At Sony's PlayStation press conference in New York yesterday, it became official: the next-gen PlayStation 4 gaming console is arriving for the 2013 holiday season. Sony's event was more of a teaser than an unveiling, though: The company never actually showed the new console or named a price. But what we did see was enough to stoke our excitement.
We always expect the next generation of gaming consoles to be smarter, stronger, and faster than the previous one. The PlayStation 4 certainly looks ready to deliver in that regard. The visuals were stunning on the game demos we were shown, and Sony claims that we will be able to download and update games in the background while playing. That's huge for anyone who has ever sat down to play a brand-new game, only to have to wait a half an hour for updates.
While we didn't see the PS4 itself, we did get a glimpse of its new DualShock 4 controller (below). While similar in design to the previous controller, it adds a speaker, better rumble capabilities, a Share button for creating and uploading game videos, a touch pad, and a "light bar" that works as a companion with another new peripheral, the PlayStation 4 Eye camera, to sense the depth and movement of the controller for in-game maneuvering.
Plays well with others. Sony is focusing on the social aspects of gaming this time around. It seems poised to leverage the PlayStation network as social-gaming site, using real player's names and photos as opposed to gamer tags and avatars. There will be a companion app for all kinds of mobile devices, so that you can see what your friends are playing when you're on the go. And a Spectator mode will let you jump in and view a gaming session that a friend is playing in real time, and even help them play if they get stuck.
The Share button on the controller lets you select footage from your game-play session and upload it for friends to see. You'll also be notified if a friend buys a new game. And the PS4 will "learn" your gaming likes and dislikes, based on games you and your friends play, to make smarter recommendations for possible purchases.
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One game that will take advantage of these social features is Drive Club, a hyper-realistic racing title that was previewed for us last night. It's a team game that you'll play with friends, to compete against other clubs in races and challenges. You'll also be able to create challenges and send them out through a mobile app.
Viva the Vita. The PlayStation Vita may become the sidekick to the PS4 that it never quite was for the PS3. You'll be able to stream games from the PS4 to the Vita, similar to the way you can with the Wii U and its GamePad controller, and continue to play them right where you left off.
It's not yet clear whether there will be any added capability for mobile apps on the Vita. But game-streaming alone is certainly enough to keep gamers interested. I hope to see the Vita bundled in with the PlayStation 4, so that developers can really take advantage of the connected capabilities.
The games. A console is only as good as the games made for it, and the PlayStation 4 look set to deliver on that front as well. Major developers are already creating games for the PS4, including Square Enix (the Final Fantasy series), Ubisoft (Assassin's Creed, Ghost Recon), and for the first time, Bungie (Halo).
In addition to Drive Club, we saw demos of games including Killzone: Shadowfall, InFamous: Second Son, Watch_Dogs, Knack, and Destiny. These games all looked amazing. I was especially impressed by the level of detail in Killzone, where even unimportant characters looked and moved very realistically.
We also saw demos of new game engines (systems for the creation and development of video games) for PlayStation 4—and I was blown away. One demo simply showed the face of an old man in various lighting conditions and with different facial expressions, impressively depicting the level of detail and emotion that game characters can now convey.
Cloud gaming and digital gaming also seems to be a strong focus for the PS4. Sony is aiming to make many games from previous and current console generations available digitally, living up to the tagline "everything everywhere".
The PlayStation 4 event was just enough of a tease to keep me salivating for more. No price information is available yet, but we at least have an idea of Sony's approach to the next generation of gaming. It will be interesting to see how this stacks up against the Wii U and the next version of the Microsoft Xbox, when more details come out. For gamers, the next holiday season can't get here fast enough!
You can find more details and full specs at http://us.playstation.com/.