Sony have officially launched the PlayStation 4 during a glitzy launch event in New York City today, and with it comes the launch window for the next-generation games console. Those looking to get their hands on the PS4 console will be able to pick one up by the end of the year, during "Holiday 2013". No pricing has been revealed yet. Read on for all the details of what was revealed at today's press conference.
Despite going into detail about the games set to be available for the console, as well as the PS4's online and social features, Sony failed to reveal the console hardware itself, keeping the PlayStation 4 design still shrouded in mystery.
Sony did however unveil some of the tech that will go inside the PlayStation 4: there will be an x86 processor, an undisclosed combined CPU/GPU, 8GB of unified GDDR5 memory (a significant jump over the PS3's 512MB) and a local HDD, possibly Solid State given the speedy boot up and game resume times Sony touted at the event.What was on show at the event in terms of hardware however was the new DualShock 4 controller. Similar to what's on offer already in the PS3's DualShock 3 controller, the DualShock 4 adds a touch sensitive panel front-and-centre on the controller, a 3.5mm headphone and mic jack for easy player communications and a Move-like lightbar for identifying players and interacting with a 3D motion sensing camera. That light was also seen to change colour during live game demos at the event, suggesting it will add visual cues to go along with onscreen action. There was also a share button, perhaps the classic controller design's most intriguing, forward-thinking addition.
Social, streaming and sharing
Most often referenced during the PS4 press conference the dedicated "Share" button on the DualShock 4 controller. With it, gamers will be able to upload video content of games they are playing instantly, as well as broadcast live streams of gameplay sessions through video streaming service Ustream. It looks as though Sony are keen to tap into the blossoming competitive eSports gaming market, something that relies on shared video content of games, and something that the PS4 is now well poised to deliver.
Such social gaming features will be core to the PlayStation 4 experience, allowing gamers to talk about games over social networks like Twitter and Facebook, as well as offering the chance for pals to check out friends games as they are playing and be given the chance to remotely take control of difficult sections when invited, much like remote desktop management on a PC.
No native backwards compatibility
Game streaming will make up the pseudo-backwards compatibility of PS3 games on the PS4 using Gaikai tech. Though you won't be able to pop your old PS3 discs into the PS4 to play them, the PlayStation 4 will allow you to stream older games over the internet direct to the console. It's unclear yet whether or not a premium will be charged for this service, even if you have a physical copy of the game for the PS3.
Fast booting fast downloads
Accessibility and seamless interactions with the console were highlighted by Sony. Not only will the console's increased RAM and (possible) SSD storage allow for faster loading and start-up times (as well as the ability to put the console into low power mode and pick up from the last played moment almost instantly) Sony's improved network downloads should make grabbing games over the internet far easier. With the PS4 you'll only need to download the bare minimum few files of a game required to play before being able to start messing around in a gameworld, while the rest of the files needed for the complete game finish downloading in the background.
Remote and multiplatform play
The PlayStation 4 will also work alongside smartphones and tablet tech, with at least one game showcased (Drive Club) launching alongside a dedicated interactive app. Most significantly, Sony aim to be able to have every single PS4 game available to be streamed to their PS Vita handheld (as is already possible with a number of PS3 games), allowing for Wii U style second-screen functionality, adding a modicum of in-the-house mobility.
The true stars of the show however were the many games previewed at the event. Sony stated that they've got every major third-party developer onboard for the PS4, and many key partners were in attendance to show off their forthcoming wares.
Sci-fi shooter Killzone: Shadow Fall was revealed by developers Guerrilla Games (shown in the trailer above), while MotorStorm devs Evolution Studios showed off Drive Club, a first-person driving game that focusses on team play and social challenges.
Ubisoft's promising open-world action game Watch Dogs (initially revealed as a PS3, Xbox 360 and PC title at E3 2012) was finally confirmed as a PS4 title, and showed some stunning free-roaming, free-running hacking action, while a teaser trailer for InFamous: Second Son was also shown (as seen in the trailer directly above). Ex-Halo developers Bungie also took to the stage to share gameplay footage of their eagerly-anticipated social-shooter-in-space Destiny, also now confirmed for the PS4 with console-specific content in tow.
Those looking for less intense titles will be able to look forward to action platformer Knack (as seen in the trailer above) from PlayStation 4 architect and Marble Madness creator Mark Cerny, while there's a new puzzle game called The Witness from the team behind the critically-acclaimed Braid.
Perhaps the biggest coup was the announcement that Blizzard will be making games for the PS4, starting with a port of Diablo III. Though its unlikely to be an exclusive deal considering owners Activision publish to every major console, its significance can't be understated given Blizzard's sole focus on PC gaming in recent years. Could the long-rumoured World of Warcraft successor come to the PS4?Capcom also showed a promising fantasy-themed tech demo called Deep Down, looking to build on the popularity of their Dragon's Dogma series (which you can see in the YouTube clip above), though Square Enix's disappointing tech demo had to be buoyed by the announcement of a new Final Fantasy game for the PS4.
Though not showing new games themselves, LittleBigPlanet developers Media Molecule and Heavy Rain mastermind David Cage were also in attendance, showing that Sony's other first-party partners will soon have PS4 fruits of their own to share.
A solid start for the next-generation of PlayStation gaming
It's a promising start for the PlayStation 4. Sony's intentions with the console seem to put gamer's first, as all good gaming console launches should. While there was a brief mention of TV and media services coming to the console, the focus was on new games and partnered developers, and new ways for gamers to interact with titles. Stunning graphics were on show, as well as innovative social features which appear to be far deeper than and more ingrained in the console than any gaming machine has attempted before. We may not have seen the actual console hardware itself yet, but what we've now officially been told it can do looked very impressive indeed.
Keep checking back to Tech Digest for more news on the PlayStation 4 and its next gen-rivals in the coming days, weeks and month as their launch dates approach.