Sony announced it’s next generation gaming system: The PlayStation 4. Andrew House, president of Sony Computer Entertainment, kicked off the announcement by explaining that the PS4 is totally focused on games and gamers — a pleasant change of pace when compared to the multimedia focus the Xbox team has taken lately.
Some juicy system details, but not many, are now officially confirmed. The PS4 will sport 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, what Sony called an 8-core CPU, and dedicated compression/decompression hardware. It will be based on the ever-popular x86 architecture. Sony even went as far as to say that it has a specific upgrade path from the PC to the PS4 for developers — unlike the PS3′s processor it should be incredibly easy for game devs to pick up and run with.
The DualShock 4 controller takes the same basic design we’ve had for over fifteen years, but adds some interesting new features. It will sport a headphone jack, share button, and a light-up bar on the very back (for determining which controller is which). Instead of having a separate PlayStation Move device, this will be used in combination with a dual-camera sensor bar to provide motion-based gaming without needing a secondary device. Interestingly, the front of the controller features a touchpad similar to the back of the PS Vita. Perhaps the most fascinating bit of information announced today is what Sony is doing with the Gaikai streaming technology. David Perry, co-founder of Gaikai, came out on stage to reveal that streaming will be a huge focus going forward. Digitally distributed games will be available for streaming right from the store. Press the X button, and start playing — no waiting. Because of the architectural differences between the PS3 and PS4, backwards compatibility won’t work natively. However, Sony does intend to use the streaming backend to make older titles playable with the new hardware.
The Wii U’s biggest selling point is the tablet-like controller. With the PS4, Sony will be taking that idea directly. The PS4 will act as a server, and the PS Vita as a streaming client. If motion controls with the SixAxis cribbed from the Wii, this local streaming is clearly meant to compete with the most compelling aspect of the Wii U’s hardware. Perry even went as far as to say that Sony’s goal is to get every PS4 game playable on the Vita. If Sony can execute well, the Vita might even actually start selling in meaningful quantities.Social networking, the buzzword of the decade, made a prominent appearance in the event. Sony has announced an official partnership with both Facebook and Ustream. While specifics are still sparse, there is clearly a big focus on sharing footage. With dedicated chips for video compression and background sharing, Sony obviously wants users to be doing the advertising for PS4 games.
The price is still an unknown. The console itself has still yet to be shown. We don’t even know a launch date yet aside from a vague mention of “Holiday 2013.” The technology seems solid but there is still much to learn before getting too excited.