move controllers.
Perhaps the biggest push of the night when it came to the PS3 wasn't on the hardware side at all, or at least, not directly related to the graphical and processing horsepower one typically thinks about when considering new console hardware. Instead, it was best symbolized by the tiny "Share" button located just beside the new controller's touchpad. Players hitting that button can opt to share screenshots and automatically recorded video of their game almost instantly across various social networks (after running a live demo of Killzone: Shadow Fall, a demonstrator hit the button and the full clip was uploaded to Facebook). Further, some form of live streaming will be built into the system, allowing friends to spectate and comment on a player's session. In some cases spectators can even take control of the game itself remotely.
That social coolness was also hooked into the first results of Sony's recent acquisition of Gaikai, a "cloud gaming" service. Gamers will be able to sample games via cloud streaming before purchasing and downloading new titles, and the cloud is apparently the PS4's answer to having backwards compatibility. Sony hopes to have PS1, PS2, PS3 games available to cloud-play via the PS4, and even other devices like the PS Vita.
To get players to the games more quickly, the machine also uses a separate processor to accelerate uploads and downloads, and allow players to play games off the store even if the download isn't finished yet. Like a handheld system, the PS4 can "Suspend" games in the middle of play, allowing you to turn off the main power without shutting down a game entirely. That last bit should make playing lengthy RPGs much more tolerable for the person with less free time.
Speaking of the Vita...
While Sony got most of what it could pass off as Vita news out of the way two days ago, the handheld received some stage time playing the role of "ultimate companion device", or in practice, "Sony's answer to the Wii U". Apparently the PS4 will feature much stronger support for the Vita's Remote Play function, and allow gamers to stream their big-screen play to their smaller screens (including iOS and Android tablets in some cases) while they sit on the can or when the kids hog the TV.
As both a Vita owner and a person who wants a reason to buy a high-tech Japanese toilet seat, I support this decision to expand the potential of gaming while on the can.
Given that the event was more tailored to appeal the western end of the gamer spectrum, most of the notable game demos were from western developers, such as Ubisoft for WATCH_DOGS and Guerrilla Games for Killzone: Shadow Fall, as well as surprising announcements of Braid creator Jonathan Blow's The Witness and Blizzard's Diablo III. LittleBigPlanet developer Media Molecule rung up a whimsical tech demo involving PlayStation Move wands, of all things, and Quantic Dream showed us the next generation in Sad Elderly Man Technology.
However, Sony's stable of on-board developers and publishers included a bevy of notable Japanese names besides the Square Enix/Namco Bandai/Capcom trinity, including Level 5, Gust, Nippon Ichi, GungHo, Acquire, and more.
Capcom was on hand to deliver a spiffy new graphics engine, "Phanta Rhei", and a demo of a untitled game project codenamed "Deep Down". As you can see in the trailer, it's very pretty, and reminds me a bit of either Dark Souls or Dragon's Dogma.
For its part, Square Enix phoned in the "Agni's Philosophy" demo of its Luminous Studio engine (which it played back at E3 last year), and Final Fantasy Brand Director Shinji Hashimoto asked everyone to look forward to a Final Fantasy game (he didn't say which one) at E3. Sure thing, Square Enix!
I know I am, if based solely on the information Sony's put out so far. Sony's emphasis on sharing and compelling social features seems to indicate an understanding that today's gaming ecosystem is defined by services much more than hardware.
However, the company still has much to prove (and improve) if it's actually going to deliver those compelling services on the next iteration of the PlayStation Network, which right now is quite lacking in community-oriented features compared to its rivals.
They'll no doubt have more to show come E3, Gamescom and the next Tokyo Game Show, so I'm not especially worried right now that we didn't even get to see the box.
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