PlayStation 4 Unveiled: Sony Announces New Game Console, Social Features

Sony used a press event in New York City on Wednesday night to unveil the PS3's official successor, the long-awaited PlayStation 4

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Brendan McDermid / Reuters

PlayStation 4's lead system architect Mark Cerny speaks during the PlayStation 4 launch event in New York City on Feb. 20, 2013

The rumors you’ve been hearing are true: nearly eight years after Sony announced its current-generation PlayStation 3 game console and media hub at E3 in 2005, Sony used a press event in New York City on Wednesday night to unveil the PS3’s official successor, the long-awaited PlayStation 4. As Sony Computer Entertainment president and CEO Andrew House took the stage, he promised to give us “a glimpse into the future of play.”

The event wasn’t just about hyping a slab of custom-built computer hardware, either. Sony dedicated much of its presentation to new features like remote play, game streaming and social interaction — all stuff it says comes built into the PS4’s DNA. And it even managed to pull off a few surprises no one saw coming, including a partnership with PC gamemaker Blizzard.

The Console Itself

Sony took us further into the weeds than expected, though just barely, laying out the PS4’s specs in slight detail, revealing that it’s powered by an x86 CPU, a “highly advanced” graphics processor that uses GDDR5 memory, a respectable 8GB of memory and of course a hard drive (size unspecified).

How powerful are we talking? Sony left performance comparisons with earlier systems up to developers, who teased abstract figures that only glancingly addressed the question. Given what was shown in game-play demos and sizzle reels, it’s obvious the PS4 will pack more oomph than its predecessor, though eyeballing those same demos, it’s also clear the company’s playing catch-up to PCs, which have been capable of the sort of raw generational power demonstrated during the presser for years. Suffice to say the adage that “the last generation’s prerendered cut scenes become the next generation’s real-time game play” sounds about right.

Alas, we didn’t get a peek at the physical console itself, though that’s also no shocker, given that the system’s final specs are probably still in flux.

The Not-So-Different Controller

The PlayStation 4’s new controller — unimaginatively dubbed the DualShock 4 — looks a lot like its predecessor with slightly longer handlebar grips, but also includes a new touch pad on top, a light bar that can identify players (“a simpler, more friendly way to identify players,” said Sony) and a “share” button that’ll let users record game-play footage and instantly share it across Sony’s gaming network (without having to edit it, apparently) or pipe it to popular online video-sharing sites.

“You can see that your friend is in trouble and reach out over the network to take over for them,” said Sony lead system architect Mark Cerny, adding that we’ll also be able to watch friends play a game in real time.

The Mystery Interface

Sony didn’t show us much of the PS4’s new interface, but did reveal that the console will support system suspend and resume, meaning you can simply press the power button once to freeze a game, then press it again later to continue playing precisely where you left off. While it’s not exactly clear how quick any of that is, or how fast the system loads off a clean boot, the implication, made by Sony, was that it would be more or less instantaneous.

The company also claimed the PS4 will be “seamlessly integrated” with apps on tablets and phones (models unspecified), that it’ll have dedicated, always-on video compression/decompression and that you’ll be able to use your smart phone to browse game videos, say, of your favorite opponents in a fighting game.

Streaming Online Features

While it sounds like the PS4 won’t be backward compatible with older PlayStation games, Gaikai CEO Dave Perry talked up a new PlayStation Store feature that’ll allow gamers to play pretty much any older PlayStation game using the company’s streaming technology. You’ll also be able to use the PS Vita handheld to “remote play” PS4 games.

But the most intriguing Gaikai-related feature involves the ability on the PlayStation Store to try full, streaming versions of games for free — presumably with some form of time limitation — before actually unloading your wallet. Perry said the feature would also allow players to share (think “recommend”) games they like with friends.

“What we’re creating is the fastest, most powerful network for gaming in the world,” said Perry.

Digital titles will be playable while they’re being downloaded, said Sony, thanks in part to a dedicated chip designed to handle this as well as other background processes. The idea seems to be that the PlayStation 4 will be significantly more multitasking-friendly.

No surprise, the PS4 will include the usual media partners, including Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon and Facebook.

New Games

Most of the two-hour-plus event turned into a game-demo lovefest: in order to showcase the PlayStation 4’s new features, Sony welcomed a parade of game developers to demonstrate some of the titles that’ll be available for the new console.

Like: Knack, a third-person action game in which you can change shape and manipulate physics to challenge enemies and environmental obstacles; Killzone: Shadow Fall, a first-person shooter safely in the mold of the Killzone series; and DriveClub, a splashy chrome-tastic team racer that supports multiple gamers competing cooperatively against other racers in “clubs.”

