Sony Announces PlayStation 4

Photo credit: CBS Interactive

Sharing and Social Media to be Central to new Console

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

Sony took to the stage in New York City today to announce the PlayStation 4, their next generation gaming platform, which has at it’s center the ability to share the gaming experience with other gamers and also those who just like to watch. With an instant sharing button, users will be able to share 10 second clips on social media like Facebook, but also broadcast their game play live over UStream.

“We’ll show you the many ways in which the living room is no longer the center of the PlayStation Ecosystem, the gamer is.” Said Andrew House, Head of Playstation.  “Connectivity between devices, and the ease with which they connect, has been essential to meeting the demands of today’s casual or core gamer.”

First, let’s get the announced specs out of the way.  The PS4 shifts to an X86 architecture with an 8 core AMD processor and enhanced PC GPU for graphics.  And what’s interesting is that the CPU and GPU enjoy streamlined access to a common pool of memory – 8GB of “high-speed unified memory to make processing faster.  The PS4 also has the Unreal Engine 4 and GDDR V Memory for 176GB per sec of bandwidth.  Meanwhile, the GPU will employ the Havoc Physics Engine that takes up just a fraction of GPU memory.

Photo Credit: Engadget

And gaming characters are becoming far more realistic with more than 30,000 polygons devoted to details.  Characters will have subtle emotions that will be captured on their faces.

“On PlayStation 4, digital titles are playable even as they are downloaded.”

And here’s the killer feature … a secondary processor which will handle downloading of apps so you can begin playing them.  And the new Controller, dubbed Dual Shock IV has an LCD touch pad with enhanced rumble capabilities, as well as an on board headphone jack, light bar that changes color to ID friend or foe.  The PS4 will also come with a stereo camera believed to be Kinect meets Move.

“The base hardware architecture for PlayStation network was designed to integrate social networks through all aspects” — basically, it’s all social.” – Dave Perry, Gaikai – Sony’s new cloud gaming service

But the core feature of the new PS4 is it’s sharing capability.  There is a Share button on the controller which shares last few minutes of a game.  You get a great kill, you can share it, and the the games stops while you trim it and upload it for sharing.  Or, you can stream your game play live via UStream.  That allows for collaborative game play where friends or viewers can even help you out by giving advice in real time or even take over the controller to help get through a tough spot, so you can learn by doing.

  “We believe so much in remote play that it’s been built into the architecture of PlayStation 4.  The answer is PlayStation Vita.”

The cloud gaming option also allows you to transfer your game to a mobile device, like the Playstation Vita, and continue to play it after you’ve left the room.  The feature, called “remote play,” turns the PS4 into a server, while the Vita becomes the gaming client.  “Our goal is to make every single PS4 game playable on the PS Vita. PS4 Server, Vita Client.”

The PlayStation 4 will take on some great new features thanks to the secondary chip in the PS4.  The system will “get to know you,” making personalization will be a major feature as the the PS4 and the network will learn your likes and dislikes, and your gaming ability.  And like Apple’s Genius feature in iTunes, the PS4 Store will automatically download content it thinks you’ll like, and you’ll be able to play it instantly before it’s even done downloading. “Our long-term vision is to reduce download times to zero… If we know enough about you to predict your next purchase, then that game can be loaded and ready to go before you even click that button.”   That’s kinda cool, but also kinda creepy.  But also, gamers will be notified when a friend buys a game from the store and you’ll be asked if you want to play the demo.  That’s a nice feature.

The PS4 will also continue to have video streaming capability, as Netflix‘s #1 platform has been the PS3.  But in addition to Netflix, you’ll have native streaming to dozens of video options including Amazon Prime and Hulu+.  And ther’s certainly more to follow.

And the PS4 will have far faster bootup times, making me wonder if it will have an SSD hard drive built in.   “There isn’t any more waiting time, there isn’t any start-up.  It doesn’t involve three minutes of bootup and disc shuffling and all these things that are just a nuisance to playing a game.  You’re able to download the first bit of the game and start playing it before the next 20GB download.

But all this functionality comes at a price… as once again the PS4 is not backwards compatible.  Although their goal is to incorporate and stream every game from back even to PS1, the gaming platform itself will not be able to take a PS3 or earlier game disc and play it.  No shocker there as that hasn’t been the case for awhile.  But they don’t  leave out the possibility that this will be a permanent decision.

“PlayStation 4 will bring new synergy between hardware, software and the fastest, most powerful gaming network in the world.”

As soon as we have a shot of the platform, delivery date (vaguely positioend as “holiday,” 2013) and price point, we’ll get it to you.  And you’re bound to see a heck of a lot more at E3.  But based on what we’ve seen so far, this is a beast of a platform and not the incremental announcement that was rumored.

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.

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