The PlayStation 4 has been announced and it will be available holiday 2013, according to a two-hour long PlayStation Meeting 2013 event. That said, the console itself was never shown, its specifications were discussed by not in detail, but the controller was shown in all its glory and it should make PlayStation fans happy. Add on over a half-dozen games announced for the console and another half-dozen tech demos and promises... not bad, Sony. Not bad at all.
Described as a "powerful and accessible" system by designer Mark Cerny, the PlayStation 4 will also feature several online features that we've never seen in a console before. It starts with promise that, "Sony will deliver the fastest, most powerful network in the world." Behind that promise is the integration of Gaikai's streaming services and the "PlayStation Cloud". Add in mobile device connectivity, including the ability to use the Vita as client device for the PS4, and there's... well, there's a lot more for Sony to describe to us.
Now, let's break it down.
- "Supercharged PC Architecture"
- X86 CPU - CPU and GPU on the same chip
- Enhanced PC GPU - Easy to develop for in a platform life-cycle, but remarkable lifetime potential
- 8GB Unified Memory - #1 developer request
- Hard Drive - Promised to be "massive"
As you can tell, they didn't go into specifics, but they did promise that the PlayStation 4 was being designed specifically with developer in mind in order to create the best platform both to make games and to play them. Here's Mark Cerny elaborating:
"We wanted to hear from developers. We spoke to dozens of the best teams in the world. We wanted to know what was important to them. We wanted to make them happy. Our goal was to create an architecture that would facilitate the expression of their ideas."
The PlayStation 4 will also feature secondary chips for uploading and downloading shared content, which allows sharing features to run concurrently with games and features without effecting performance.
Controller - DualShock 4
The new DualShock 4, gamers will be comforted to know, looks much like the classic DualShock controllers from the PlayStation 3 back. Needless to say, there are significant new features, but also smaller ones designed to improve the controller's performance. These include enhanced feel for the joysticks and trigger buttons, improved rumble and reduced latency between the console and its controllers.
As for specific features being added to the controller, most who have been following the PlayStation rumors will be familiar with these:
- Touchpad - Replacing the Start/Select buttons, the touchpad will be similar to that found on the back of the PlayStation Vita.
- Share Button - A button that actually leads to a complex system that allows players to pause a game, scroll back through the past few minutes of gameplay, and share screenshots or videos online. Also livestreaming!
- Headphone Jack
- Lightbar - A light on the back on the controller said to help identify players and help the system recognize controllers
The last bit of the lightbar description may seem confusing. How would the system recognize a controller based off if a lightbat? Well, that's because the DualShock 4 was designed in conjunction with a peripheral stereo camera that tracks the controller's movement. It's not a PlayStation Eye, it looks more like Wii sensor bar, but the features behind the camera weren't fully described.
PlayStation Network and Social Features
I mentioned earlier that the Sony's goal was to create the fastest and most powerful network available. They didn't really go into all of the features they want to implement on the network, but part of it is to create an experienced that adapts specifically to you. They want you to literally be a button away from news, games and features you want the moment you want them.
Part of this, and again they don't elaborate, is through a system specifically designed to predict what you want before you want it. This way, it can download content (recall those secondary chips designed for background uploading and downloading) to your console before you want it and have it available for you instantly. That means downloading full games you'll likely buy, before you buy it. Kind of creepy, right?
Of course, Sony also mentioned that they're working with Facebook, Ustream and other social services to tie in those systems to the PlayStation Network. YUP.
Gaikai and the PlayStation Cloud
Gaikai on the PlayStation 4 isn't a joke. The team at Gaikai are working on several projects including the ability to livestream your games online with the click of a button. Of course, their loftier goal, which they say will be rolled out in stages, is the ability to stream games -- all types of games -- via the PlayStation 4. From PlayStation 1 titles to PlayStation 3 titles, this project is in the works right now.