Other developers took the stage, though more to highlight proof-of-concept demos, the most striking of which was probably an extremely realistic (and rather creepy) human face courtesy Quantic Dream’s David Cage (Heavy Rain). But the surprise of the evening was probably Blizzard’s Chris Metzen, announcing a “partnership” with Sony to bring Diablo III to the PlayStation 4 — a first for the traditionally PC-exclusive developer.

When Can You Buy One?

Sony said nothing about PS4 pricing or possible model variants, and only committed to rolling out the PlayStation 4 by “holiday 2013.” Expect significantly more detail at E3 in June, in other words, and the console to (probably) ship in November.

27 comments
GreggLee
GreggLee

Sony playstation 4 (orbis) is going to be one of the sickest gaming consoles no matter what. So, all of you just need to be quiet. It's gonna please fans either way. The graphics are gonna be extreme, the gameplay is gonna be extreme, the sharing compatibilty is gonna be extreme. Why can't we all get along?! Lol

JonFromSeattle
JonFromSeattle

@GreggLee "Sony playstation 4 (orbis) is going to be one of the sickest gaming consoles no matter what. So, all of you just need to be quiet." 

What a typical fan-boy thing to say. 

joshuawoodz
joshuawoodz

Question... They said it is an x86 processor but has 8GB of memory?  How are they able to access the 4GB+ with the limitations of not having the abilitiy to address it?

projectRod
projectRod

Going to wait with my sleeping bag behind the shop door.

darthbaron
darthbaron

I have never had an issue with anything I've bought made by Sony.  I have the first generation of the PS3 and it's still as good as ever.  I also bought the first generation of the 360, I did this 3 times because it was poorly made, overheating, crap.  It wasn't until this current generation of the 360 that I could say I'm happy I own one.  I'm no one's fanboy.  If I spend money on a product I expect it to work the first time, no excuses, or I'm going to be upset.  Sony has had my respect for years because when I buy their products they work.  I'm hoping Microsoft will do better this time out, and make quality from the begining instead towards the end of the life cycle.

WilliamWhalen
WilliamWhalen like.author.displayName 1 Like

You know, I love the feel of the 360 - the way it handles games and online connectivity - but I can't stomach the monthly price for multiplayer online access after all.  I payed for about 2 years of Live and then had to let it go.  That's when I turned to my neglected PS3 and began to utilize it's slightly idiosyncratic interface and game infrastructure for the first time since owning it.  It began to return rich dividends to me -chiefly that I no longer felt "pressured to play"- which is how I always felt paying for Live access. These experiences have really made me more enthusiastic about Sony's next console as opposed to Microsoft's.  Here's hoping that free PSN access stays free!

DanMan'99
DanMan'99

(I'm waaaiiiiting on you Microsoft)

TDidHe
TDidHe like.author.displayName 1 Like

It's gonna be a buggy p o s... Sony makes proprietary unimaginative turds that fanboys chomp at the bit for.

MiguelAngelMartiJr.
MiguelAngelMartiJr.

Yes people need to shut up about backwards compatibility...How many just up and sell their old systems? I kept my PS2 and still have it in fact. I will keep my PS3 as well because I buy PS4 for the PS4 games...duh! People are so spoiled and complain too much nowadays...Only one thing I can say is good enough to complain about. The prices...

joshuawoodz
joshuawoodz

@MiguelAngelMartiJr. My issue with not having backwards compatibility is that being there are great games on every console people may want to still play, the TV area can get cluttered pretty fast.

MiguelAngelMartiJr.
MiguelAngelMartiJr.

@joshuawoodz @MiguelAngelMartiJr. I am more annoyed by the whining. Not just for the game but life in general. I used to complain a lot about too many things. I just decided to take things however they come, plus I have not touched a single PS2 game in the past year. Sure the backwards compatibility served its purpose the first year or so when the PS3 came out but I found myself no longer playing old games and just using the PS3. Besides, I think most of us have cluttered places as it is, so to start being organized with video games is not the way to start for me. I still even have the super nintendo, if we want backwards compatibility, why not have the Wii U play all games in nintendo history? 

MarkRobinson
MarkRobinson

great another new console. still waiting on good software for my other systems. every game looks and plays the same as everything else

cdrbedlam
cdrbedlam like.author.displayName 1 Like

While there might not be native backwards compatibility, I think a lot of people are forgetting that they did mention that they plan to let users access the entire catalog of PS1, PS2, PS3 and PS4 games in one device via cloud. In addition, cloud features will be coming out in phases. 

