This afternoon, during a special press event broadcast live over the internet from New York City, Sony revealed their entry into the next next generation of console gaming... without actually showing us the console.
The specs are impressive and the games they debuted were stunningly droolworthy. In case you missed the event online, here’s a rundown of what they had to show us…
A Glimpse Into the Future of Play
President and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment kicked off the meeting by talking about how the living room isn’t supposed to be the center of gaming – the player is. And that the PS4 isn’t meant to be defined as a box or a console, but as “a leading authority on play”. We’ll have to take his word for it, because we didn’t see the console itself anywhere in the presentation. That helped reinforce the whole non-centralized point they were trying to make, but I think a lot of people wanted to see what they’ll be making space for in their living rooms later this year.
Deciding what to put into the PS4
Lead systems architect Mark Cerny said they considered all of the usual things when creating the next gen Playstation, like graphics, speed, and control, but they also focused on a few other details:
- Nothing between the platform and the player
- Fluidly connect to a larger world
- What do developers want?
Continuing with the trend of making the player more important than the controller (even though they haven’t done away with them completely), the PS4 promises to create connections between the player and the game like never before. Part of that comes in how quickly and easily they can access and play a game or whatever they want to interact with on the PS4. There will be a lot of line blurring between gaming, social, and your day-to-day world (but more on that later). The key to this is giving developers what they want: a limitless sandbox that lets them do what they need to without the limitations of hardware or software capabilities. From what we’ve seen so far in the presentation, it seems like they’ve delivered on that promise.
Speaking of promises… Throughout the presentation, the speakers stressed that the Playstation 4 was going to deliver on 5 principles to set it apart from other gaming consoles.
- SIMPLE - Provide consumer oriented functionality with ease of use. Remove as much as they can that gets in the way of going from not playing a game to playing a game in zero seconds flat.
- IMMEDIATE - By pressing the power button, you can start a game immediately. No load up and delays are a thing of the past. A secondary custom chip is used for background processing. Even games you choose to download will be available to play WHILE being downloaded.
- SOCIAL - The PS4 will have dedicated always-on video compression and decompression hardware that will allow you to immediately upload your gameplay in the background as you play, with no lag. Using Gaikai’s cloud technology, PS4′s partnership with Ustream will allow you to broadcast to your friends or the general public your game progress as you play in real time. Spectating friends can comment on the screen as you play. You will even have the option to hand off the game to another expert player if things in a level get too tough for you. And of course, the PS4 will work with most existing social media platforms like Facebook.
- INTEGRATED - Keep tabs on certain games, your standings, updates from other players, and more, further increasing the social aspect of the gaming experience, but not limiting it to just the console. Your account will allow you to access that information on your smartphone or tablet devices. And in the case of the PS Vita, you’ll even be able to remotely access the game to play elsewhere when the TV has been commandeered by The Real Housewives of Some Horrible Place.
- PERSONALIZED - Your PS4 will get to know you so well that it will soon be able to predict which games you’d probably like to play, downloading it in advance, reducing the download time and letting you play it instantly. Of course, you can also expect the interface to reflect the games and applications you like most, pushing all of the uninteresting stuff out of the way.
Informed System Architecture is a fancy way of saying they’ve got a pretty powerful engine under the PS4′s hood. With an x86 CPU, a supercharged PC architecture, an enhanced PC GPU, 8 GB of unified memory, and a local storage hard drive (despite the industry’s trendy talk of putting everything in the “cloud”), we have a pretty good idea of what we can expect the PS4 to do. However, noticeably absent is the mention of an optical drive. Sure, while there have been rumors to the contrary last year, the PS4 will have to have an optical drive (the PS3 is many people’s Blu-Ray player, after all) to play older games, unless they’ve got something else up their sleeve they aren’t talking about yet. I just know that if they had shown us the PS4 and it had no optical drive, that would be all anyone would be talking about, even if it is technically outdated technology.
The New Controller
The only part of the PS4 that they would show us is the new controller design. At first glance, the Dualshock 4 doesn’t look much different than the existing PS3 controller, but there are subtle additions that set it apart. The grips and triggers have been restyled (maybe even rounded in a way not too dissimilar from the Xbox360 controller) to be more grip-friendly. Other than comfort, their main goal was to reduce controller latency and give it a few new features that set it far above the current PS3 controller. Here’s what it has to offer:
- Touch Pad – Sitting right in the center and just above the sticks, this wasn’t demoed, but I’m sure it will come into play for both gaming and web related actions.
- Share Button – With just a tap of the button, you can either choose to share specific moments of your most recent killer moves or you can choose to livestream your gameplay for anyone willing to watch either privately or publicly.
- Light Bar – This light bar will be the thing that the PS4′s stereo camera looks for when keeping track of your controller’s movements.
- Headphone Jack – Want to keep all that gaming fun sequestered away in your own head without annoying the rest of the house with and endless stream of explosions? Jack in and play without making a peep.
That’s all they had to share regarding the console itself, but the last half of the event featured presentations from a variety of big game developers.