The PlayStation Cloud will also be able to be used to stream games from your PlayStation 4, acting as a server, to your PlayStation Vita, acting as a client. The goal is to get every PlayStation 4 title working with this feature, but initially it sounds like it will only be for first party titles.
Games, Tech Demos and Announcements
Here's the list of games announced during the PlayStation Meeting 2013 event, or the tech demos that were shown instead of games:
- Unreal Engine 4 starts off the reveals, with last year's "Elemental" tech demo running live on PlayStation 4 hardware. This is a big deal. Epic has said they weren't sure if Unreal would run on Sony and Microsoft's next-gen titles.
- Knack - Sony's family-friendly announcement, the first announcement of the night, made by SCE Japan Studio. Features a unique scientific... golem type thing, battling againt the enemies of the protagonists. Likely meant to be the Mario, the Ratchet and Clank, the fun platformer that comes out on launch.
- Killzone: Shadow Fall - The best clear example of the PlayStation 4's technical capabilities, and also a rad FPS for "hardcore" gamers to gnaw. This game looks gorgeous, and not just in brown!
- Drive Club - From Evolution Studios, the guys who made MotorStorm, for all the car porn junkies out there. The speaker said the team was going "borderline insane" due to their attention to detail. This game doesn't have cockpit mode, it is an FPS where you drive cars. This is a "team-based" racer. Yes. Racing. In teams.
- inFamous: Second Son: The sequel to a storied franchise makes it's debut. This isn't Cole, though, this is someone else entirely... and they can control fire. A lot more effort going into building the setting here -- X-men style. Mutants are being hunted down by the government.
- The Witness - We knew Jonathan Blow was working on indie title The Witness, but now we know it will be a PlayStation 4 exclusive for its release window. An open world game in a compact space, where everything is placed with purpose and reason.
- Quantic Gaming's David Cage takes the stage, but has no announcement to make. His team is currently working on Ellen Page's Beyond, starring Ellen Page. He does show off a cool tech demo of an old man's face performing, "subtle emotions."
- Media Molecule doesn't have a new game to announce yet either, but they do have one of the most exciting tech demos ever made. With the Move controller, Media Molecule artists sculpt. Then, they use their controllers to control the sculptures like puppets, making them dance and play guitar... I don't even know what's going on.
- Deep Down - Capcom's Yoshinorii Ono talks about Capcom's engine they're creating for next gen systems named Panta Rhei and reveals the a game with the working title Deep Down. It seems to be a low fantasy style like a mix between Lord of the Rings and Dark Souls.
- Square Enix shows the Agni's Philosophy tech demo we've seen before. Then, the Final Fantasy Brand manager comes out, announces they're working on a new project, and to look forward to E3.
- Watch Dogs - Previously announced for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii U and PC, Watch Dogs will now be coming to the PlayStation 4 as well. An open world demo was shown showing a man in a trench coat inspecting people, stopping a crime, and then failing to escape.
- Diablo III - Blizzard announces their return to consoles with Diablo III, coming to PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. Expect a playable demo as soon as PAX East.
- Destiny - Closing out the ceremonies, Activision brings out the Bungie folk and reveal that Destiny will be available for PlayStation 4 when it launches some time next year. A bit more gameplay is shown, but nothing worth making a fuss over.
Sony did exactly what they needed to. They came out, introduced their hardware in an impressive manner, but without getting too specific, and focused entirely on games and why both developers and gamers should be excited for their console. The games were, well, nothing nuclear bomb level, but everything did look good. More than anything, everything looked promising.
Sony closed out the presentation with the words, "Holiday 2013," which are the exact same words I expect Microsoft to use when they announce their console in coming months. When they both launch, all that will matter is which console has better games. While no one has showed their hand yet, Sony certainly set the bar high enough that Microsoft will have to sweat a bit.
I'm ready for next-gen. Bring it on. Well, err, maybe after BioShock Infinite and Last of Us.