It's not like everyone is prepared to throw their PS3 in the trash when a new console comes out. I still had my PS2 around when the PS3 came out. Patience everyone.  

Cool
Cool like.author.displayName 1 Like

I liked it.the features such as play the game while downloading,streaming live...etc looked awesome.the interface looked waay better.Considering ps3's online wasnt that great,looks like thats gonna change.the machine looks really powerful.3rd party support is massive,also the whole indie game support i thought was really nice.visuals looking absolutely amazing and its just starting to develop,so its gonna be incredibly jaw droppin in the future.backwards compatibility i dont care much about.Im buyin PS4 for the PS4.


Cant wait for E3 !

MC
MC

Good job sexying up that monstrosity that was the prototype controller.

virtualmatrix
virtualmatrix

So it's an underclocked, closed platform, low end gaming PC...okay then.

DerekLynch
DerekLynch like.author.displayName 1 Like

@virtualmatrix You make it sound like 8gb of GDDR5 Memory isn't a big deal. You're an idiot 

virtualmatrix
virtualmatrix like.author.displayName 1 Like

 @DerekLynch I'm the idiot? Do you know what GDDR5 is? It's video memory, they cannot put 8GB on a GPU as of yet, only 6 (Nvidia Titan GK110 Architecture). They got that wrong. You keeping up? It's going to have 8GB of UNDERCLOCKED DDR3 SDRAM. Who's the idiot now? Seems to me you don't know the difference between DIMM's and 8n-prefetch architecture, which is why you think this console is a super computer. Anything else Derek?

DerekLynch
DerekLynch like.author.displayName 1 Like

@virtualmatrix Dude, my main point is, even VISUALLY, through the game demos, the ps4 is capable of ridiculous physics, lighting dynamics and the next generation of graphics rendering. The developers for the games debuting with the release demoed the smooth speed and elegance. A company drenched with ridiculously successful experts in their industry got their presentation to a global audience, wrong? That's a really rough statement man. Calling you an idiot was simply unnecessary, btw. Just getting tired of reading comments about the 'fans' who're finding Sony's PS4 to be a piece of shit, so to speak. If anyone is aware of where technology and innovative software features are heading in today's world, they'd be impressed with what Sony is doing to keep up with what this generation of gamers is starving for. 

AmberTudor
AmberTudor

They are really screwing themselves over by not making it backwards compatible. Everyone I know said they will not upgrade to the new console if they have to rebuy the games. It is a pure greed move that the players and consumers are seeing through.

DerekLynch
DerekLynch

@AmberTudor The amusing part is, once the people who say they 'refuse' to get it, will see it in person in other households and on the news and through YouTube etc, and they'll feel the pressure to join the masses. Disabling backwards compatibility is a really strong drawback, that is moot. But who says we have to throw away the ps3 for ANY reason? Why not have both systems? What is so wrong with that? 

aaroncowles
aaroncowles

@DerekLynch @AmberTudor 

Backwards compatibility and the ability to just plug and play is all the PlayStation has over a home built computer system. If we have to keep the PS3 around anyway anyone who has the small amount of time and skill required to build their own system will. It will probably only cost a little more for a better system that is a lot more future proof. Backwards compatibility was the only reason I got the PS3 and without it I will say no to the PS4 and finally make the switch to a home built system.

jonesmarkeith
jonesmarkeith

@AmberTudor i agree the thing is though its a completely diffrent experience with tons of new upgrades. If youre not a hardcore gamer it may seem irrelevent but if you want it get it if you dont then thats that. I was certainly about to buy a ps3 but if its successor comes out this year i guess im waiting

jonesmarkeith
jonesmarkeith

Plus ive never had ps3 so i dont have any of the past games i guess thats why im not angry or anything. And didnt they do the same thing with the ps2?? Didnt they upgrade the software on ps3 so ps2 games weren't compatible?

MC
MC

@AmberTudor The players will eventually just keep their PS3s alongside the PS4s until they're weaned off of the old system slowly. The lack of backwards compatibility is brilliant: old gamers won't sell their system and undercut used consoles (and also provide cheap entry for less affluent gamers), new gamers or gamers that skipped a generation don't know any better and will purchase the old titles streaming because it is easier to grab online than it is to hunt down the obsolete hardware.


It's just like Facebook, it's a move that informed people will complain about, but the informed are outnumbered. Remember when they mass-appealed to casual gamers?

Step11
Step11 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Well, now I know where my end of year bonus is being spent.