PlayStation 4: what we learned

The press conference in New York is over, so here's what Sony actually revealed about the next-generation PlayStation 4.

The press conference in New York is over, so here's what Sony actually revealed about the next-generation PlayStation 4 — from the hardware itself to the games we'll be playing.

The PS4 revealed, sort of. (Screenshot by CNET Australia/Nic Healey)

If you're wondering why there's been so much hype over the PlayStation 4, consider this: the PlayStation 3 was first revealed on 16 May way back in 2005. Us in the PAL region didn't see it on shelves until 2007, but that's still six years of using the same hardware.

As consoles slowly stopped being just about gaming and started to take over other home entertainment duties, interest grew among audiences who weren't traditional gamers. And all that makes for a lot of excitement regarding the next PlayStation.

So here are some of the key points from today's very, very long and involved conference, where Sony and friends finally held the big reveal of the next generation PlayStation console.

Hardware

The PS4 is heavily based on the PC, and specifically the X86 chipset architecture for the CPU. The graphics processing unit will be an "enhanced PC GPU" designed to have a long lifetime. There will also be 8GB of system memory. Sony is claiming 2 teraflops of graphics power.

The look

This was curiously missing, with no appearance of the retail version of the console or its form factor at any point in the conference.

When and how much

Again, availability was limited to just "holidays 2013", or Christmas for the Aussies. Pricing, even in the US, was never mentioned.

Controller

The DualShock 4 matches the recent leaks regarding it, with touchpad, lower latency design and share button. It will pair with a dual camera peripheral that will track your distance and 3D positioning, much like the Move. Later in the conference, the Move controller was shown by Media Molecule in conjunction with a program that allowed 3D sculpting on the PS4. So the controller isn't being killed off.

(Screenshot by CNET Australia/Nic Healey)

Social

As expected, there's a huge emphasis on social gaming for the PS4. The share button will allow you to instantly upload screenshots and even videos of recent gameplay. You'll also be able to play spectator to other people on your friends list, and even take over other games (with their permission) — basically the social media equivalent of handing the controller to a friend on the couch. Sony also said that friend networks will be based on existing social networks, with an emphasis on real names and real faces.

Quick start

Sony has obviously paid attention to the jokes about the PS3's constant need for updates. A big push was made at the press conference to ensure gamers that the PS4 will involve less loading, less waiting and more instant-gaming action. The PS4 will have a dedicated background processor that will update and download in the background, even when the console is powered down. This will be paired with a reduced system response — the power button will be able to suspend a game indefinitely, letting you immediately jump back in to, theoretically, give gamers a "instant on" gaming experience.

The PS4 will also learn your interests, and apparently, even pre-download games that it expects you will buy from the PlayStation Store, allowing for instant play on digital downloads.

Second screen

Remote control across Vita, smartphone and tablet will also be a major component, but so will pushing gameplay from the PS4 to the Vita. With the PS4 working as a game server and the Vita as a client, gamers will be able to play PS4 games directly on Vita, with processing power being shared across to the two devices.

No support for PS3 titles

Only quietly and quickly mentioned, it was announced that there will be no native support for PS3 titles on the PS4, meaning that your back catalogue of games just became useless. Sony will be pushing games via the cloud however, and is working on a way to make all PlayStation 3 and lower titles available to play via cloud on any device.

Cloud

Cloud services will be a major component of the PS4 experience, for gaming, video, social and more. The cloud services will be rolled out in stages, so not much is known at the moment.

The games

We saw a few Sony exclusive titles from some devs, including KillZone: Shadow Fall, Drive Club, InFamous: Second Son and Witness. Quantic Dream (creators of Heavy Rain) took to the stage to demo its new engine for the PS4, which they claimed would allow a real-time graphics equivalent to "CG movies".

Sony noted that all major third party creators are on board to work with the PS4. Capcom also demoed a new engine for a new fantasy world IP with the working title Deep Down. The demo suggested that the game will have a drop in multiplayer component. Ubisoft also confirmed the rumours that its title Watch Dogs would be for the PS4.

Finally, Blizzard announced that it would bring Diablo III to the PlayStation 4 and the PlayStation 3, with an entirely new interface. This was followed by Activision who pledged to support the PS4 around the launch window with "blockbuster titles", as well as the announcement that Bungie would be coding its so-called "shared world shooter" Destiny for the PS4.

(Screenshot by CNET Australia/Nic Healey)
 

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